What's Your Brine?

A vegetarian brewpub in Gowanus? We're there.

There was a day when the phrase "pickle-centric vegetarian gastropub in Gowanus" would not make us hungry.

That day was the day before yesterday. Before we crunched our way across the snowy embankments of 4th Avenue at lunchtime to find Pickle Shack, a little railroad room with a sandwich board out front declaring: "Pickles! Beer! Pickles! Beer!"

We shook off the chill at the bar with a pint of Dogfish Head India Brown Ale and an accompaniment of deep-fried pickles ($6). The Shack feels sort of like a shack: sauerkraut barrels on the floor; color prints of the pickling process at Brooklyn Brine on the wall. The place–like those fried cukes crisped in a brine of Dogfish Head's 60 Minute IPA and Cascade hops–is a collaboration between the local pickler and the much-loved Rehoboth Beach brewery.

Fried pickles and mustard | Dogfish Head beer | Kale and squash | Chef Neal Harden

The menu does not announce itself as vegetarian. There's no seitan ersatz pork belly in this brewpub. No apologies or lectures either. "So much vegetarian food is not good," laments Neal Harden, the chef. And, he adds, "not made of vegetables."

What's here is simple but solid, like the grilled cheddar sandwich ($9); there's house cultured cashew cheese for drinking men off their dairy. The branston pickle ($5) contains homemade Worcestershire with seaweed subbing for anchovy. A rye berry salad stacked with wedges of roasted squash and big leaves of chewy, grilled kale ($10) is homey, homely and satisfying.

There's a garden out back, which will add to the beer-sampling allure after the thaw. Until then, we're happy to wait out the cold with a pickle sampler plate ($7)–shredded rutabaga, sharp whiskey cucumbers, tart beets–and another glass of barrel-aged Palo Santo Marron, an ale as inky dark and bracing as the sky outside.