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The 5 Top Smokehaus Sandwiches of 2020 (So Far)

There will be no surprises in today’s blog—just a sober look at the eating preferences of our customers since January 1st of this year.

Take a guess which sandwich will be #1. If you find that you’re correct, give yourself a pat on the back, you savvy market analyst, you!

#5 The Great Summer Caper

The once Summertime special that proved too viable to restrict to one season. The Great Summer Caper consists of a toasted Lake Superior Bakehouse Bagel (or one of our new gluten-free bagels), scallion cream cheese, capers (duh!), tomato, red onion, lettuce, and the true star of the show, Black Pepper & Coriander smoked Atlantic salmon.

BP&C (as commonly* abbreviated) is a highly popular fish case offering which, before the Summer of 2018, didn’t show up on any sandwiches. Which isn’t to say it wasn’t requested on sandwiches. It was. Often.

Now, thanks to the Summer special that just wouldn’t quit, you can substitute BP&C on all your favorite fish sandwiches, or The Wagner, if you’re feeling bold and saucy.

*by me.

#4 The Pastrami Mommy

Of the sandwiches on this list, the Pastrami Mommy has evolved the most. Formerly an exclusively Bison Pastrami sandwich, served on a very dark rye bread, it is currently made on our lighter hausmade rye bread (thank you, Jerry!), typically with Beef Pastrami, though still intermittently with Bison Pastrami when the smokers have time or reason to make it.

For those who don’t know, the price of bison has skyrocketed since the Wild West-esque days when I began working at NWS—thus, we reserve the majority of our bison production for Corned Bison and Bison Buddies.

Back to the Pastrami Mommy: Changes aside, the popularity of this sandwich has remained consistent, likely due in part to Guy Fieri’s enthusiasm about it on our decade-old Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives spot, but ultimately due to the merit of this sandwich.

Hausmade rye, mayo, and hausmade mustard, piled high with a quarter-pound of pastrami, zesty pepperoncini, provolone cheese, and mixed greens. Sounds tasty, right?

#3 The Cold Turkey

The savory-sweet delight that’s nearly impossible to quit: Maple-Sage Smoked Ferndale Farms Turkey Breast cradled in a few ounces of Crayo, nestled alongside mixed greens and Swiss cheese, all on a hausmade ciabatta (thanks again, Jerry!).

Frankly, if our sandwich menu ever vexes you, the Cold Turkey is a great default. It’s a sandwich that many, even among our very sandwich-spoiled staff, view as comfort food. It’s the perennial, “nothing too exciting today, just the Cold Turkey.” Which is not a bad thing at all. Add a Jean Jacket if you want some excitement.

#2 The Northern Bagel

A simple foundation with an abundance of flavor is the secret of this sandwich. Our Traditional Smoked Atlantic Salmon already has a lot going for it, from its outer smoke-catching pellicle to it’s brown sugar-sweet, moist and flaky flesh. Marry that amazing flavor to hausmade scallion cream cheese and a Lake Superior Bakehouse bagel, and you’ve got a winning combination.

One major benefit of this simple setup is accessibility. You can eat this thing anywhere, and you’re probably not going to make a mess. It’s a great sandwich on-the-go, whether that’s the trailhead, the beach, or the car. And while the technical aspect of this sandwich may suffice, more importantly, it also tastes really good.

The Northern Bagel is even available from the comfort of your own home kitchen!

#1 The Cajun Finn

Honestly, did you imagine anything else would be in this spot?

The Cajun Finn’s reputation precedes it. The Cajun Finn has had such an impact upon our deli and our community that it has made its way onto a piece of our merchandise—which, by the way, is on sale for $15 during the month of March: That’s $5 off! And lifetime 10%-off your in-store purchases as long as you’re wearing the shirt-slash-any of our merch!—and at least a couple other menus in town *wink emoji*

This blog hasn’t featured any specific sales numbers for these sandwiches, but based on the sales records from which this content emerged, the Finn sold roughly as many units as the three sandwiches below it combined.

Having fond memories of your last Cajun Finn? Want to hit that high again? Have a kit shipped to your doorstep!


It’s looking like it will be a busy weekend in the Canal Park area, and with favorable winds and sunshine, that should hopefully carry over to our deli.

If you’re craving NWS sandwiches and smoked fish, but not craving the wait, try our Delivery/Pick-up service.

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Sandwich Lab: Returning Sandwiches—The Wagner and the Sebu-Chan

In 2019, we shared nine unique Sandwich Lab creations with you, as monthlong specials. In November, when the Lab reconvened, everyone in attendance ranked those nine sandwiches—after which, the rankings were compared by the sales percentages of each sandwich in what I like to imagine was a highly scientific process.

After all the results were calculated, there were two outliers—sandwiches that excelled in the eyes of our staff just as much as in their popularity amongst our patrons.

So we thought, “Hey! Let’s bring them back for a victory lap.”

I present to you: The Wagner and The Sebu-Chan, with brief commentary from their creators.

The Wagner

Read the full-story here.

Leif says: “The Wagner is a very saucy sandwich in every way! It’s kind of a condiment explosion.”

Ned says: “Try it with Black Pepper & Coriander salmon for extra style-points.”

The Wagner with Beef Pastrami—not pictured: the Wagner with Smoked Turkey

The Sebu-Chan

Read the full story here.

Sebastian says: “I don’t know what to say about it, just make something up!”

Ned says: “Share a bite of the gravlax with your cat! Cat’s can have a little cured salmon* as a treat.”

*Your blogger advises against sharing the onion and scallion cream cheese with your cat due to their toxicity to cats, and against sharing the cucumber because cats are terrified of them.


The Wagner and The Sebu-Chan rejoin our menu Monday, February 3rd, alongside the four new Sandwich Lab specials: Alþings Considered, the Salmon Melt, the Sorta-Torta, and the Catbus. Are you excited? We sure are!

