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Product Feature: Snack Sticks

Snack sticks are great. NWS snack sticks are amazing. But don’t just take our word for it. Even with periodic availability issues (usually related to so many people wanting them!) they’re still among our top sellers. Around here, we call them Buddies.

Made by hand from the highest-quality regionally-sourced* meats, and thoughtfully selected seasonings and ingredients, these little buddies are great for sharing and snacking on-the-go. To the right recipient, a six-pack of these sticks is a perfect gift.

Need something quick and easy for a potluck gathering? Buddies. Heading out of town and searching for something travel-friendly? Buddies. Running out of cooler space, but craving that NWS fix? Pack a few buddies.

Currently, we have four snack stick offerings: Big Jims, Bison Buddies, Smoked Salmon Buddies, and Royale With Cheese. If (when?) we add more snack sticks to our roster, we’ll update this page.

*When possible. Sockeye and Atlantic salmon still live outside the Midwest.

Big Jims

Big Jim Hatch chiles are big peppers with big flavor! Growing 8-14 inches, and producing meaty pods with a mouthwatering sweetness and smoky medium heat, these peppers are the foundation of the adobada sauce that make these smoked beef and bacon sticks stand out.

Big Jims remind me of hanging around the kitchen while my mother sautéed pounds of ground beef and chopped onions with a packet of taco seasoning, sneaking spoonfuls whenever she stepped away from the stove. They’re great for any palate, with plenty of interesting spice, but a mild heat that won’t leave you sweating.

We like to serve Big Jims alongside Cajun-seasoned cheese curds and our hausmade cheddar crackers, but they wouldn’t be out of place on any snack platter. I’m dreaming of bites of Big Jims alongside crisp, sweet apple slices.

Bison Buddies 

Bison is the original North American meat source, and it’s on an upswing. It’s lean, mean, and green—environmentally speaking. Our premier snack stick features a 5:1 ratio of sustainably-raised, antibiotic- and hormone-free North American Bison, LLC chuck roast and Heritage Berkshire pork. 

They’re a NWS classic, with the perfect amount of snap, and a complex flavor that begins with a sweetness at the tip of the tongue, developing into a mild spice and the complementary tastes of bison and Berkshire pork dancing on the middle tastebuds, finishing with a light burn at the back of the mouth—thank you, paprika, cayenne, and red pepper flakes. All the while, you’ll enjoy hints of black pepper, coriander, garlic, and ground mustard.

Bison Buddies are perhaps best served as they come, eaten within moments of us handing them over to you, but their spicier side comes alive after some time under heat, which activates the various dehydrated peppers in their recipe. Or, if you’re feeling cute, buy yourself a can of Pillsbury puff pastry, cut the Buddies into thirds, and make yourself some Blanket Buddies.

Smoked Salmon Buddies

Save the deep-fried ground cod sticks for the kids. Our Smoked Salmon Buddies aren’t your average fish stick. Wild sockeye salmon (with just a touch of Atlantic salmon, for fat content) seasoned with ginger, black pepper, and coriander, make these a rare, but unforgettable, treat.

These salmon sticks shine alongside cream cheese or our hausmade Boursin cheese, and while they pique interest just as often for their peculiarity as their flavor, they’ve captivated the hearts and taste buds of many skeptics.

Royale With Cheese

Named after what they call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in France: It’s a bacon-cheeseburger in a stick! Ground beef, smoked bacon, and high temperature cheddar cheese form the base of this stick, highlighted by the savory combination of caramelized onion, pickle juice, ketchup, and mustard—smoked to perfection.

These rich and delicious sticks are great cold and on-the-go, but give them a few minutes on the grill or skillet, and wrap them in a large leaf of crispy lettuce, and you’ve got yourself the ultimate easy bun-free burger experience. We’ve done the math, and that equals more room for french fries!


All of our snack sticks are available as often as we can keep up with the demand in our deli fish and meat cases. Big Jims and Royales are $2/stick. Bison Buddies are $3/stick. Smoked Salmon Buddies are $28/lb.

Trimmings from the ends of the sticks are mixed up in 1-pound containers we call “Little Pals” and are available from our Grab & Go case whenever we have time to package them up.

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My Favorite Things™ (December 27th, 2019)

Here it is.

