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Photograph: Time Out/Ali Garber

The Grilling: Jacob's Pickles' Jacob Hadjigeorgis

Time Out Market New York culinary star Jacob Hadjigeorgis on growing up in a restaurant, NYC subways and the Knicks

By Bao Ong
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“It’s a neighborhood that you could be in for 100 years,” says Jacob Hadjigeorgis, explaining why he chose the Upper West Side to debut, in 2011, Jacob’s Pickles. While the timeless nabe isn’t exactly known as a hotbed of buzzy eateries, the 35-year-old Astoria native was sold on the location—and, as it turned out, we (and many, many other locals) were soon sold on Jacob’s Pickles. It quickly became a bona fide destination for Southern comfort food, slinging fried pickles, hot chicken biscuits and other dishes boasting big American flavors. That’s why we were beyond jazzed to bring Hadjigeorgis to our very own Dumbo market, where folks can scarf down his best-sellers (napkins recommended).

Do you have any crazy memories about the early days of Jacob’s Pickles?
I had just opened the restaurant the previous December, and then Superstorm Sandy hit. All of NYC was coming to the Upper West Side. It was one of the most stressful times, but I’ve never felt such a great sense of community. It felt like we were offering shelter to all of New York. Sometimes, there were three-hour waits, but people didn’t complain because we were all in it together.

That’s a lovely story. You’ve been in the game for a while.  What are some misconceptions about the industry?   
It’s not a glamorous business. It’s not as sexy as the way it’s depicted in the media. Unfortunately, I feel like a lot of people get into it for the wrong reasons.

Who’s an iconic New Yorker you’d love to meet?
I’ll say Spike Lee.

Knicks fan?
I’m a big Knicks fan. Spike Lee always represents New York. He’s stuck by the Knicks, and he’s an ambassador for the team.

You’re a born-and-bred New Yorker. Do you have a good subway story?
One Sunday as a freshman in high school, I announced I’d take the subway on my own. My mom freaked out and said she’d drive me. But I got up early and snuck out to prove that I could take the train on my own [from Astoria to the Upper West Side]. I called her from school. The call woke her up, and I told her, “I’m in school. I’m fine. I hope this proves I can do it.”

What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
I’ve worked in the restaurant business my whole life. I was a teenager, and one summer I told my dad, “I’m not going to do this anymore. I’m going to work construction with my uncle.” I thought it’d be easier. That summer was so hot, and we were working on this walk-up, carrying things up six flights of stairs. By the following summer, I was back in the restaurant.

 

About Jacob's Pickles at Time Out New York:
This Southern-focused spot specializes in comfort foods that we can all get behind. Stop by to feast on some droolworthy down-home cooking, punctuated with a fried Oreo for dessert, right in our Dumbo market. For complete menus, more info and editors' picks, head to timeout.com/newyork/market.

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