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5 Things: January 31st, 2020

Here we are, already one-twelfth of the way through 2020. It’s going by so quickly. Let’s not tarry: Here’s a snapshot of our week:

Eric’s been out of town (and will be for a bit longer).

Beyond being a great boss/leader/guru, Eric is a family man. While he’s been down in Iowa, helping out with family things, we’ve been doing our best to just hold it together. Eric, if you’re reading this, we miss you!

In his element; in his favorite shirt.

We’re rearranging our sandwich menu.

The sandwich menu is verging on out of control—and we’re adding eight sandwiches to it within the next two months, including six next week. With that in-mind, our amazing illustrator and creative director, Flo, has been out of the (extremely distracting) office all week, re-hand-painting (and color-coding) a large portion of the menu.

The Smokehaus wouldn’t be the same without Flo’s amazing eye for food-styling, design and illustration. Thank you, Flo, for everything you do!

A few Flo fishes

Hannah and Andy have been emptying out the 3rd-floor office.

All the walls on the left hand side (pictured below) are coming down, and being replaced with more cooler space—and maybe a desk for Andy—while the rest of us cram into the new office space, at least until the renovation is complete and equilibrium is attainable.

Here’s a short pictorial tribute to this office:

Walkie-talkie codenames.

Apologies to everyone else who has to live with us in the DeWitt-Seitz Marketplace—we are the weirdos walking around the building with walkie-talkies, making up codenames like “Cougar,” “Meltdown!,” “1225,” and “Hot Snake,” to communicate with each other while we transition between office spaces.

If you run into us in a crowded elevator, it’s okay to look away and pretend we’re not there. We understand.

Codename: Leify Greenz

Sub-list: What I would bring to the game day celebration.

Maybe you love the sport and maybe you just love the food—Either way, enjoying time with friends and family is never a bad thing. You’re spending your time on a deli and smokehouse’s blog, so you likely have a decent handle on setting up a snack table, but you might be looking for something special (or easy—or both) to take your game day snack table to the next level. Well, we’ve got options.

My recommendations, based on what we currently have in-stock:

All-Season Fillet

Let’s face it: smoked salmon is what we’re known for. The All-Season is our ultimate party favor—all the flavors so no-one feels left out; easy to prep (we’ve even got card with helpful instructions in our deli); food for fingers, forks, or your favorite crackers. One fillet is probably enough for everyone at the party to get a chance to enjoy it.

Salumi

Thin-sliced dry-cured meat—packs a lot of flavor into each bite and goes a long way. Right now we have Salamini, Saucisson Sec, and Spanish-style Chorizo in spades.

Snack Sticks

Whether you keep them full-length or cut them up into itty-bits, these snack sticks are guaranteed to please, for any palate—Bison Buddies have a little bit of kick, Big Jims remind me of ground beef and taco seasoning browning on the stovetop, Royale With Cheese are a bacon-cheeseburger in a stick, and Smoked Salmon Sticks are made with delicious sockeye salmon and tied together with buttery goodness.

The Usual Suspects

Two delicious hausmade cheese spreads and an exquisite salmon spread—just dip in your knife or cracker, then place immediately in mouth.

Cheese Spread

Honestly, our entire cheese selection is a fairly safe bet, but this spreadable cheddar is guaranteed to appeal to everyone.


That’s all for now! See you next week. If you’re still itching for more NWS content to imbibe, check out this week’s series of Sandwich Lab blogs.

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Sandwich Lab: The Catbus and The Sorta-Torta

The two Sandwich Lab specials we’ll be talking about today share a common thread—attempts at encapsulating favorite food experiences using the ingredients readily available at our deli. One to a savory Japanese pancake, the other to a staple of Mexican lunch menus.

Emma and Patricia have each come up with creations that blend components we’ve had all along into sandwiches that stand out from our other offerings. Without further ado, let’s take a closer look at The Catbus and The Sorta-Torta.

The Catbus

The Catbus is an okonomiyaki-inspired sandwich that’s named after an iconic Studio Ghibli character, and as such, it is pure Smokehaus sandwich menu in intention and execution: an attempt to recreate a favorite food experience with ingredients we have on-hand, paired with a pop-cultural reference for a name.

Okonomiyaki, a savory Japanese pancake sometimes referred to as “Japanese pizza,” translates to “grilled as you like it.” Haus-baked Prince Myshkin rye bread, toasted alongside red onion and kimchi, dressed with mayo and sriracha, and garnished with cilantro is undeniably how we like it: simple, savory (prepare to come face-to-face with the subtle power of fish sauce), and just a little spicy.

The Catbus joins our menu on Monday, February 3rd, alongside Alᚦings Considered, the Sorta-Torta, and the Salmon Melt.

The Sorta-Torta

The Sorta-Torta is a bright new addition to our sandwich menu. Between the slices of Spanish-style Chorizo, fresh jalapeño, sriracha, and black pepper, there’s plenty of spice to wake up your taste buds, with hausmade cumin slaw, mayo and cheddar cheese to balance the scale.

This sandwich is like no other on our menu, and that’s just how Patricia planned it.

Spending many of her years on this planet in the Twin Cities, around plenty of places that offered fantastic tortas, she wanted to see what she could use around the Smokehaus to recreate that experience. A few standard torta ingredients are absent or remixed—aficionados will notice the lack of refried beans, and choosing a hero roll over pan francés—hence, the “sorta,” but there’s no need to dwell on what this sandwich isn’t, because it’s tasty as heck.

The Sorta-Torta joins our menu on Monday, February 3rd, alongside Alᚦings Considered, the Catbus, and the Salmon Melt.


Thanks for tuning-in yet again to this series about the upcoming additions to our sandwich menu. We hope you are too—whether you’ll be visiting our deli tomorrow or in a few months, they’ll be here for you.

We’re so dang excited to share all these new sandwiches with you next week, but let’s not forget about the returning favorites from last year’s Sandwich Lab cycle—the Wagner and the Sebu-Chan

WHAT IS SANDWICH LAB?

