Perhaps one of the reasons Pickles Deli has won “Best of Whidbey” is because customers keep coming back for the vast amount of options on the menu.
“I want people to come in and get exactly what they want,” said owner Kim Bailey, who happily allows substitutions of all kinds. Got a particular hankering? Chances are, Pickles Deli has it.
The sandwich shop in Clinton was picked as the best deli on the island by voters in the Best of Whidbey contest. The shop celebrated its 17th anniversary in October. When it first opened in Ken’s Korner, it had one room and just three or four tables. Over the years, its square footage has grown when other businesses around it closed, freeing up space.
“It’s kind of pieced together like a little puzzle,” Bailey said.
The restaurant’s namesake – pickles – can be found all around in different jars and sizes. Bailey has had a lifelong love for the pickled cucumber. She chose the name of her deli based on fond memories of growing up in a little town in New Hampshire. After school, she and her sister would race to a little mini mart and see who could get the biggest pickle out of the barrel.
Bailey, a Clinton resident, worked for a catering company doing sporting events on the mainland before deciding to open her own business. Those were long days, she remembers.
“I would get home and I would be starving, and want something healthy,” she said.
And thus, the idea for a sandwich shop was born.
Bailey’s favorite item on the menu is the Banh Mi, which is a traditional spicy Vietnamese sandwich, but she said the most popular item by far is the Spicy Italian, a baguette with hot capicola, pepperoni, hard salami, sharp provolone, mozzarella cheese and plenty of fixings.
Pickles Deli is in some ways more than just a place to grab a sandwich. During power outages caused by Whidbey’s notoriously windy winter weather, Bailey keeps the shop running with a generator. And most of all, warm.
“A lot of people don’t have generators at their house, so they want a place to come and sit on their computers and have some hot soup or a hot sandwich,” she said. “That was probably the best thing I could have done for that place, was put that in.”
And the shop’s community service extends beyond that. Recently, Bailey decided to start the Island Menu as a way to feed hungry customers of modest means. She got the idea one day while scrolling social media and reading about a bagel shop in New York offering a similar service.
People who lack the funds to purchase a sandwich can receive one free of charge by requesting the Island Menu, which consists of a simple chicken, turkey, tuna or vegetarian sandwich.
The Island Menu is funded wholly by donations. Over $3,000 has been raised so far, and coverage by both the South Whidbey Record and TV news stations has boosted its visibility in the greater Western Washington area. Bailey said she has had people from across the water contribute to the fund.
“Thank you, because this is huge,” Bailey said.
Another South Whidbey business raised almost $400 during a trivia night for the Island Fund, which Bailey has been delighted to see.