The success of the Blue Ox has much to do with its penchant for contrast. It’s an upscale yet casual white-tablecloth restaurant situated near Italian pizzerias and Korean noodle shops on an unremarkable side street in Lynn. The city’s reputation as an ethnic melting pot inspires much of the cuisine and cocktails at the Blue Ox. Chef and owner Matt O’Neil thrives on such juxtapositions, turning out seasonally inspired, approachable food with unexpected components, making his restaurant a destination for residents all around the North Shore, as well as from Boston.
Case in point: filet mignon, cold-smoked in old Jack Daniels barrels and perfectly crisped French fries made with aged potatoes. The bar was inspired by the kitchen’s creativity when it came to shaking up the Hot ‘n’ Dirty Pickle, a popular drink that has remained on the menu for nearly two years. Bartender Charlie Gaeta says the recipe was a fun collaboration with the staff, particularly server Holly Maitland, whose Maitland Mountain pickles are made on her farm in Salem.
A twist to the ever-popular dirty martini, the Hot ‘n’ Dirty Pickle uses the piquant brine from the Maitland pickles alongside Gloucester-distilled Ryan & Wood Knockabout gin, plus a dash of Sriracha, a Thai chili sauce. The coriander and juniper notes in the gin blend nicely with the pickling spices, and the heat of the chili provides an elusive umami, or savoriness, often found in foods like Parmesan cheese. Gaeta calls it a must-have pairing with the burger—“like a pickle on the side.” The cocktail also works well with oysters, given the fresh, light citrus elements from the gin. The best part? A pickle spear garnish that beats out an olive any day of the week. The exact recipe of a Hot ‘n’ Dirty Pickle is as elusive as Holly’s pickling spices, so it’s best enjoyed at the hands of bartenders Charlie and Gina at the Blue Ox, located at 191 Oxford St. Lynn, 781-780-5722, theblueoxlynn.com. —Brandy Rand