A STORY PILFERED FROM PAST BLOGS.

*Bum bum*

IN THE DELICATESSEN SCENE, NEVER SHAKING UP YOUR SANDWICH MENU IS CONSIDERED ESPECIALLY HEINOUS. AT NORTHERN WATERS SMOKEHAUS, THE DEDICATED DELI EMPLOYEES WHO INNOVATE ON THE SANDWICH MENU ARE MEMBERS OF AN ELITE SQUAD KNOWN AS THE SANDWICH LAB. THESE ARE THEIR STORIES:

AT NORTHERN WATERS SMOKEHAUS, OUR WORK IS PLAYING WITH FOOD. THAT MEANS SOMETIMES, IN THE LINE OF DUTY, WE STUMBLE UPON AN AMAZING COMBINATION OF INGREDIENTS THAT EVOLVES OVER SEVERAL SHIFT-MEALS INTO A NOTEWORTHY NEW SANDWICH. OTHER TIMES WE UNCOVER A MORE EFFICIENT WAY TO BUILD A SANDWICH, OR WE SWAP AN INGREDIENT ON A CURRENT MENU ITEM. SANDWICH LAB IS AN ANNUAL GATHERING OF OUR STAFF TO REFINE OUR SANDWICH-LINE SKILLS, TO COME TO AGREEMENT ON ANY CONTROVERSIES, AND—THE BEST PART—TO INTRODUCE OUR PET SANDWICHES TO THE GREATER SMOKEHAUS COMMUNITY.
NOTABLE SANDWICH LAB FINDINGS FROM PREVIOUS YEARS INCLUDE THE CEDARS’S SECRET, THE PURPLE RANGE, AND THE PORK LION. LAST YEAR’S SANDWICH LAB HAD SO MANY GOOD SANDWICHES THAT WE COULDN’T DECIDE ON JUST ONE OR TWO TO ADD TO THE MENU, SO WE DECIDED TO GIVE THEM ALL A CHANCE TO SHINE, AS MONTH-LONG SPECIALS.
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Sandwich Lab: Alþings Considered and The Salmon Melt

Sandwich Lab Specials are back! Rather than running monthlong specials like last year, we’re going to bring all the new sandwiches to you at the same time, and keep them around for a while longer. Each one of our sandwiches eventually develops some degree of cult-following, and we want to give these staff-favorite newbies the same opportunity.

Today, we’ll be talking about two sandwiches that share something in common with each other, and with our most successful sandwich model: fish sandwiches. This is the first installment in a series of blogs about the eight sandwiches set to grace our menu before summer, including six new sandwiches—four from the most recent Sandwich Lab, and two collaborations—and two returning favorites from last year’s Sandwich Lab.

Not your average matpakke.

Alþings Considered is based on the open-faced sandwiches Andrew beheld at his bestemor‘s 90th birthday in Stavagner, Norway: rye bread, brushed with cream cheese and topped with gravlax, capers, lemon slices, fresh dill, and other fixings.

After Andrew joined the Smokehaus team, he began trying to recapture the majesty of de smørbrødene, finding the necessary ingredients readily available on our sandwich line and in the prep kitchen.

Andrew’s take on this sandwich begins with two slices of our haus-baked Prince Myshkin rye bread, a few generous swipes of scallion cream cheese, capers, Atlantic salmon gravlax, tomato slices, hausmade quick pickles, and a hausmade Nordic slaw developed just for this sandwich, featuring thinly-sliced cabbage, radish, and lemon, dressed with vinegar and dill.

At the very least, this smørbrød is a reminder that gravlax is amazing. At best, well, you’ll just have to try it for yourself and find out.

And what about that name? How are you meant to pronounce that non-Roman character? I’ll spare you the cursory linguistic and historical lessons, and skip ahead to the answer—it’s a voiceless dental non-sibilant fricative consonant. If that’s not helpful, think of NPR. If that’s still not helpful, there are some clues in this paragraph for you to follow in pursuit of the origin of this name.

Alþings Considered joins our menu on Monday, February 3rd, alongside the Catbus, the Sorta-Torta, and the Salmon Melt.

Speaking of the Salmon Melt

TK, our beloved inventory expert and wine connoisseur, sought to fill an obvious gap on our menu.

In TK’s words, “The tuna melt is one of the best deli sandwiches ever.” While we’ve never been a tuna joint, we have something that compares quite favorably to the average tuna salad: Smoked Salmon Pâté.

TK’s Salmon Melt is a essentially a classic tuna melt, with a hearty portion of our Smoked Salmon Pâté substituted for the tuna salad: Two slices of buttered haus-baked Pullman white bread, toasted alongside cheddar cheese-topped salmon pâté, assembled with a chunky dill pickle/red onion/celery relish.

The Salmon Melt gives our Smoked Salmon Pâté—which itself features the bright and exciting blend of such flavors as lemon juice, horseradish, Cajun seasoning, dill, scallions, and parsley—another context in which to shine, and in unexpected circumstances: served hot.

The Salmon Melt joins our menu on Monday, February 3rd, alongside the Catbus, the Sorta-Torta, and the aforementioned Alᚦings Considered.


Thanks for tuning in to this latest series of product features. Scandinavian fans, please forgive my sloppy attempts at Norwegian linguistic and cultural analysis: I took one semester of Norwegian at St. Olaf College, and my best friend moved to Norway a decade ago—we’re just pretending that makes me qualified.

For more information about Sandwich Lab, please read the copy-pasted details below:

What is Sandwich Lab?

A story pilfered from past blogs.

