B&B's Pickle Barrel (http://home.comcast.net/~bbspicklebarrel/index.html) is located just north of the CSU campus at 122 West Laurel Street and is a popular local deli and bar. The original owners, Bob and Brenda (hence, B&B), were CSU business students who opened the Pickle Barrel in 1988 and it's been a thriving business since.
I have lived in the northern part of Colorado in, near or within a short drive of Fort Collins the better part of my thirty-four years, however, this was my first time visiting the Pickle Barrel. I knew of it and had always wanted to try it, but for some unknown reason had never been. Well, that has changed as of February 14th, 2009. That's right, my companion and I had our Valentine, or rather our anti-Valentine, dinner there. It was wonderful and uncrowded, all the other couples, with the exception of a few, must have had their dinner at one of those cookie-cutter, corporate chains.
The Decor was not exactly what I had expected from a place so near the CSU campus. I fully expected the place to be regaled in green and gold with pictures of "Cam the Ram" everywhere, but it was not the case at all. The walls were adorned with pictures/artwork depicting chefs and kitchen/food themed items. The bar is small and off to the left and a small dining area sits to the right. Up the stairs is the counter where the food orders are taken and the open kitchen resides beyond that. The menu is hand-written on a large board and is divided into two sections: hot, grilled east-coast style deli sandwiches and cold, east-coast style deli sandwiches. Prices average $6.50, the most expensive being $7.00. The Pickle Barrel also offers soups and desserts, and has two varieties of free pickles to eat with your sandwiches, spicy dills and not spicy dills. The menu was very diverse and I would have loved to tried everything on it.
Being a college town and in such close proximity to the campus, I half-way expected to find a "challenge" type sandwich on the menu. You know, like a 8 pound sandwich that the eater must consume in 30 minutes or less. It would be a fun addition in my opinion.
I ordered the $6.75 Wiley Coyote - grilled turkey breast, onions, green bell peppers, tomatoes, melted meunster cheese and BBQ sauce on your choice of a toasted hoagie roll. White, wheat, light rye or sourdough...I chose white. Sodas came in two sizes, pint or quart size mason jars (a free refill comes with the quart size but not the pint). Upon first sight my sandwich seemed to be more bread than goodies as it is served in a wicker basket open faced, but it looked tasty and the subtle smell of the BBQ sauce had my mouth watering in anticipation of the first bite. The first bite didn't let me down, the gooey meunster cheese and the tangy-ness of the BBQ sauce were the first flavors I experienced and then came the grilled turkey, onions and peppers. The flavors were wonderfully balanced, and despite all that my favorite part was the bread. The bread was toasted and buttered lightly and still remained moist and soft with a little chew to it, absolutely amazing. I devoured my sandwich accompanied by a couple of their spicy pickles, it was a great meal.
My only real complaint would be that the free pickles didn't come in a barrel, but rather in two restaurant-grade lexan containers. Oh well, I still had a wonderful meal and will most definitely be back and often. It's not just a college hangout as I had thought prior to my visit but a true Fort Collins icon.
I'm afraid I can't be completely unbiased, as I love the Pickle Barrel. I grew up in Fort Collins, but had never experienced "The Barrel" until I became a college student in my mid-twenties. Some of my fondest memories are of taking my kids to the Pickle Barrel for a Curious Monkey (peanut butter, bananas and honey) or a PBJ after a visit to Doc Charney's lab across the street, so I knew going into it that they'd get a favorable review from me.
Never having been to a deli on the East Coast, I have to take their word for it that they are an East Coast-type deli - I just hope I'm not disappointed if I ever get to a deli on the East Coast. Although there are a LOT of sandwich choices on the menu, I fell back to my all-time favorite, the Hop-Sing, a mound of grilled turkey and ham deliciousness (I 86'd the salami last night) covered with melted mozzarella on a toasted roll served with what appeared to be homemade marinara. Like my partner, I am always impressed with the toasted bread. Most places toast the bread so much that you end up cutting up the roof of your mouth. Not so at the Pickle Barrel; their toasted bread is soft with just a touch of the crunchiness of being toasted.
In the past whenever I'd gone to the Pickle Barrel, there had always been a line of people waiting to order; sometimes the line extended out the front door and seating was always at a premium. When we arrived last night, I was a bit dismayed at the almost empty dining room, but quickly realized that even though there wasn't the line I was accustomed to, they were still doing steady business. During the course of our stay, I don't think the cooks ever had a break; they cooked steadily, preparing both in-house orders and call-ahead orders. With the lack of a crushing crowd, I had the opportunity to really look around at the place, something I'd never been able to do before. I appreciate that their meats and cheeses are kept in a deli-type display case and that the kitchen is open - you can see your sandwiches being made. I've always felt that open kitchens tend to keep the cooks "honest" - they have to keep their workstation clean and not take shortcuts and you'll NEVER find that a cook picks up something off of the floor to cook in an open kitchen.
While I don't go to the Pickle Barrel as often as I'd like (I'd never be able to fit into my jeans again if I did!), I fall in love with it a little more each time I do go. I love the friendly atmosphere and the honest, unpretentious food.
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