My relationship with beef jerky began when I was a kid on vacation with my family. That broke my little brain. Even in college, every time I took another road trip, I couldn't resist seeking out a bag at a convenience store and savoring every salty, unctuous morsel.
Next time, I might just hit Jack Link's new Wild Side retail store. Jerky used to be scarce, and its offerings were relatively staid and predictable. No more. The Wisconsin-bred company (with some operations based in Minnesota) has built the Babylonian Garden of dehydrated beef at Target Center.
Based upon a media preview of the place, the variety at Wild Side is truly staggering. All your gas station favorites are there, including best-kept secret flavors like Sriracha and Jalapeño. There's space for the company's premium jerky varietals too, which I can only imagine come from those fancy Japanese cows that get massages every morning.
The visit confimed that breakfast is the next territory the jerky giant is looking to conquer, starting with their brand new Jack Link's A.M. series. From what I can tell it combines the best properties of bacon and jerky. I think my brain is breaking again, so we better move on.
Jack Link's plans on leveraging Wild Side as both a test kitchen and gift shop, capitalizing on Minnesota's recent enthusiasm for its up-and-coming Minnesota Timberwolves. (Karl-Anthony Towns is an endorser.) This means that staunch devotees of the jerky lifestyle can decorate their home with exclusive Sasquatch-themed merchandise, and have a place to find sanctuary with like-minded individuals.
Speaking of the Sasquatch, the man-beast (official terminology) made an appearance, alternately terrifying and delighting a group of kindergarteners that happened to be wandering through the Target Center.
Towering over my 6'3" frame, the Sasquatch intimidated at first, but radiated a sagely, calming gravitas once we became accustomed to his presence. Despite being a terse interview, the man-beast helpfully contributed his signature to my notepad, and was kind enough to snap a selfie.
Coming soon: A full-service restaurant and bar (still in the conceptual stages) and a full-size statue of the Sasquatch, located adjacent to Wild Side on the Target Center's skyway level.
Resisting the urge to slap my credit card on the counter and buy half the store with every fiber of my being, I left jerky nirvana a changed man. Looks like this stuff ain't just for road trips anymore.