*Bum bum*

IN THE DELICATESSEN SCENE, NEVER SHAKING UP YOUR SANDWICH MENU IS CONSIDERED ESPECIALLY HEINOUS. AT NORTHERN WATERS SMOKEHAUS, THE DEDICATED DELI EMPLOYEES WHO INNOVATE ON THE SANDWICH MENU ARE MEMBERS OF AN ELITE SQUAD KNOWN AS THE SANDWICH LAB. THESE ARE THEIR STORIES:

AT NORTHERN WATERS SMOKEHAUS, OUR WORK IS PLAYING WITH FOOD. THAT MEANS SOMETIMES, IN THE LINE OF DUTY, WE STUMBLE UPON AN AMAZING COMBINATION OF INGREDIENTS THAT EVOLVES OVER SEVERAL SHIFT-MEALS INTO A NOTEWORTHY NEW SANDWICH. OTHER TIMES WE UNCOVER A MORE EFFICIENT WAY TO BUILD A SANDWICH, OR WE SWAP AN INGREDIENT ON A CURRENT MENU ITEM. SANDWICH LAB IS AN ANNUAL GATHERING OF OUR STAFF TO REFINE OUR SANDWICH-LINE SKILLS, TO COME TO AGREEMENT ON ANY CONTROVERSIES, AND—THE BEST PART—TO INTRODUCE OUR PET SANDWICHES TO THE GREATER SMOKEHAUS COMMUNITY.
NOTABLE SANDWICH LAB FINDINGS FROM PREVIOUS YEARS INCLUDE THE CEDARS’S SECRET, THE PURPLE RANGE, AND THE PORK LION. LAST YEAR’S SANDWICH LAB HAD SO MANY GOOD SANDWICHES THAT WE COULDN’T DECIDE ON JUST ONE OR TWO TO ADD TO THE MENU, SO WE DECIDED TO GIVE THEM ALL A CHANCE TO SHINE, AS MONTH-LONG SPECIALS.
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5 Things: January 24th, 2020

It’s my favorite time of year to be at work. I’m happy to see the business battling sales records all Summer long, and there is a certain excitement that comes with the furious tide of December mail order days, but I prefer taking life a bit slower.

The post-holidays Winter to early Spring segment of the year is the time when we try new things, be they grab & go items, like cookies, pasta salads, and condiments, or new smoked meat and fish products for our deli cases. Right now, our fish, meat, and grab & go cases are fully-stocked with goodies.

It’s also the time for larger projects, and planning for the aforementioned projects: A break from the routine, and, of course, time for a few more breaths between each movement.

Here’s a few things that happened this week.

Megan cleaned and organized the deep freeze.

No one asked, “Hey, Megan—would you like to clean the deep freeze?” In fact, it was Megan who asked, “Hey, is it cool if I clean the deep freeze?”

Four hours later, it went from a chaotic state—which, for my anxiety’s sake, I don’t have a photo of—to this nice, organized area in which I will still always irrationally fear becoming trapped.

This is much better.

Thank you, Megan!

Work began on our new office.

The plan is to knock down a few walls in our current third floor office, so we can fit another large walk-in cooler in our collective space, leaving only enough room for the mail order office and workstations.

Meanwhile, Rosewater Music has moved their operation to a new location, and we’re taking over that space—conveniently also on the third floor of the DeWitt-Seitz building—to accommodate our creative team, managers, and anyone else who would be displaced.

More details and photos will be coming in the next handful of weeks.

We finally have jerky.

This business may be in its third decade of life, but we haven’t run out of ideas yet.

Jerky is an often-requested item at our deli, and with the success of other take & eat items like our host of snack sticks, and Patricia’s various baked goods, Eric decided it was time to give the people what they wanted.

We’re currently offering three varieties of Smoked Jerky—Umami Tsunami Bison Jerky, Maple Bourbon Bison Jerky, and Sockeye Salmon Jerky—with plans of new varieties to come.

Learn more about our Smoked Jerky here.

Soba Noodle Salad.

Patricia came up with this delicious new use for our Teriyaki Smoked Tofu, which is now available out of our deli meat case for $8.50/lb.

I could say some more about it, or you could just read the list of ingredients:

The savvy cook will know what to do with this list better than I, but if you’d like to skip all the steps of smoking tofu, preparing the noodles, chopping and grating the ingredients, and more, just stop in and try it.

Patricia is working on a few other pasta salads at the moment, and always up to something new in the bakery. We’ll do our best to inform you as each of these new offerings occurs.

Sandwich Lab Specials return!

This is the preview to the preview: Next week we’ll be announcing the FOUR NEW SANDWICHES coming to our menu from the November 2019 Sandwich Lab.

And two sandwiches from last year’s cycle of monthlong Sandwich Lab Specials join the permanent menu: The Wagner and The Sebu-Chan. Each selected based on their successful sales numbers, as well as their popularity amongst our staff, who voted these the top two.

On top of all that, come March, we’ll be offering two new sandwiches: an as-of-yet unnamed smoked fish sandwich in development, and The Pack Lunch, our sandwich collaboration with our friendly neighbors at Duluth Pack.

2020 is going to be a big year for new options at the Smokehaus.


After all that I’ve said about this being a slow time of year, the news broke to me this morning that there will be two hockey tournaments in town this weekend, so gear up for a busy handful of days in Canal Park.

See you next week, with a bunch of new Product Features, and at least five more Things™.

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5 Customer Favorites

Another lap ’round the sun is complete! To start off this blogging year, we’re going to linger a while longer in the previous year, looking at our all-around bestselling items—which to some might be quite obvious. To avoid clinging too dearly to the past, I will then attempt to work a preview of what to expect in the upcoming year into each section.

#1 — The Cajun Finn

No question here. Whether by sheer virtue of its flavor, or the potency of word-of-mouth advertising, this sandwich sells roughly as many units as the bottom half of the sandwich menu combined (a point for W.o.M.), and has repeat—and three-peat, and onward—customers (a major point for V.o.F.).

Fish sandwiches are among our most popular items overall, and come Spring of 2020, we’ll have a new one making a stop on our menu. Last year, for the Friends of the Boundary Waters Fundraiser, we auctioned off future naming rights for a limited-run fish sandwich to be featured on our menu.

