Joining the more than forty restaurants on and around Main Street in Middletown, The Pickle Stand recently opened at 195 Main Street, where Central News stood for nearly 70 years as a tribute to once-popular “old-world” newsstands. The restaurant has a lot of potential with a fun atmosphere and strong, traditional deli menu, but still has room for improvement before its grand opening in November.
The Pickle Stand, which advertises itself as a delicatessen and tavern, offers a wide selection of breakfast and lunch sandwiches, as well as pizza, salads, and a soup of the day. However, it is neither full deli nor full tavern. There are no meats hanging from the ceiling as one might expect in a more traditional deli; the fare tends toward roast beef, corned beef, and pastrami, though it offers some other meats as well. In terms of alcoholic beverages, it serves only wine and beer and has a 12-tap system, though only seven are currently in use in its soft opening.
It have not yet had its official grand opening and is awaiting recognition from the Middletown Chamber of Commerce, which owners expect will happen in the next two weeks. As workers are still operating in soft-opening phase, offerings are limited. They serve soup in plastic takeout containers and only received appropriate plastic soup spoons in the last week. Before that, they were using plastic teaspoons.
The owner is also founder of Keagan’s Irish Pub, located on Main Street and formerly Hair of the Dog Saloon. The owner’s brother, who has helped with founding the restaurant, explained that it’s named The Pickle Stand simply because it’s a catchy name.
The ambiance of the restaurant is that of a fun, old-style tavern. The layout has been kept as close as possible to when the storefront opened in the 1920s. Indeed, the south wall is the exposed original brick. All the other walls and wood paneling on the floor were salvaged from an 1880s barn in Connecticut. The only modern additions in the restaurant are the bar and a couple decorative items, including a high-tech jukebox that can only be used after 9 p.m. because of the noise it creates.
When I went on Tuesday with Wesleyan Argus Executive Editor Abbey Francis ’14, we had a good sampling of the lunch options. Francis ordered the daily special, a steamed roast beef sandwich with sautéed onions and Swiss cheese, which she ordered on toasted fresh rye bread with spicy tavern mustard. I ordered the stuffed eggplant sandwich (the one non-meat sandwich on the menu), which came overflowing with provolone cheese on a toasted hoagie roll. Both sandwiches came with a side—potato salad, pasta salad, or coleslaw—and we also each ordered a beer on tap.
The sandwiches were large, to say the least. We each ate half our sandwich and were full. Both sandwiches were stuffed and piled high with fillings, and the rye bread on the roast beef sandwich was particularly good. The roast beef was very tasty, which speaks well to the deli aspect of the establishment. The hoagie was standard and not particularly exciting, and eggplant was somewhat bland. Nevertheless, it was warm and filling.
Sandwiches were fairly inexpensive, especially given the size; they became two meals. Ours were seven dollars each. Sides were disappointingly small and were also somewhat bland. I wasn’t particularly excited about either the potato salad or the coleslaw, and they both came in small, prepackaged, plastic one-ounce cups.
The beer selection was fine. They have rotating taps, two different ciders and five beers. The server was not very knowledgeable about what was on tap and hadn’t tried most of the beers. When I asked her what kind of Dogfish Head was available—one of the five beer taps clearly on display—she said she didn’t know and instead offered me a taste. We ended up with McKenzie’s Hard Cider and a Samuel Adams OctoberFest. Neither was nearly cold enough, but they were reasonably inexpensive: five dollars per beer. Still, I’d rather go to Eli Cannon’s for a better selection of colder beers for the same price.
While I wasn’t especially impressed by the food or the service (they forgot to give us pickles until we specifically asked for them, which seems like a problem given the name of the restaurant), I would try it again once it’s been around for a few months. Next time, I’ll plan to go back for dinner because pizza can only be served after 5 p.m., and the restaurant is only open past 3 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. It is open until midnight Wednesday through Sunday, so next time I feel like wandering down to Main Street for pizza and a beer at 11:30 p.m. on a Wednesday night, I’ll know where to go.