If you live or work downtown and happen to see a big, green pickle running up and down Euclid Avenue, don't be alarmed—it's just Dilly, the larger-than-life Cleveland Pickle mascot.
When chef Josh Kabat opened his teeny sandwich shop in March of 2012, he did so in one of the sleepier pockets of downtown. Ninth and Euclid isn't exactly the Warehouse District, so Kabat hopped into a goofy pickle costume and made sure people knew his shop was there.
"I did what I know how to do and that's promote," he explains. "We came up with a great brand and logo and made some noise."
But Kabat is more than just a promoter; he's a 34-year-old chef with a resume that includes entries for Lola and Reddstone, which he opened with money pocketed from selling his stake in Peabody's. He knows that it takes more than a catchy name and furry green pickle to make a restaurant successful. He also knew that the time was right to unveil his concept: a restaurant disguised as a sandwich shop.
"There's been this progression where chefs my age are moving away from fine dining and going more casual," he says. "I wanted to do the same thing. So I've taken my skills as a chef and applied them between two slices of bread."
On a good day, Kabat and his fiancé and business partner Kiaran Daley fly through 150 "nu-skool" sandwiches with Cleveland-themed names like Terminal, Payne Avenue, and Cardiac Kid. In addition to quality meats and cheeses, the sandwiches have chef-driven components like adobo spread, roasted tomato pesto or balsamic reduction that separates them from typical brown baggers.
Things are going so well for the team that they're opening a second Pickle in Lakewood this fall. At nearly double the size, the new shop will be large enough to serve as a commissary to accommodate future expansion plans.
"This is a brand that we want to continue to develop and have five, six or seven locations hopefully," Kabat says.
He and Daley will officially tie the knot this month, take a little time off, and come back and work on the new space. No word on whether he'll be getting married in a tux or the pickle costume.