So, right now, it’s in development and unnamed, but it’s highly likely to be a hit. A percentage of proceeds from each sandwich sold will be donated to Friends of the Boundary Waters efforts to protect one of Minnesota’s greatest natural treasures. With that in mind, perhaps all of the Cajun Fanns* could work together and turn the Untitled Fish Sandwich into our new bestseller. Delicious activism.

The Cajun Finn sold just under 15,000 units in 2019.

*Came up with this one on the spot, and now it’s canon. Y’all are henceforth Cajun Fanns.

#2 — Chips

Chips are a highly visible, relatively inexpensive side dish, and a great companion to a sandwich. Do you ever just mess around and throw chips right on your sandwich? I sure do.

The future of chips at NWS is exciting. At the end of 2019, a few boxes of new chips showed up at our proverbial doorstep for sampling. I can tell you from first- and secondhand experience that we Smokehausers enjoyed the new chips, and one particular flavor enjoyed a short run in our deli (perhaps with a longer stay to come). Beyond that, we’ve begun making moves to develop our own line of NWS chips. Ah, future goals—so uncertain, but so exciting.

#3 — Bison Buddies

The original Smokehaus snack stick reigns supreme. Bison Buddies are sweetly smoky, with a gentle kick of heat to the back of the tongue (a little less gentle if they spend some time on a skillet), and convenient to purchase and enjoy.

Bison is the better version of beef: leaner, more nutritious—high in protein, Omega-3 fatty acids, iron, and zinc—and, in most cases, raised without antibiotics and hormones.

Though our Bison Pastrami is now only made intermittently in small batches, the Great American Mammal still has its presence in our deli in the form of these snack sticks, and Corned Bison, one of our sandwich line meat options (and the superior choice for The ’06 sandwich).

The Pack Lunch—the launch item of an upcoming collaboration with our neighbors Duluth Pack—is a Corned Bison sandwich with a daring-yet-dependable cohort of flavors to enhance it. Stay tuned for more details about this exciting collaboration.

#4 — Big Jims/Royale With Cheese

Bison may be the better version of beef, but these beef sticks are not something you want to ignore.

The Big Jims (named after the Hatch Chiles that give them their distinct flavor) are my favorite snack sticks we currently offer.

Royale(s) With Cheese are our bacon cheeseburger-themed snack sticks. They’re replete with the flavors of beef and bacon (obviously), onion, pickle juice, and cheese (again, quite obviously).

Despite each of these snack sticks spending only slightly more than six months in our deli, the numbers don’t lie: they share the spotlight with heavy-hitters like the Cajun Finn and Traditional Atlantic Salmon, which had a full Sun Cycle to earn their place on this list. In their half-year of availability, each sold around 9,000 units. That positions them to outsell even the legendary Cajun Finn, if given a whole year.

Which is why I’m delighted to announce that Bison Jerky and Turkey Jerky should be hitting the shelves soon, with plans to experiment with other varieties after the initial launch.

Jerky has been a glaring omission in our deli for long enough, and given the recent success of our line of snack sticks—Smoked Salmon Buddies didn’t make Top 5/6 bestsellers, but they’re up there, and the smokers just finished a new batch!—Eric spent some time with his home smoker developing jerky recipes. Our social media pages are great places to stay updated on the launch of these new items.

#5 — Traditional Atlantic Salmon

Smoked fish is the reason we’re here, so it makes a lot of sense that it occupies a third of this list.

smoked atlantic salmon traditional style

Our Traditional Smoked Atlantic Salmon has a short and sweet ingredients list: Atlantic salmon, salt, and brown sugar. Alongside our signature kippering technique of smoking, which through a gradual increase of temperature throughout the process, forms a pellicle that locks in moisture, this simple combination of ingredients lets the delicious, buttery taste and tender consistency of Atlantic salmon shine through.

Uncertain quite how to tie in this final preview, the blogger proceeds as follows:

Last year’s monthly Sandwich Lab specials were a fun diversion, with varying levels of popularity and success. This year, we want to let the winners have a bit more time to shine.

In November of 2019, we came together yet again, sharing our pet sandwiches for peer review. Four have been selected to represent a new era of the NWS sandwich menu, and they will all join the menu together, for a handful of months. In addition, the overall favorites from last year’s cycle of monthlong specials—The Sebu-Chan and The Wagner—will be joining the menu full-time.

We know what you’re thinking: How will we fit seven-ish new sandwiches on that already packed board?

We’re working on it.

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5 Takeaways From This Year’s Sandwich Lab Cycle

We’ve got a lot to talk about this week. WordPress’s “readability” analysis is going to hate this post, but I hope you can find some joy while reading it. Brace yourself for an especially long-winded 5 Things™. Take care that your limbs don’t fall asleep.

Sandwich Lab—we won’t stop talking about it, but what is it?

  • *BUM BUM* IN THE DELICATESSEN SCENE, NEVER SHAKING UP YOUR SANDWICH MENU IS CONSIDERED ESPECIALLY HEINOUS. AT NORTHERN WATERS SMOKEHAUS, THE DEDICATED DELI EMPLOYEES WHO INNOVATE ON THE SANDWICH MENU ARE MEMBERS OF AN ELITE SQUAD KNOWN AS THE SANDWICH LAB. THESE ARE THEIR STORIES.
  • A place where dreams come true. Every Northern Waters Smokehaus employee gets a free shift meal each shift. This is an essential part of the Smokehaus business model: Well-nourished employees who feel valued are likely to work better. Newcomers are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the entire menu, so that is where their meals usually begin; however, there are dreamers and seekers among us. Eventually, there are those who travel through the looking glass, then down the rabbit hole, often there and back again, discovering obscured and forbidden combinations of flavor, and discerning the likes of which are their favorites. Colloquially, we refer to them as pet sandwiches, which is a very tender way to describe something that you obliterate with your mouth and hands, but that’s beside the point. These Seekers of the New Flavor wear their desire paths until they settle upon the True Recipe, and Sandwich Lab is the place where they may enter their creation in a fateful test against the gauntlet of their co-workers’ palates. And among those entrants, only the most Supreme earn their place upon the Sandwich Menu, some for a short time—more on this in a jiffy!—and some for good.

