Pretzels are the New Pickles

There are surprisingly few things I miss about living in the PNW. Family and friends, of course. Powell’s Books. Liberalism. But most of my fondest memories are tempered by reality: the worsening traffic jams, the median home price inching ever closer to $400,000. Tara longs for the ocean at times, and while the ruggedly beautiful Oregon Coast will always hold a special place in my heart, I have lived within 100 miles of an ocean for 82 percent of my life. Yes, I did the math. I think it’s safe to say I’ve gotten sand and saltwater out of my system at this point in my life.

One thing I do miss, however, is our favorite hangout: Shanahan’s, an unassuming little Irish pub in downtown Vancouver, WA. Many a Friday night was spent tucked into our favorite spot in the corner. We had a server who became so familiar with us, she would bring us our drinks without even taking our order. Tequila soda for me, Bud Light for Tara. Once, she saw us crossing the street, and had them ready for us the moment we sat down. It’s hard to find service like that anywhere.

Always, that first round of drinks was accompanied by fried pickle spears. They were our go-to app, and those are what I miss more than anything else. Hot and crispy, with fresh dill weed mixed right into the batter…that was the secret. You might think a fried pickle is a fried pickle is a fried pickle, but you would be wrong, wrong, and wrong. It’s very hard to find the perfect fried pickle. Some places serve them sliced, but then the ratio of batter to pickle is off. Murphy’s Pub in Rapid City is known for their fried pickles, and yes, they’re good, but they come wrapped in prosciutto and stuffed with mozzarella. It’s the definition of overkill: tasty but unnecessary. The pickle should be the star, not everything that surrounds it. Like Shakira during the Super Bowl halftime show, not her backup dancers. Her hips don’t lie. Her backup dancers’ hips might be a little looser with the truth, but I’m not invested in theirs like I am hers.


Err…weird analogy. Hopefully you catch my drift.

So, we simply resigned ourselves to a life without fried pickles. It was one of those trade-offs of moving to the Midwest, like giving up the ocean for the prairie or swapping Dungeness crab for buffalo.

And then, a funny thing happened. We discovered the pretzel sticks at Paddy O’Neill’s. Like Shanahan’s, it’s an Irish pub. A little more upscale—it’s in the lobby of the Hotel Alex Johnson, after all—but the Happy Hour is decent, the drinks are good, and the food is on point.

Especially those pretzel sticks.

They’re Bavarian style—soft, chewy, and buttery. Topped with finely sliced green onions and served with a warm queso dipping sauce that has a subtle kick. We’ve ordered them a few times now, and I’m always surprised at just how addictively delicious they are. We stopped by last Friday after work, and after scarfing ’em down, I realized something interesting: I didn’t miss those fried pickle spears from Shanahan’s quite as much as I had in the past. The pretzel sticks at Paddy’s are a worthy successor to the pickles and our new go-to appetizer. I can live with that.

Not my photo. Not even the pretzel sticks from Paddy O’Neill’s…but they look identical.

I’m not saying we won’t be hitting up Shanahan’s on our next visit to the PNW….but it wouldn’t shock me if I find myself wistfully longing for the pretzels when we’re there. You always want what you can’t have, right?


29 thoughts on “Pretzels are the New Pickles

  1. I’ve had both fried pickles and pretzel sticks as appetizers. While I liked them both, and I understand your preference for one versus the other, I am an old-school appetizer girl who likes potato skins. Those darned things are in every bar everywhere and always taste good to me. That might have more to do with the adult beverage than the actual appetizer, now that I think about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s a lot to be said for the classics! I haven’t had a potato skin in many years, but man, you’ve suddenly got me thinking about them. Especially with sour cream and bacon bits…


    1. I’ve been wanting to try buffalo cauliflower for ages! Just need to find a bar that serves it. Preferably one that does not also have pretzel sticks and/or pickle spears so I won’t be tempted…


      1. Make them yourself. Super easy. Just toss cauliflower in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast in the oven until golden. Toss in melted butter and hit wing sauce. Top with crumbled blue cheese and sliced green onions.


