Last Updated on June 7, 2021 by Jeremy
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If there should be an award for a festival that has come the furthest in recent years, it would most certainly be Picklesburgh.
When the event first started in 2015, we were underwhelmed. The Clemente Bridge was crowded shoulder-to-shoulder with patrons, and the number of vendors with pickle themed products was, well, few and far between. Apart from the gigantic pickle floating over the bridge, we did not got any pickle love at all.
We tried to return to this one a few years in the past, but had trouble finding parking and bailed. It wasn't until the 2019 edition of the festival (its 5th year) that we finally made it back, right after the festival was selected as the top specialty food festival in USA Today's 10Best contest, and we can safely say this one has made it to become a stellar event.
Everything Pickles at Picklesburgh
As its name suggests, Picklesburgh is now the event to go to in order to get your pickle fix. During our last visit, we spotted such pickle gems as normal as a pickle on a stick to as obscure as pickle-flavored Oreos from Grandpa Joe's Candy in the Strip District.
There were pickle stuffed pretzels, pickle beer from Southern Tier, pickle cocktails, pickle sushi, chocolate-covered pickles, kimchi, sandwiches with pickles, tahini pickle ice cream from Millie's, pickle-flavored moonshine, picklelixir, pickle cooking demos, and of course, plenty of pickle samples to try.
Restaurants that we spotted who had pickle themed creations included Ki Pollo (now Nanban), Pittsburgh Sandwich Society, DiAnoia's, the Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group, Superior Motors, The Warren, Spirit, Bae Bae's Kitchen, BRGR, and more.
Or, if you were feeling really bold, you can also participate in a pickle juice drinking competition (of which we got to judge a preliminary round thanks to our friends at YaJagoff who were hosts of the event). The record time? Just about 8 seconds to consumed 32 ounces.
We'll stick to judging this one, although if you wish to enter, sign up early as spots go fast!
Then there were the non-food items that were pickle themed including shirts, helium balloons, pottery, tea towels, and of course, the historic pickle pins from Heinz themselves- a staple since 1893 when they were introduced at the World's Fair.
Suffice it to say, if you want something pickle related, Picklesburgh is the place to be.
Some were winners (you can never go wrong with pickles on a sandwich or kimchi), others, not so much (pickle ice cream and beer is a hard pass for us). In any case, we're really impressed with how far this one has come along, and the sheer volume of pickle related products you can try in the compact festival area.
A Few Picklesburgh Logistics
As we mentioned at the start of this article, Picklesburgh is an incredibly popular event that has no shortage of crowds, and as such we have a few logistic items to keep in mind in order to have the best experience.
First, the event takes place on the Roberto Clemente Bridge and has overflow booths on Federal Street in front of PNC Park and along Fort Duquesne Blvd. In general, all of the pickle themed booths are on the bridge whereas more conventional, non-pickle vendors and carnival food stalls are on the overflow. There are some exceptions to this, but it is a pretty fair summary.
Second, the event occurs from noon to 10pm on Friday and Saturday, and noon to 6pm on Sunday. During the Saturday and Sunday dates the event fills up with patrons shortly after opening, and it is not an exaggeration to say that the Clemente Bridge is shoulder-to-shoulder with people and vendors have 15-20+ deep lines. On Friday, however, there was a fair bit of breathing room up until about 6 or 7pm, which we thoroughly appreciated.
Finally, access to the bridge gets regulated when there are too many people on it such that no new guests are allowed on until others leave. We did not witness this firsthand but heard several separate reports that this occurs somewhat regularly on Saturday and Sunday when foot traffic is at its highest.
As such, getting in early is your best chance to enjoy this one without being packed in with the crowds.
With regards to getting into the city for Picklesburgh, driving anywhere near the Clemente Bridge should be avoided. There are simply too many people in this area. We recommend checking with ParkPGH to find which garages downtown have spots available, and walking in (even if that means perhaps parking at the Liberty & Smithfield Garage or closer to Market Square). Likewise, the meters in Allegheny Commons in the North Side frequently have spots available with a ~10-15 minute walk.
Finally, many of the restaurant vendors serve specialty cocktail creations along with their food, but we were told that cocktail sales are restricted to after 4:30pm on Friday and Saturday and between 12 and 5pm on Sunday. We have not received word on if this includes beer as well; however, during our Friday visit we most certainly saw beer flowing before this time.
Overall, it isn't a stretch to say that Picklesburgh has come along way in its short history. During the first year of the event, we were not impressed. But now this one truly is the premier event for all things pickle in Pittsburgh.
The only question we have now is this: can you handle the crowds?
Picklesburgh takes place each July on the Clemente Bridge with overflow stands on the river trail.
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