Beef Jerky Embarks On New Era

Jerky makes a chewy comeback

For centuries, jerky has been a food of last resort, first tiding over settlers through long, harsh winters, then finding a foothold among the outdoor adventure set.

Now this tough frontier staple has a new, indoor-friendly image, and house-made versions are appearing on menus around the country.

Portland, Oregon's The Country Cat marinates top round with salt, celery seed, chile and molasses before drying it into a flavorful garnish for its Bloody Marys. At new Brooklyn restaurant The Vanderbilt, a mug of Vietnamese-spiced jerky is a chewy cocktail companion.

In Chicago, HUB 51's Truck Stop Charcuterie platter features house-made turkey jerky, while Atlanta's Abattoir stuffs Mason jars with two leathery variations: a traditional jerky and a stick inspired by the classic Slim Jim.

Even store-bought jerky is making a comeback. Here, a few purveyors who've mastered the art of drying and smoking:

Timberline Smokehouse This family-run smokehouse strays from traditional flavors in its booze-infused jerkies, which include bourbon-honey and tequila-jalapeƱo.

Gary West Smoked Meats The meat from Gary West's hickory smokehouse is so tender that he dubs his bite-size snacks "steak strips" rather than jerky.

Monty's Smoked Jerky This naturally raised beef is smoked over hickory wood before it's tossed in a smoky spice mix.