When I returned to New Jersey after I first traveled to New Orleans back in 2013, I didn’t want to eat anything.* Nothing tasted the same. Unlike my first bites of gumbo-this and beignet-that in NOLA, which were accompanied by gasps of delight and wide eyed realization that no, I’ve never actually properly tasted good food until that moment, every mouthful I chewed on afterwards was filled with despair because I consciously started comparing everything to the food they serve down South. Apples and oranges; it’s a little unfair, I know.
Cut to June 6, 2016. Zach and I had just returned to New York City after a week of greedily eating beignets, having one too many Pimm’s cups, searching for the best jambalaya, shucking oysters at the Oyster Festival, and succumbing to a bunch of other gluttonous vices. And yet, soon after arriving back at my apartment to drop off our luggage and freshen up, we wasted no time heading back out in order to make it for lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, Jacob’s Pickles.
Jacob’s Pickles, believe it or not is a Southern restaurant in the Upper West Side, and trust me, I never thought “Southern” and “Upper West Side” would be in the same sentence either. But our skepticism, we soon realized, was largely unfounded since the meal we were expecting to be let down by, the sausage gravy, fried chicken and biscuit sandwich with a side of cheesy grits, actually turned out to be one of the best things we’d ever eaten (even after eating Southern food in the South).
People like to remark on a restaurant’s decor and wait service, but Zach and I are of the mind that the food should always be center stage. I’m not trying to imply that Jacob’s Pickles is a restaurant that looks like it’s seen better days, on the contrary it’s styled in that homey, mason-jar-sporting, bygone Americana ambiance that most New York City restaurants now flaunt. No, what I’m trying to say is, even if the hipster-influenced decor irritated me (which it surprisingly doesn’t), I wouldn’t care what it looks like or if the wait service is absolute crap (it’s not). I’ll keep coming back because the food? It’s damn good.
Bring your appetite, the portions are huge.
Tip: if you order the rice pudding to go, you get a free mason jar.
*to no one’s surprise, I got over it eventually