“Listen up, guys, the Springfield Police have told me that 91% of all traffic accidents are caused by you six guys. So the bad news is we gotta start having designated drivers. We’ll choose the same way they pick the Pope. Everybody reach in and draw a pickled egg. Whoever gets the black egg stays sober tonight.”
~ Moe Szyslak, ‘The Simpsons’
It’s almost a cliché to think about a jar of pickled eggs sitting behind a 1940s dive bar, nestled in the dark beside crusty bottles of Old Crow, a water-stained Blatz sign and the bartender’s smoldering stogie stub. Yet with any Great American Saloon Tradition in danger of extinction – at least in the case of pickled eggs – it is my solemn duty of the owner of Dive Bars to bring it back better than before.
The presence of pickled eggs in barrooms most likely started in 17th century France, where a national egg surplus – as well as a requirement that establishments serving liquor must also serve food – led to hard-boiling them as free bar snacks. It was a practice that eventually spread to bars worldwide and remained popular until the mid-20th century, when public health codes (especially in NYC) made it a violation to keep cooked eggs at the bar without refrigeration.
Pickled eggs became – no pun intended – one solution. A hard-boiled egg cured in vinegar or brine and sealed in a jar could last for months as a tasty and affordable bar snack. German saloon owners had first introduced pickled eggs – along with lagers, which also had a longer shelf life – to working-class America in the mid-1880s. And like all great immigrant fare, there’s also bonus food science: Eggs contain the amino acid cysteine, which is key to liver function (and why eggs are an important part of your hangover breakfast) while the pickling process can generate probiotic bacteria that aids digestion. Bottom line, pickled eggs are not only good bar food, they’re good for you, too.
In keeping with our tradition of supporting locally sourced foods and spirits, we went looking for pickled eggs that were legitimately farm-to-taproom. We found them from Katie Bogdanffy, a third-generation poultry farmer whose Yellow Bell Farms in Dutchess County sells 100% fresh and additive-free chickens, bone broths, eggs and small batch pâtés at farmers markets throughout Westchester County and NYC. We met Katie at the market in Rhinebeck and were immediately knocked out by her tangy farm-pickled eggs, which are made with a brine of apple cider vinegar and local honey. In fact – and pickleback fans take note – this brine is so flavorful that we serve the eggs in a shot of it. It’s low-carb, low-calorie, high-protein and absolutely my favorite new bar snack.
At Dive Bars, we’re proud to be a part of the reborn tradition of pickled eggs at dive bars. They pair great with whatever you’re drinking, especially craft beer. Stop by Broadway Dive and bite into this healthy, historic and delicious tavern classic.