In a world that seems overrun with hamburger joints and poke places, bow down to entrepreneur Lee Theilen, who is opening a concept that is completely original to Dallas: a pickle place.
Called Pickletopia, it will open at 4812 Bryan St., at the southwest corner of Fitzhugh Avenue, where it will sell pickles of all kinds.
Theilen, a Dallas-born gourmand who'd worked with big food companies like Cargill, is acting on something that started as a hobby and became a passion.
"My grandfather, I was told, who is of German descent, used to make his own sauerkraut," he says. "I'd been reading up on the benefits of fermented foods, and I decided to throw myself into this a couple years ago."
He began experimenting with recipes and the more he explored it, the more grist he found.
"Probiotics have become popular, and the fact is that it works," he says. "We're learning that gut health is the best health, and part of that is fermented foods like pickles."
But this will be far more than a place to buy a jar of pickled cucumbers. Theilen will be pickling all kinds of things.
"I'm working with about two dozen recipes," he says. "And then I'll rotate in products that are in tune with the season. If at all possible, you want to stay with vegetables that are in season."
Carrots in the winter, okra in the spring.
"I also want to be as local as possible," he says. "It's better for people who live in the area to eat what's grown locally, it supports local farmers, and it just helps everyone all around."
In addition to pickled vegetables, he'll do things like a green papaya kraut with an Asian flair that would make an interesting match with barbecued chicken.
Theilen, who aims to have the store open by late summer, is pretty tickled about his location, almost kitty-corner from Jimmy's Food Store, Dallas' revered Italian market. With Jimmy's, Mai's, Urbano Cafe, and the community garden, he'll add another element to a neighborhood ripe with culinary coolness.
"Growing up in Dallas, I would go to Jimmy's, I always thought that was a cool location and a neat place that was original for Dallas," Theilen says. "I go to New York quite a bit. I always enjoyed going to the Lower East Side and checking out the pickle places that were still there. I worked with one down there for a week. The owner allowed me to do it because I was from Texas, and we wouldn't be competition. By the end of week, I knew this was something I wanted to do."
He'll supplement his retail store business with internet sales.
"But everything's going to be fresh — not shelf-stable but fresh out of the barrel," he says. "I did my research and there's nothing quite like this in the Dallas-Fort Worth area or maybe not even in Texas, quite like what I am doing. It's something I enjoy, and if you have a job you enjoy, the rest is gravy."