Pickled and fermented foods exist in every culture. They can be served as sides meant to accompany and enhance a meal (Think: the various plates of pickled vegetables known as banchan that typically accompany a meal in Korean restaurants), and they can function as a standalone snack like fried dill pickles.
This guide began as a hunt for fermented french fries in Boston, which eventually led to eating kimchi fritas (close enough) at Coreanos in Allston, and fried pickles from Inman Square’s legendary S&S Restaurant. From there, I found myself eating half sour pickles in Cambridge, am ka achaar (pickled green mangoes typical of North Indian cuisine) in Somerville, pickled jalapeños in Allston, and sampling fermented hot sauce from a fine-dining restaurant in Union Square.
Without further ado, here’s (an admittedly incomplete list of) where to find great pickles and fermented foods in and around Boston. If you wish, wash it all down with a pickleback (which is a shot of whiskey served with a pickle brine chaser, for the uninitiated).
Kimchi Fritas at Coreanos
172 Brighton Ave., Allston, MA 02134
At this Korean fusion restaurant on Brighton Avenue in Allston, french fries are topped with kimchi, cheese, scallions, and a fried egg. Bulgogi beef, spicy pork, kalbi short rib, chicken, and fried tofu can all be added, too. Salt, fat, acid, and heat are all perfectly balanced in this dish.
Coreanos is open for takeout and delivery.
Fermented Rice Hot Sauce at Tasting Counter
14 Tyler St., Somerville, MA 02143
Before the pandemic struck, a meal at Tasting Counter in Somerville was very much predicated on being in the restaurant — present and attentive to the meticulous, deliberate food owners Peter and Ginhee Ungár were turning out of their kitchen. But since last spring, the Ungárs transitioned to offering a to-go version of Tasting Counter for customers to enjoy in the comfort of their own dining rooms.
Through its online market, Tasting Counter sells various fermented fruit preserves, including strawberry and plum, as well as a fermented rice hot sauce. It’s made with peppers sourced from farms in Western Massachusetts, as well as from the restaurant’s own garden. The peppers are lacto-fermented for several weeks with koji rice to add a more robust and rich flavor, which both compliments and dials down the heat of the peppers.
Half Sour Pickles at Mamaleh’s Delicatessen
One Kendall Square, 15 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139
Half sours, which have a milder taste compared to cucumbers that are pickled in vinegar, are fermented for roughly six to eight weeks in a salt-based brine. Half sours are typically refrigerated because they are not heat treated to be made shelf stable. At Mamaleh’s, they love pickles so much that they even have a mascot named Pickles the Great to celebrate them. Mamaleh’s deli sandwiches aren’t complete without a large half sour pickle — sliced in half lengthwise, of course — which the restaurant sources from the Pickle Guys in New York City.
Mamaleh’s is open for takeout and delivery.
Aam Ka Achaar at Masala Square
23 Union Square, Somerville, MA 02143
Aam ka achaar is a spicy, tangy pickled condiment typical of North Indian cuisine made with ripe green mangoes, mustard oil, and various spices. It pairs well with much of the menu at Masala Square. Aam ka achaar is not to be confused with chutneys, which tend to be a bit more uniform in texture, and can also be on the sweeter side.
Masala Square is open for takeout and delivery.
Fried Pickles at S & S Restaurant
1334 Cambridge St., Cambridge, MA 02139
S & S Delicatessen and Restaurant first opened during the 1918 pandemic, and has since become a staple in Inman Square staple. Its fried pickles are made with dill pickles: The crispy fried batter and exterior of the pickle make for a simultaneously crunchy and snappy bite. The pickles are spears, cut lengthwise into sixths, and come served with a side of ranch dressing, which helps balance the acidity.
S & S is open for indoor dining and takeout.
Pickled Jalapeños at Lone Star Taco Bar
479 Cambridge St., Allston, MA 02134
The (still very sad) closing of Deep Ellum allowed sibling restaurant Lone Star Taco Bar to expand into its former space. It also means the kitchen is now solely dedicated to turning out excellent Tex-Mex cuisine. One of the most underrated items on Lone Star’s menu is the humble pickled jalapeño (served whole, not sliced), which functions on its own as a great snack, or as a palate cleanser between tacos.
Lone Star is open for indoor dining, as well as takeout and delivery.