    Having your creation up on the menu at a beloved deli feels good. The current permanent-menu sandwiches that came from this recent NWS tradition are the Cedar’s Secret, the Pork Lion, the Purple Range, the Hardhat, and the Adisalad—a rare salad entry that became the most recent Lab’s only permanent-menu addition.
  • A place where heretical beliefs are crushed! Sometimes—most often with our toasted sandwiches—steps in the preparation of sandwiches give way to shortcuts discovered in trying times, like the midst of an especially grueling 5-hour Summer rush; or to alternate arrangements of ingredients, like a Cajun Finn where all the vegetable elements are below the Cajun Smoked Salmon (the horror!). Imprecise amounts of condiments can make or break the overall experience of a sandwich. There’s a million-and-one things our sandwich makers have to juggle in their, ultimately and tragically limited, human brains while churning out those stacks of bread, meat, cheese, sauce and veg, and sometimes things just go astray.

    Until Sandwich Lab, whereupon these heretical ideals are brought to heel, though not without the opportunity for fair trial. While a select panel of experts prepares its own case in the name of getting us back on course, there is also opportunity to determine if the old way really is the right way. A few examples of changes brought forth by Sandwich Lab include shifting the Big Dipper from a cold sandwich on a square roll, cut in thirds, to a hot sandwich on a hero roll, cut in fourths; and the admittedly very-involved multi-cycle toasting of ingredients—first separately, then stacked together—of the ’06.
  • A fun time. This blog is really playing up the drama of Sandwich Lab, but ultimately, it’s mostly a lot of laughter and snacking, with some demonstrations going on throughout the time. It’s a paid meeting and it’s only mandatory to those of us embroiled in the sandwich arts.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get to these Things™, which will be a mixture of stone cold statistics and subjective observations.

A recap of Sandwich Lab 2019.

The dates of the nine monthlong specials had somewhat arbitrary beginnings and endings, based roughly around the first Monday of each month. For the sake of this retrospective, we’ll just note the month in which each ran. For the sake of your time, I’ll just include brief notes for each sandwich.

January—The Breakfast Club

Turkey & Pancetta roughly equals a club sandwich. Bagel & cream cheese roughly equals breakfast sandwich. This sandwich is not groundbreaking, but it sure tastes good.

The blog post announcing this sandwich was fun to write, and almost entirely synthesized from material Wesley, the sandwich’s creator, wrote down for me.

Later Sandwich Lab announcements began to follow a semi-consistent format.

February—The Wagner

Probably my favorite of the sandwich lab specials, and that’s including my own contribution to the cycle. This is a very sauce-driven sandwich, including mayo, mustard and sriracha. While Turkey & Pastrami were the two meat options, the secret third option—Black Pepper & Coriander Atlantic Salmon—also made for a great savory & spicy sandwich.

March—The Spinderella

Before this sandwich entered our lives, I had never really thought of cream cheese as a dipping sauce. After this sandwich, the recipe of which called for “A side of cream cheese, for dippin’,” I now recognize it as such. Smokehaus sandwiches with multiple meats are few and far between, so Turkey & Salami-mix as a double protein was certainly a treat. Hip-hop trio Salt’n’Pepa—after the DJ of which this sandwich was named—also toured this Spring, so the name was an apt tribute, mostly by accident.

April—The Bloody Mary

So many Smokehaus products lend themselves easily to Bloody Mary construction. Originally, the plan for this sandwich was to have Bison Buddies as the main protein, however, due to prohibitive food costs and fluctuations in bison availability, we settled on our Beef & Pork Summer Sausage and Smoked Pancetta.

The early Sandwich Lab specials received a ton of marketing support (before we realized that it wouldn’t be sustainable in the busy months and dropped the hilarious video/audio clips), and the Bloody Mary got some of the best: breaking mirrors, smoke, and a reference to Stanley Kubrick’s cinematic butchering of The Shining (seriously, read the book).

This sandwich’s downfall was an ongoing struggle with the “bloody mary mixer” sauce, which was often unavailable, due to other prepping priorities. Its upside was its beautiful mess personality.

May—The Wallaby

Michael brought this sandwich from a small coffee shop and deli in Sedona, AZ. Its name comes from the Australian owner, whose voice and accent is stuck in Michael’s head even to this day, whenever he smashes an avocado. The Wallaby marked the Smokehaus’s first-ever inclusion of avocado on the menu, and the sandwich itself was on the low-end of our price range. Additionally, it was a vegan sandwich, which is still new territory to a lot of our customer base—hence our recommended inclusion (for a slight upcharge) of Smoked Pancetta.

Our sincere apologies if associating the proud people of Australia with wallabies is at all insensitive. The name played into a Rocko’s Modern Life marketing sub-theme, and we thought it was cute.

June—The Sebu-chan

The marketing of this sandwich was a bit erratic. The name comes from one of Sebastian’s nicknames, his suggested marketing notes were to include cats, because he loves cats, and it’s a great sandwich that elides the best parts of a handful of our other fish sandwiches—the Cajun Finn, the Sitka Sushi, and the Great Summer Caper—into one sleek package. All things considered, the Sebu-chan was available at the beginning of our busy Summer season, and it was a fish sandwich, [WHICH HAS PROVEN TO BE A SUCCESSFUL MODEL ON ITS OWN], so it sold quite a few units, and we received no bad reviews. I’d call this Sandwich Lab Special a success.

July—The Fish Schtick

Another entry in the line of successful fish sandwiches that emerged from Sandwich Lab. In terms of percentage of units sold (the category we’ll be using to rate an aspect of the sandwich’s success in a later Thing™) the Schtick was on-par with the rest of the sandwiches, but in terms of how many it actually sold, this one is the winner.