  2. Middle Child became enamored with pretzel rolls after having them for the first time at a Vegas buffet about 10 years ago. It took another few years till pretzel stuff hit here, but we can now find them many places. I agree that pretzel sticks like you pictured are delicious. I like to dip them in whipped honey butter like our favorite place serves them.

    It’s nice that you find a good trade-off!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What are pretzel rolls? Roll-shaped pretzels? I’m intrigued. One of my favorite guilty pleasures (or treats, if you will) is a pretzel dog from the food court in the mall. I have that maybe once a year, but boy, do I enjoy it when I do!


      1. She loves pretzel dogs too! Pretzel rolls are exactly like the pretzel sticks pictured, only in the shape of a round roll. I’ve also seen pretzel buns for burgers.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. ” I think it’s safe to say I’ve gotten sand and saltwater out of my system at this point in my life.”

    Me as well, Mark! After 20 years in Florida, I’ve gotten sand and saltwater out of my system as well. I’m at a point in my life where I enjoy a combination of city life, and the terrain of the Northeast country (hills, mountains, tall and varied trees, rivers, lakes, etc…)

    I’ve never had fried pickles but I LOVE pickles, so I would be totally open to them. Actually, that sounds delicious.

    And I hear you on the pretzel sticks because besides (cheesesteak sandwiches), Philly is notorious for their hot pretzels. I love to dip them in mustard. Like you, I can scarf them down as well. I adore pretzels of any kind.

    We have a ton of Irish pubs here in Philadelphia, so if you and Tara ever visit, I’ll take you there!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t realize Philly was known for their pretzels, too. I know it’s a NYC thing…and nothing is better than a hot, fresh pretzel…especially with mustard!

      We’ll take you up on that offer, BTW. It would be a blast to hang out in an Irish pub with you. Have a great rest of your week!


  4. Mark, Definitely some place special when they know your name and your order. I have never had a fried pickle and I love pickles! Now, on my list. I have tasted pretzel buns here and they sound similar to the sticks. The above comments talk about pretzel rolls. Likely similar to the buns. I may have to make a stop on the way home today.🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I always thought it was the ocean I’d miss most about Los Angeles, but nope. It’s the mountains.

    MAN thouse pretzel sticks look delicious!!!! And dipped in queso??? Oh yeah!


  6. I feel bad that I’m behind in reading your posts. I started the jury one but got sidetracked. This one I started yesterday and only just now finished. Anyway, have you looked into recipes for making your own fried pickles? LOVE the story of the waitress having your drink orders ready by the time you got to your seat. That’s just awesome. And dang those pretzel sticks look delicious. With the dipping sauce… I bet I could live off that. I’d be fat, sure, but I’d be happy. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I actually did make my own fried pickles once, but they didn’t turn out. For starters, they were sliced. Rookie mistake, I know. And the batter didn’t stick very well. It’s much easier to just order them from somebody else!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Hmm. Our Mexican joint closed. Since 1996 and now closed. We are sad. We have not found a new place to meet our quesoeverything needs yet, and are still missing it. We had a sushi place in Georgia and it closed after we left. Because we left? We do not know. So much of having a favored dining spot is a match of expectations with proximity. Can be a challenge.
    I’m glad you’re set with the pretzel sticks 🙂 The pickles will be there when you visit?
    I enjoy visits to the sea. I don’t yearn for it, but I enjoy it when I’m there. I’m more a forest creature. When I wasn’t living here at home in the Midwest, I missed it every single day. Mostly in fall, and only about a hundred different things, just every single day. So I’d say your move is a win!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Not sure I’d love fried pickles, but I love your analogy! (I suck at analogies.) It’s hard to beat a good soft pretzel… and queso sauce? Fuggedaboutit!

    It’s funny, the husband always says, “No matter where you go in America, there’s always an Irish pub.”

    Liked by 1 person

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