Like a JV player called up to varsity, jerky has become a starter in the appetizer game. It must have been a big day for the dried meat when an outdoorsy chef pulled a bundle of teriyaki-flavored beef from the depths of his trail-mix littered backpack and said, “Hey, why don’t I put this on my menu?” We assume it went something like this:

Chef: “Well, hey there beef jerky. Why so blue?”

Jerky: “Oh, I don’t know, chef. Could have something to do with the fact that I’ve been wedged between your soiled socks and this moldy granola for six weeks.”

Chef: “You found my socks? Nice.”

Jerky: “No, seriously chef, can you get me out of here? It reeks of gangrene and fetid Camembert.”

Chef: “Jerky, you’re right. That was a dick move leaving you to rot in my backpack, especially after we had so much fun hiking the Appalachian Trail. I’m gonna make it up to you.”

Jerky: “Oh yeah?”

Chef: “Yeah. I’m … I’m gonna put you on the menu.”

Jerky: “For real?!”

Chef:For real. And, AND, I’m going to charge a buck 50 a piece for you.”

Jerky: “You mean, I don’t have to sit on the shelves next to those bitchy Lärabars anymore?”

Chef: “No. No, little jerky, you are destined for bigger things. Things like craft beer pairings and Food & Wine two-page spreads. I shall rip you from unwashed hippie hands and thrust you into a place of honor.”

Jerky: “I feel like Rudy at the final kick-off against Georgia Tech.”

Chef: “Today you are Rudy, little jerky. You are.”

And so it was that the salted meat joined the small plate ranks of truffled deviled eggs and sliders.

Here’s where we go when we’re craving a chewy bite.

Elliotborough Mini Bar

Super spicy, these tiny strips, no bigger than your middle finger, will have you craving a palate-cleansing beer — we suspect there’s Sriracha in these puppies. Look for a Hebrew Rye IPA, if they have it on tap. EMB’s jerky goes for $5 an ounce.


Bay Street Biergarten

Sold as a Pint O’ Jerky, Bay Street Biergarten’s variation comes in dry sheets. You’ll have to fight to strip a bite off, but the battle is worth it. That said, we suggest splitting an order and saving your cash for a couple rounds of Weltenburger Kloster Asam-Bock to wash it down.


Ted’s Butcherblock

Ted Dombrowski has been in the jerky game for as long as we can remember, which may be why his variety looks, well, rather Flinstonian. Thick chunks give off a glaze glare that has hints of Worcestershire sauce. It’s not for the dentured crowd, but it is a pleasing snack if you have the chompers to tackle it. Bonus, Ted sells lots of red wine. A syrah would pair nicely with his version.


The Royal American

This dive bar’s jerky has become so popular, The Royal American decided to package it up and sell it by the bag. Now $9 will get you a pack of Smokey Bourbon or Hot Rod to go, and both are equally good. There’s a slight sweetness to both of the bar’s blend, but they’re just salty enough to balance out Royal American’s signature punches.


The Gin Joint

The term one co-worker used to describe the Gin Joint’s famed jerky was that it was like “a fossilized body preserved in a peat bog.” Now we’ve never snacked on, say, Lindow Man, a peat-preserved gent found near Cheshire, England, but we suspect Lindow was also sort of moist, like The Gin Joint’s jerky. Only the Joint’s $1.50-a-piece variety has a hint of soy and chili. Keep the spicy vibe going by raising a glass to the prehistoric-looking meat with an En Fuego cocktail made with Blanco tequila, lime, kumquat, Aperol, Galliano, and Breckenridege bitters, and habanero.


Edmund’s Oast

Chef Andy Henderson loves The Gin Joint’s jerky so much, he has attempted to replicate it. But while there is a certain familiarity between the two, Edmund’s option is an original. The sinewy appetizer provides a complex umami flavor for just $1.50 a piece. But that salty, savory sensation will leave you thirsty. We suggest the brewpub’s own Belgian “inflected” Breakfast at the Still as a chaser.