The average (mean) number of units sold overall was 119.222222222, and the Schtick sold 229 units during its tenure. These numbers don’t account for factors such as how slow or fast business was at the time, but they’re still interesting enough to note. The next largest seller of individual units was the Wagner, at 133 sandwiches sold.

Harrison, its creator, is a proponent of bombastic flavor profiles, and this sandwich is no exception. Between pepperoncinis, lemon pepper, and cornichon pickles, this sandwich has a lot of flavor going on.

August—The Lake Trout Situation

Jacob accurately assessed our need for a Smoked Lake Trout sandwich, and offered up this NWS spin on a New England Lobster Roll. The hurdle this sandwich had to struggle with was a general shortage of Lake Trout during the month of August. Fortunately, this delicious Lake Trout Salad and Smoked Pancetta sandwich (on our haus-baked Pullman white bread) only sold a modest amount of units—enough that it was worth the effort invested, but was still able to stay within the demand for it.

September—NO SPECIAL

We took a break from Sandwich Lab specials, in hopes of finding the best local apples for the final sandwich.

Read about last year’s permanent menu addition: The Adisalad.

October—The G.O.A.T.

October is a much better time for apples. By waiting until this month, we were able to a.) get amazing Cortland apples from Washburn, WI (the remainder of which Patricia has been using in apple hand pies. So yum!) and b.) run my sandwich during my favorite month. While I consider this sandwich the Greatest of All Time, hence the name, others did not share my fervor. Points against this sandwich: neither Smoked Andouille (toasted, to boot), chèvre, nor apples are a regular part of our sandwich line. Additionally, the construction of this sandwich is rather involved—the andouille required several cycles in the oven to achieve perfect toastiness.

All things considered, I’ll still be bringing in my own apples and making this sandwich all the time.

Monthlong specials are tough.

Between training the workforce, developing marketing ideas, putting marketing ideas into practice, sourcing ingredients not ordinarily found at NWS, perfecting sauce recipes, keeping new ingredients in-stock, cultivating demand among our customers, and Flo creating detailed and accurate individual signs(!), a lot of resources went into these specials, which deserved more time to shine than we could practically allot them.

This is just to say, the upcoming Sandwich Lab probably won’t turn out the same way. We’re leaving our options open, and making no promises.

These are the actual numbers.

Your blogger is neither a statistics- nor a mathematics-oriented individual, but I have access to one particular set of data which offers a small insight into the relative success of each sandwich: percentage of units sold. Basically, during the Special’s time on the menu, how many were sold versus how many sandwiches/salads were sold overall. Since I don’t have access to the whole year’s data at this time, I won’t be “sharing my work.” You’re just going to have to trust me. Early results seem to be skewed to the nearest percent, while later results are slightly more accurate.

The Breakfast Club: 56 sold / 1%

The Wagner: 132 sold / 3%

The Spinderella: 128 sold / 2%

The Bloody Mary: 117 sold / 2%

The Wallaby: 86 sold / 1%

The Sebu-chan: 110 sold / 1.5%

The Fish Schtick: 229 sold / 1.7%

The Lake Trout Situation: 92 sold / 0.96%

The G.O.A.T.: 100 sold / 1.46%

We find this percentage useful in determining the relative success of the sandwich since each one had a slightly different price (making total sales less useful) and we have definite slow and busy seasons, in which our overall sandwich sales drop and increase drastically. A “fun” “game” you can play with the numbers I’ve given you is to calculate how many sandwiches/salads we sold in a given month. I’ll leave that up to you, and move on, because I’m finishing up this blog on my day off and want to wrap things up.

Sandwich Lab is coming soon.

At our November 3rd All-Staff Meeting, we determined that the next Sandwich Lab will take place on Sunday, November 17th at 7pm. Goals for this Lab: get new employees and veterans on the same page for our entire huge sandwich menu, perhaps find a couple new sandwiches for the board, and begin development of the sandwich whose naming rights we put up for auction on behalf of Friends of the Boundary Waters. Yes, an individual has earned the right to name an as-of-yet-undeveloped smoked fish sandwich, which will be available in our deli during Spring 2020.

I don’t always ask for feedback…

…but when I do, I make a big deal out of it.

If you’ve had any/all of our 2019 Sandwich Lab specials, and you have any critiques/complaints/compliments that you’d like to share with us, or if you think that any of the specials deserves a victory lap or a slot on our permanent menu, shoot me an email at ned@nwsmokehaus.com

I can’t make any promises about what we’ll do with the information (though if I want to quote you in any future media, I will 100% ask your permission).

Thanks for reading. See you next week.

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5 Things: November 1st, 2019

Diet season is over. Between the leftover Halloween candy all but the most popular houses are holding onto, and the numerous impending holiday feasts you’ll attend, there’s going to be a lot to eat about these next few months. If you live in the cold North like we do, you can choose to view it as a matter of pragmatism: adding an extra layer of insulation to survive the harsh Winter.

Clearly food is on my mind, so it is convenient that I write for a deli’s blog. Today, I’ll tell you about some new food (and beverage) items at the Smokehaus, and if I run out of new foods to talk about, I’ll just wing it the rest of the way.

One more reminder, before we get into the juicy selection of Things™ that await: We’re in the midst of our MN Early Bird mail order sale:

Order now for the holidays and enjoy 15% off any order heading to Minnesota! Smoked turkey, ham, porketta, salmon, and more.

Enter code earlybird19 at checkout and specify when you would like your order to arrive in the order notes. You can use this code on as many individual transactions as you see fit.

This offer is effective through November 14th, 2019. Some boring restrictions may apply.

Learn more about the MN Early Bird sale.

A new beer joins the roster.

