Olive Pit: Showcasing Oblong Mediterranean Fruit in Corning

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Olive Sign California

Olive Pit sells burgers, sandwiches, and shakes, but olives define this business.

Driving on I-5 south of Redding, en route to Sacramento, we spotted a billboard announcing Corning as “The Olive City,” and another billboard for the Olive Pit. Considering Allison and I are both such big fans of the oblong Mediterranean fruit, we had to stop.

According to the Olive Pit website, “Over 40 years ago, Pete and Ann Craig displayed several jars of olives on a small shelf of the original Olive Pit – a frostie and hamburger stand – to see if any one would be interested in buying their locally grown, locally produced olives. People were quick to purchase the olives and a Corning tradition was born. Today the Craig family…still serves travelers with tasty frosties and delicious olive burgers – their store has expanded five times to meet the demands of hungry visitors.”

Sadly, Pete Craig is no longer with us, but his family still offers a head-spinning array of olives and long-time favorite items like frosties and olive burgers. I wish I had spotted the olive burgers while I was in-store, which dates to 1967, but I was too busy sampling olives.

We knew we were in store for good things when we saw a clever sign on the door. The Olive Pit is celebrating their 40th Anniversary, a sign of enduring excellence. We were also happy to see the owners have a sense of humor. Their cartoon frogs are drunk on martinis, holding cocktail olives while sitting in the glasses, stars circling their heads. Whoever designed these cartoons: genius.

Olives California

Upon entering the store, the largest variety of olives and olive-related products I’d ever seen knocked me on my ass. This span of shelf space alone, a small fraction of the store, held jalapeño-stuffed, garlic-stuffed, mushroom-stuffed, anchovy-stuffed, habanero-stuffed and onion-stuffed olives.

Olives California

The tasting bar was the highlight of the Olive Pit, featuring unlimited samples. In front of the glass, serve yourself. For olives behind the glass, the tasting was proctored. I sampled spicy feta-stuffed, blue cheese-stuffed, garlic-stuffed, Deep South Cajun, pitted Kalamata and pitted Beer Style olives. With every bite, my decision was compounded. Almost every variety was delicious.

Olives California

We walked away with pint jars ($3.29 each) of Mild Mustard, seasoned with mustard, dill and garlic; and Deep South Cajun.

If I drive north of Sacramento again, which I’d put at 5-1 odds, there’s no question I’d stop at the Olive Pit. Happily, I don’t have to play those odds to eat their olives again. The Olive Pit ships. The odds that I’ll receive a shipment of olives from Corning in the next year: even money.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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