The only thing more fun than saying "pop-up pickle shop" is opening various pickle jars from said pickle shop on your desk and subsequently coating your hands in a pungent wash of spicy vinegar while you dig in. The keyboard, too.
The first time I tried to visit Grillo's Pickles, Inman Square's latest blink-and-you'll-miss-it pop-up, pickle-fanatics had nearly exhausted the supply of homemade, freakishly delicious brined veggies. The second time, the cubbyhole space next door to the Clover Food Lab was quiet and fully stocked. People periodically stopped by the window and peered in at the containers on display, and one woman came in just to welcome them to the neighborhood.
Because I am a big believer in the magic of soaking things in vinegar and garlic, I tried out some standards and some specialties. The spicy variation of Italian dills ($7) tops my list of best pickles I've ever tried, and the thick-cut golden beets ($5) were perfectly crunchy with just a touch of tang. Red onions ($5) are a standby for anyone who considers themselves a pickler, and the Grillo's batch doesn't miss the mark. These are slightly sweet, slightly peppery and crowned with a grape leaf — a nice touch I hadn't seen before. Pickled green tomatoes ($3)? Holy hell. Like many others, I was taught to fry these, but I'm sensing a change in repertoire. Lastly, the jicama mix ($5), another ingenious combo of jicama (which remains fresh and crisp while also being ideally absorbent), onions, and carrots. After prying open all the choices, and then trying them all again, and then restraining myself from finishing it all at once, it seems Grillo's Pickles can't go wrong.
From humble beginnings in 2008 — founder Travis Grillo first sold spears out of the back of his truck — the pickles began to pick up speed. The first Grillo's cart was built by hand and appeared in the Commons and Fenway Park, with Whole Foods jumping on the bandwagon (or, cart, so to speak) in 2010 by offering a selection in their stores.
Word is, Grillo's is looking for a more permanent home if things go well. Judging by the fact that I can't stop eating their golden beets, I'm ready to set them up in my living room.
Grillo's Pickles Pop-Up will be located at 1075 Cambridge Street, Cambridge until the end of March. For information on where to find Grillo's products, visit grillospickles.com, or follow them on Twitter @GrillosPickles.