Since we began carrying beer, wine, cider, and hard seltzer earlier this year, Fulton’s Lonely Blonde has been a customer favorite. But seasons change, and beer menus do too, so once we run out o our stock of Lonely Blonde*, we’ll begin serving Fulton’s Standard Lager, a very sessionable all-malt lager that clocks in at a respectable 4.5% abv and is a perfect fit for the colder part of the year.

Smoked Molasses Cookies.

The newest addition to our lineup of baked goods is a hot topic in this increasingly colder season. Patricia has been talking about smoked molasses cookies since she started working at our deli, and the dream has finally come true. Made with a 50/50 blend of haus-smoked and unsmoked butter, and the perfect amount of haus-smoked molasses, these cookies are a great follow-up to any of our sandwiches, but to me they sound (err…taste?) like a great follow-up to a straightforward sandwich, like the Cold Turkey or Gorilla. They will be regularly available for $2 in the deli, on their own or in a Box Lunch.

Thanksgiving Dinner Pasties.

On Wednesday, I caught Patricia in the middle of baking off a huge tray of bread cubes. When I asked why prep had her making croutons, she gave me the best news I’d received all week, which you can likely guess from the preceding emboldened text: these bread cubes will become stuffing. That stuffing will be combined with Smoked Turkey Breast, gravy, craisins, and root vegetables to form ~*THANKSGIVING DINNER PASTIES*~

Be the first* to know when they’re available. Keep your eyes on our social media pages.

Grab Thanksgiving Dinner by the crust and enjoy!

*After Patricia, whomever is working with Patricia, and whomever is available to post the news to our social media feed.

Our All-Staff Meeting is this Sunday at 6pm, and Sandwich Lab is just around the corner.

This seems like it should be two Things™, but it’s happening as one. On Sunday, November 3rd, we’ll be closing our doors at 5 p.m.—just a little bit earlier than usual—for an All-Staff Meeting. Please forgive us in advance if you were planning on stopping into our deli between 5 and 6 p.m. on your way out of town. (Perhaps you could just skip town an hour earlier to beat our closing time. It’s cold and snowing here now—there’s nothing for you anymore.)

And just a few short weeks after, many of us Smokehausers will meet for our annual Sandwich Lab.

Sandwich Lab is an event that emerged a few years back to calibrate our evolving/rotating cast of sandwich makers, to ensure that we’re making sandwiches consistently, and of the utmost quality. The Summer rush is not the ideal scenario in which to learn the subtle art of NWS sandwich-making, and yet that is when so many among us must cut their teeth.

Sandwich Lab also offers us an opportunity to share our favorite personal sandwiches, to have them graded and analyzed (and ideally enjoyed). Last year’s Sandwich Lab featured so many good candidates that we released them as monthly specials, beginning with the Breakfast Club, and ending with the G.O.A.T., which saw its last official day on the menu yesterday.

Who knows what will happen this year(?), but however it goes, it always ends up being fun.

ACTUAL SANDWICH LAB FOOTAGE

ALL-DAY SLIDERS!

In conjunction with our new-and-improved Happy Hour, we’ve added Smokehaus Sliders to the menu. Monday through Friday 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., 16oz cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon and Hamm’s are $2, and all other craft brews are $1-off.

The sliders feature half-portions of your favorite NWS meats, and butter, on a cute little slider bun, and are available for $3 (or two for $5). HOWEVER, if you can’t make it in between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., you can still get sliders all day at the low, low cost of $3 for one/$6 for two.

They’re the perfect size for kids of all ages, and those who want to try a variety of our products without breaking belt loops or billfolds.


Thanks for stopping by 5 Things™. We at the Smokehaus hope you have a good rest of your day and stay hydrated. We love you forever.

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5 Things: October 4th, 2019

This week has been one of triumph, of heartbreak, of new beginnings.

To get the heartbreak out of the way, I misinformed our readers last week, this Monday was not the return of D&D to the Smokehaus. I know you are all super invested in this, so I’m sorry for playing with your emotions like that.

Please accept this photo of assorted battle miniatures as an apology—

And some ketchup exploded in our dry storage. It fell, for unknown reasons, although there is some speculation that our former General Manager Mary’s visit—which eerily coincided with the fall and resulting explosion of the ketchup—dredged up feelings of abandonment from the DeWitt-Seitz ghost.

Messy as it was, it wasn’t an entirely bad occurrence—it inspired a deep clean of the affected area, which was probably due. A good deep-clean is rarely a bad idea.

Now on to the triumph and new beginnings!

We’ve come to the last leg of our 2019 Sandwich Lab Journey! The G.O.A.T. debuted on Wednesday, October 2nd. We’ve sold a grip of them already. For more words on this, check out the announcement post.

We also launched our Fall Wine List. Read more about our new wine offerings here. As someone who most often buys bottles of wine based on the aesthetic value of their labels, I would probably buy at least three of these. In the flavor category, however, these are all winners. TK is dedicated to bringing a unique selection of fine natural wines to the Smokehaus each season, so dedicated grapeheads (that’s what they’re called, right?) should take note.

Who made this salad? Whose salad is this?

Next Monday (10/7), we officially launch our New & Improved Happy Hour. Monday through Friday, from 4-7pm, we’re offering $2 Pabst Blue Ribbons and $1-off any craft brews, ciders, and adult-seltzers. Technically, you can grab a happy hour drink at those prices today, we’re just waiting until Monday, October 7th to go crazy on the cross-platform promotion.

Patricia made spicy cheddar crackers using Gochugaru chile flakes, a component of our kimchi recipe that offers a warm spice with fruity and smoky tones—The Smoky Tones is also the name of our in-Haus vocal jazz group, coming eventually to an orchestra hall near you. The heat of these crackers has a slow onset, with a lingering mild burn on the back of the tongue. Patricia is still cranking out plain cheddar crackers for our Study Buddy gift box, but has also been experimenting with bacon cheddar crackers, and now these. If you haven’t yet, give our haus-baked crackers a taste. As long as they keep flying off the shelves, we’ll presumably get more variations on the classic recipe.