photo courtesy of Jack Link's
Everyone in the Twin Cities is talking about the new 78,000-square-foot Jack Link’s restaurant, office, and retail space coming to Block E in the heart of downtown. (Not a prank.)
Why are we all talking? Because there are so many aspects to discuss! Some are talking about the unholy irony of the Mayo Clinic—which just bought naming rights to the building—being saddled with this rather unhealthy food. What, they couldn’t get a Funyuns restaurant in there? Have Mayo Clinic real estate deal negotiators now all been fired? Probably, but we don’t know! Other topics of chatter: What would Otto von Bismarck say? After all, it was the German Iron Chancellor who said that laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made—and now Jack Link’s is planning to make them in an open window on the street for everyone to see! Otto von Bismarck would disapprove, say many. More topics: What the dickens is a “jerky sample room with season-your-own meat snacks”? First of all, the entire point of top-your-own-frozen-yogurt or top-your-tater bars is that the underlying foodstuff is soft, and thus can catch and hold toppings. Right? Do these Jack Link’s people think they’re going to get M&Ms or grated cheddar cheese to stick to a beef stick? Have they lost one too many battles with a Sasquatch? Clearly, assistance is required. In the spirit of welcoming our new neighbors I have called on top chefs and barkeeps of the Twin Cities to help out: What should be on this new Jack Link’s restaurant menu? Some thoughts:
Christina Nguyen, chef and co-owner of Hola Arepa, suggests guests begin with a Gas Station Charcuterie assemblage, with a curated assortment of artisanal shelf stable sausages, jerkies, cheez wiz, canned nacho cheese, and Ritz crackers, presented in a way to most clearly evoke that downtown is now nothing less than a “dried meat Disneyland.”
Ann Kim, chef and owner of Pizzeria Lola and Hello Pizza, thinks Jack Link's needs to think outside the gas-station packaging. “Jack Link’s jerky chili served in an edible jerky bowl,” is her advice. Build on the jerky bowl with a whole jerky bowl menu, perhaps? “Jerky fried rice served in an edible, teriyaki-flavored jerky bowl and with a pair of edible teriyaki beef ‘chop’ sticks.”
Jack Riebel, chef and co-owner of Il Foro and the forthcoming Lexington, recommends “A Jackalope hot link on a moustache roll, topped with Sonofabitch stew.” (Translation: A jackalope is a delicious, mythical plains animal now turned into a hot link, a moustache roll is what happens if you take two lobes of dough and bake them together into a moustache, and sonofabitch stew is an old American cowboy recipe for calf’s offal stew.)
Thomas Kim, chef and owner of The Rabbit Hole, suggests an aggressive exploration of the cuisine. Guests should begin with “Harey balls, moist rabbit meatballs in Jack Link’s teriyaki sauce,” proceed to “Jerked Cock, dehydrated bone-in chicken seasoned with Jack Link’s Original Flavor,” then enjoy “Squatch’s Lil Chubby Snapper Hot Dog—a Jack Link’s Lil Chub sausage with Kimchi Foam, crunchy ramen bits, Brussels sprout slaw, house made Sriricha mustard topped with snapper crudo and garnished with Jack Link’s Carne Asada meat-free jerky in an artisanal bagel bun.”
Steven Brown, chef and co-owner of Tilia and St. Genevieve, suggests “Jack Link’s Chili Lime ‘chilaquiles,’ with poached goose egg, Jack Link’s Chicken Jerky tinga, salsa verde and powdered Jack Link’s Teriyaki jerky-flavored umami garnish. That’s a lot of Jack.”
JD Fratzke, chef and co-owner of The Strip Club and Saint Dinette: “The ‘Pojarski Plunger,’ a homage to the supper club classic Veal Pojarsky,” writes Fratzke; for that dish, veal and butter are blended into a patty. Instead of veal, Fratzke thinks Jack Link’s should go beef on beef: “Freezer-burned ground beef and Hormel no-bean chili (local!) wrapped in caul fat, slow roasted, deep fried, and served skewered on a Jack Link’s bacon cheddar stick, smothered in McCormick’s instant gravy.”
Nick Kosevich of Bittercube, Eat Street Social, Scena Tavern, and other cocktail spots advises that if Jack Link’s doesn’t create a smoking lounge with smoking jackets made of beef jerky they are missing an opportunity. After that of course, the obvious choice is a Bloody Mary. And yet, here in the Twin Cities we are famous for really liking a lot of stuff—especially a lot of beef sticks—in our Bloody Mary. Perhaps Jack Link’s can take it further? Kosevich pictures “A pint glass of beef jerky served with a snit of Bloody Mary mix—and a pint of vodka.” That would make them popular on the way to Twins games!
But, that’s just what they think. Got a good idea for Jack Link’s new restaurant? Post it in the comments!