April 14, 2024
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April 14, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

A little over a century ago, the Lower East Side was home to around half a million Jews. At the time, it was the largest Jewish community in the entire world. But if you fast forward to the present day, you’ll find the area to be mostly missing the Jewish culture that started it all in America.

I say “mostly” because there are a few things left on the Lower East Side to mark what once was. There are several historical synagogues, and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum can show you what it was like to live in the area long before there was even such a thing as a kosher restaurant.

But if you happen to be visiting one of these places, or you’re one of the remaining Jews in the area who keep kosher, your options for food are going to be pretty limited. All under the supervision of the son-in-law of Rav Moshe Feinstein, there’s a small kosher market, a bakery, a cafe in a hotel lobby … and two places on the corner of Grand and Essex Streets.

The first place is The Pickle Guys. As you might imagine, they sell pickles. And they also sell pickled pretty-much-everything you can imagine. From apples to asparagus and from mangos to mustard seeds, they pickle it. They’re the only pickling place left in what used to be called the “Pickle District.”

But next door, they decided to double down and open Diller. The snack shop is a modest place, but the flavors are anything but.

When I was invited to check out Diller, I was impressed with the ingenuity of their kosher pareve/dairy menu. While they do have a few things that you might expect, they’ve also invented some truly great creations that can be paired with a wide array of sauces to really punch up the flavor.

Their signature item is Fried Pickles. Diller gives you a nice, thick slice of sour pickle that retains its crunch after being fried. The crispy rice panko breading and the Diller Sauce (yogurt-based with dill and garlic) really bring this iconic bite together.

The pickles are great, but don’t skip the Fried Mushrooms. Pickled mushrooms are coated in that same awesome breading and fried to perfection; the result is a crispy outside and a very juicy inside that makes for a great mouthfeel. I’d recommend the Roasted Onion Aioli for dippage.

Last up in our fried appetizer adventure is the Okra Rice Balls. A nod to the Little Italy neighborhood to their west, Diller’s arancini are filled with gumbo spiced rice, pickled okra, pickled sweet peppers, and they are stuffed with enough cheese to get a great pull if you want one. The unique flavor is one you won’t forget. While they recommend the Sriracha Aioli here, try the Death Sauce if you think you’re up to it.

For your main course, try either one of the sandwiches. The vegetarian Beyond Burger comes on a potato roll with cheese, caramelized onions, bread and butter pickles, and their Chipotle Aioli. Every element of this burger pitches in to make a final product that will have you questioning if you should order another.

Their new Chick’n Ranch sandwich is a truly interesting take on the recent trend of fried chicken sandwiches. Sure, it’s not actual chicken, but this delicious combination of muenster cheese, marinated tomato, pickled carrot and cabbage slaw, and ranch dressing would be a noteworthy version even in the non-kosher world. For those who prefer imitation chicken to imitation beef, this might be the way to go.

In terms of your potato-based options, you may have to make an impossible choice (pun intended). Diller makes Brined Fries. I’m not sure why nobody previously tried this. If you think about it, good fries are soaked in water and salted. Why not combine those steps? The result is a unique texture that is topped with house seasoning after being fried twice. You can’t go to Diller without trying them.

And yet, my favorite item on the menu is the Loaded Tater Tots. For most of us, every tot we have ever consumed has been baked. Change that. These super-crunchy tots are topped with Impossible meat, a cheese blend, Chipotle Aioli and a trio of pickled veggies (red onions, sweet peppers, and sweet chili peppers). There are so many tastes and textures that you’ll be amazed at the accomplishment that is this dish’s creation. It’s a huge portion that is basically a whole meal and if it was the only thing that you ordered, it would be worth it.

Lastly, Diller makes their own drinks. If you’re a little more adventurous, maybe try the Pickled Pineapple Lemonade. How often are you going to drink something that has cinnamon, cloves, rosemary and red pepper in it? But if that doesn’t sound like your bag (and they literally come in bags), go for the more tame watermelon version.

So if you’re ever down on the Lower East Side, make sure to stop in to Diller and get yourself a snack. Or a whole meal. And make sure to stop in next door and get some stuff to take home.

The real pickle is the one you get yourself into while trying to decide what to get.


Diller

Dairy – Snack Shop –
Counter Service

Sunday-Thursday: 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

(917) 262-0550

www.DillerNYC.com

357 Grand Street

New York, NY 10002

Rabbi Shmuel Fishelis


Nati Burnside can be reached at [email protected].

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