Pickles Pub is getting ready for summer.
The facade of the almost-30-year-old bar and grill on Philadelphia Avenue downtown is currently in the process of getting a facelift. New food and drink specials will make their debut on May 15, and around the same time, their serving staff will be increased to accommodate seasonal crowds.
It may seem like a lot, but other than that there isn’t too much to do. At least, no more than usual. Brittney Acita, who took over the restaurant with her husband Justin Acita almost five years ago, says she’s typically ready for the oncoming summer by January.
Pickles Pub has been a favorite with locals for almost 30 years. Open year-round downtown on 8th Street, they serve lunch, dinner and their full menu until 1 a.m. They have six pool tables and show sports on their giant high definition screens, plus an extensive beer list with a constantly rotating selection of beers from local and regional...
“It’s actually funny because everyone says, ‘oh, winter’s like your downtime,’ but winter’s essentially my busiest time,” she said. “I have all the entertainment done by February 1st for the entire 2019… Our bartenders stay year-round, our kitchen stays year-round, we just add more servers in the summer.”
Pickles made a name for itself as a locals bar, partly because it’s open seven days a week all year round, partly because there’s live entertainment every weekend no matter what the season, and partly — probably — because Brittney and Justin are so in tune with their guests and their staff.
The couple was already well-acquainted with the restaurant industry before they came to own the pub in 2016. Justin had been a manager at Embers before he managed Pickles, and Brittney has been in the service industry since she was 13.
When they met 12 years ago, Pickles was one of the first places that they went on a date. First they went to the Dungeon (RIP) for free beer and tacos, Brittney recalled, and then they came to “The Pickle.”
“It is a big part of our past. All of my early 20s were spent here,” she said. “We’ve watched it grow with us.”
It’s now 12 years, three businesses and three kids later, and the Acitas are running Pickles “like a well-oiled machine.” They’ve been able to take a small step back this year, Brittney said, and work more from their home office — which is especially helpful since their third child was just born in February — but they still spend plenty of time in the restaurant and their liquor store next door.
On busy nights, Justin gets on the line in the kitchen, and Brittney hops behind the bar or runs food out. They’ve got it down to a science, she said, and what makes it so easy is that they have a great team. Much of their staff has been working there for years, and the team is so tightly-knit that they even spend some holidays together. And the two owners balance each other out well.
“I work with [Justin] seven days a week of my life and I raise children with him seven days a week of my life,” Brittney said. “And I still miss him when I’m not with him.”
There are new games in the game room, all the entertainment for the summer has been scheduled, and the city is laying out new sidewalks outside. The construction coincided nicely with the Acitas’ plan to revamp their outdoor patio/smoking area, which will be done by the summertime.
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OPEN DURING CONSTRUCTION 🚧 We are getting new sidewalks and giving the front of our building a Facelift, we will be staying OPEN during this little process. 1/2 Price 1/2 Pound Burgers today at The Pub and Pint Night 🍻 #publife #burgers #craftbeer #familybusiness #pickleshots #construction
A new drink menu was released in late March, and a new food menu will debut on April 1, long enough before summer that the staff can get to know it inside and out before the real crowds arrive. Reubens, chicken and waffles and corned beef sliders are just some of the new food options that will appear on the menu, alongside a pickle pizza, which consists of a butter base topped with mozzarella cheese and pickle spears.
It may sound a little strange, but Brittney assures that the pickle pizza is very good. It’s never too difficult for them to find inspiration for palatable, pickle-themed fare.
“Any time there’s something ‘pickles’ online, Justin and I are tagged in it at least 500 times,” she said.
Pickle shots are one item that will always remain on the menu — at Pickles and at many other bars and shops throughout Ocean City. It was only last July that Brittney dreamed up a bottled version of the pub’s famous Pickle Shot, and now it’s available in 95 locations throughout Maryland, with Delaware just catching up, too.
The Original Pickle Shot is so successful, Brittney said, because it’s so unlike anything else on the market. The vodka- and brine-based liquor is a decent proof, but “you can do more than one or two or three shots and still be able to function,” she said. “Not drive, but you can still function.”
More than 100,000 pickle shots are sold each year — and that’s just in the bar, not even counting all the bottled Original Pickle Shots that have been purchased since the bottle’s July 2018 debut — because it’s different in a good way. The pickle shot is commonly described as unique, flavorful and full of personality, just like the pub that sells it.
Pickles will celebrate its 30th anniversary in May, proving that a locals-owned locals bar has major staying power in Ocean City.
Photos courtesy of Brittney Acita.