Pickles Plus Clearwater FL – Review
It’s not good to begin writing a restaurant review when your pissed at the place your reviewing. I’ve been eating at both Pickles Plus locations – now one – for many years. I was there today and when paying my bill, I was informed they were out of chopped liver. This has never happened to me. Pickles Plus chopped liver is one of the truly amazing joys of existing on this planet. I prefer it in the morning with my hazelnut coffee on an “Everything” bagel toasted. The fact that they had none left is bound to just screw up the rest of my week. If I wasn’t going out of the country for a week on assignment, I would be back there tomorrow asking when a new batch will be ready for “me”. Until then I will be cursing Joe Benedettini, the owner, and I’ll have to wait to return for my world to be right.
So, Pickles is a kind of an under the radar screen “NY-style” deli – you either know about or you don’t. It’s located at the Northwood Plaza strip mall at 2530 McMullen Booth Rd. in Clearwater. You can spot the Boar’s Head black and red umbrellas outside. Inside, I’m not crazy about the plastic tables and chairs, the old green carpeting or the leaky ceiling that, I see, has finally been repaired. I tend to eat outside more, until the Florida heat and humidity becomes so oppressive that it drives customers inside for cool air. There are couple of “sports-bar-ish” flat screens inside on either side, which nobody except the servers pay attention to. The deli was established back in 1989 by folks that merged their talents from New Jersey and Michigan.
There used to be a downtown Clearwater location, but since the various commissions and politicians destroyed the business section and the beach front of the place I so loved when I first moved down here – certainly nothing to do with Pickles, there is just the Northwood Plaza location. Personally, I never liked that downtown location. I felt the service was slow and wait staff poorly trained. My “regular” waitress, she always wore a Freeport Islands hat or something, doesn’t seem to be there anymore. Our waiter this afternoon, my wife was with me tonight, was a nice young eager man, but kept saying awesome or fantabulous or something like that either every time we made a request. I appreciate his, what shall I call it, passion and positivity, but a simple “your welcome” would suffice.
We ordered very non-deli – the spaghetti with meatballs and the chicken parmesan, also with spaghetti. If you’re from the NYC Tri-State area, this is what we more commonly call “diner food”, just for the record. Salads first, she had the Russian dressing and I, the honey mustard – on the side, of course. Coke and Sierra Mist for the beverages. Salads were fresh, tasty – both dressings fresh, tasty and not too salty. We were given ample time to consume the delicious cucumber, olive, onion and mixed greens, then the wait began. As I said, we know we weren’t ordering “deli” – that is, sandwiches, one of their popular platters or a breakfast, but this was the special of the day, and it was taking too long.
It was about 5ish and the place was not busy. The weather was beautiful and we talked about our day. Neither of us said anything, but we knew what we were each thinking. What was the delay? I would have appreciated if “Mr. Fantabulous” would have come over and said the order would be forthcoming, but no such luck tonight. Anyway, as they say in the business, the food came and it was worth the wait. We typically eat Italian down the road at a place called Johnny’s, but I can’t seem to connect with the owner that his spaghetti needs to be “rethought”. That’s another review. Thing is, here we are at a “deli”, in the middle of Clearwater, FL, and we’re having the most amazing spaghetti, meatballs and chicken parm imaginable. We normally share, but neither of us was willing to part with any of portion of our meals.
I reviewed a Greek place last week where I described when you put food in your mouth and you have to close your eyes and experience joy. This is what I had to do with the meatballs. The plate came with two, but I wanted more. My wife said the chicken was perfectly prepared and she used the word amazing. Four slices of garlic bread were included - because we ordered the special, there was no charge for the drinks. Our server brought extra napkins and sprinkle cheese without us asking, and that always makes us happy. Refill the drinks and we’re good as gold. Absolutely no room for dessert. I can tell you that most customers at Pickles, never have room for dessert – you usually, as we did, have to ask for to-go boxes. They never skimp on any of their portions.
I already told you about the chopped liver and described the daily special. What we usually order is equally delicious – the #1 – NJ Sloppy Joe and the #3 – Triple Threat, both on pumpernickel – with extra pickles, cole slaw and a side order of (golden) French fries for two.I’ve lived in Clearwater for the past 25 years, and I’ve yet to find better fries than here – Egg Platter (I thought it was “Splatter”) comes close, but Pickles has the edge. Their sandwiches are far better than anything I used to eat up North. I can report to you that I’ve never had a bad meal at this establishment. It is 100% consistently good, the quality spot on and the prices quite reasonable. Tonight’s meal for the both of us was under $20. I’ve got to try their breakfast one day. Their web site is http://www.picklesplus.com, their telephone number for more information or directions is 727.725.3325. Bottom line is, “A” for the food, “C“ for the service, atmosphere and interior design of the restaurant.