If you have diabetes, you’ve probably heard at least a few times in your life that you should be cutting back on carbs and sugar to avoid raising your blood glucose levels. Luckily, a low-carb diet trend is sweeping the nation, making it easier for people with diabetes and other dietary restrictions to get great-tasting foods that aren’t chock-full of the carbohydrates that send blood sugar levels soaring.
Whether you’re just going with the low-carb flow or really trying to keep tabs on your diet’s impact on your diabetes or other health issues (like Celiac disease), pickle sandwiches may be a godsend to help you stay on track. You can thank Elsie’s for that.
Katherine Cohen first got the idea for a pickle sandwich back when she and her family owned a deli in New Jersey. She was constantly on a quest to get her mother to eat healthier because of her diabetes, and she thought replacing the bread on a sandwich with a pickle would be a perfect low-carb solution.
So she made her mom a sandwich with a pickle “bun” for the outside. Cohen reports that a customer walked into the deli while her mom was eating the sandwich, saw the pickle “bread,” and said, “I want one of those.”
So Cohen began selling pickle sandwiches at the deli. “We started making sandwiches on our signature pickles, and people lost their minds, so we just rolled with it,” she recalls.
Later, after the family shut down the deli, Cohen and her husband decided to start their own sandwich shop called Elsie’s—a sandwich shop unlike any other, because there isn’t a single slice of bread in the whole place. The restaurant has only been open for a few months, but it already sells a couple of hundred sandwiches each weekday and more like 500 on the weekends.
Elsie’s, appropriately nicknamed “Home of the Pickle Sandwich,” is located about 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia in Haddon Township, New Jersey. Employees first slice the pickles in half, then gut them with an ice cream scoop to keep them from being too juicy and make more space, and then they stuff them full of delicious ingredients until they’re almost too big to get your mouth around. But we know you’ll find a way. (Just remember to take out the toothpicks first.)
At Elsie’s, you can get unique signature sandwiches like the “Homage To Katz,” or you can fill your belly with more of a staple sandwich, like a traditional Italian or classic turkey. And if you don’t like any of the menu options, you can build your own sandwich as well.
You can also purchase sets of six sushi-like wraps with either a pickle slice or a cucumber slice wrapped around sandwich ingredients. Filling options include roast beef, falafel, corned beef, turkey, and more, as well as toppings like cheese, sauce, veggies, slaw, and spicy red pepper spread. They’re even served with chopsticks for an extra touch of flair!
The cucumber slices are perfect for those concerned about their sodium intake from the pickles. Or for people who just plain old don’t like pickles (but seriously, who doesn’t like pickles?).
Of course, it’s not really possible to patent a pickle sandwich, and other restaurants have attempted to copy-cat Cohen’s recipes. You can also make a pickle sandwich on your own at home. But Cohen says a true pickle sandwich has to have a very special type of pickle. Elsie’s has an agreement with a commercial pickler to make sure they always have the right pickles for their customers. They sell roughly 300 pickle sandwiches per day!
Want to know more about how well people like pickle sandwiches? The cast and audience of Good Morning America’s Strahan & Sara tried them, and you can watch the video of that taste test and interview here:
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?