The final 5 Things™ of the year.

We’re going to do something special this time around.

But first, I’m going to mess around with the headings for a bit.

Okay, that’s enough.

Here are My Favorite Things™ that happened this year at NWS. I took a deep dive, noting the moments in this blog that sparked the most joy in me, then tried to whittle it down to five, but was unable. What can I say? I’m a sentimental person. Hopefully, uncut as it is, this list gives you a hint at the sort of year we’ve had at the Smokehaus.

The Adisalad joined our menu.

The Adisalad is New Year’s resolution food: Haus kimchi or sauerkraut, a delicious assortment of pickled vegetables, with fresh cucumber slices, and chopped Marcona almonds over mixed greens and thin-sliced cabbage.

The salad joined the menu in January, and quickly became my lunch break of choice for somewhere around three months—after which I began transposing it into sandwich form, because carbs are great. Among its other noteworthy attributes are its position on our menu as a middle ground between the Ensaladita and the two-meals-in-one-package NWS Salad (in both size and price) and its status as vegan-friendly option (choosing ‘kraut over kimchi).

New Sticks.

When they’re in-stock, Bison Buddies are one of our top-selling items. Eric and the Smokers (not Eric’s band name, but could be) caught wise to this trend and whipped up an assortment of new snack sticks—with future plans to develop more—to please our constituents in search of something quick, easy, and flavorful. The current selection (at full capacity) features Big Jim Hatch Chile beef sticks, Royale With Cheese bacon-cheeseburger sticks, and Smoked Sockeye Salmon Buddies alongside the Bison Buddies. Everyone loves snack sticks!

Smoked Sockeye Sticks aka Salmon Buddies

Patricia made donuts and brought them in to share.

Working at NWS in the Patricia era has been a joy for a handful of reasons—new and exciting cookies, cheddar crackers, pasties, and samples of each new item as they emerge—but the day she brought in a tray of cake donuts she’d made that morning was a favorite of mine. Yes, our dear Patricia just whipped up some cake donuts in her kitchen on a whim.

Patricia’s initial plan was to try a donut Cuban sandwich with our Minnesota Pulled Pork. Though I do not know whether she succeeded in that goal, I do recall making a Northern Donut—yes: a donut with scallion cream cheese and smoked Atlantic salmon. It was not good enough for the menu (and would’ve been far better with our Atlantic salmon gravlax), but I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t enjoy it.

The Sandwich Lab Series.

I can’t believe it took me this long to get to this Thing™. Sandwich Lab (our annual pedantic and artistic gathering in the pursuit of sandwich excellence) easily got a nod in over 50% of the blog content this year. For good reason, too. Last year’s Lab had so many high-quality offerings that we elected to feature them all (in roughly one-month intervals) on the menu.

Since a great deal has already been said about these sandwiches, here’s a list of their names and their ingredients to sate you. And of course you can always follow that hyperlink I just provided if you care to read more.

  • The Breakfast Club – Bagel, scallion cream cheese, smoked turkey, smoked pancetta (crispy), red onion, cilantro.
  • The Wagner – Hero roll, mayo, mustard, smoked turkey or smoked pastrami (unofficial 3rd option: black pepper and coriander salmon), quick pickles, cilantro, sriracha.
  • The Spinderella – Hero roll, mayo, mustard, dill pickle, smoked turkey, salami, red onion, cilantro. Side of scallion cream cheese, for dippin’.
  • The Bloody Mary – Johnson’s Bakery kaiser roll, green olives, chopped dill pickle, summer sausage, smoked pancetta, cheddar cheese, Haus bloody mary mix, tomato, red onion, cilantro.
  • The Wallaby – Haus-baked Prince Myshkin Rye, smashed avocado, lemon pepper, tomato, basil, balsamic vinegar.
  • The Sebu-chan – Haus-baked ciabatta, scallion cream cheese, gravlax, cucumber, tomato, red onion, cilantro, sriracha, lettuce.
  • The Fish Schtick – Haus-baked ciabatta, mayo, lemon pepper, traditional Atlantic salmon, Cornichon pickles, tomato, red onion, lettuce.
  • The Lake Trout Situation – Haus-baked pullman white bread (buttered and toasted), smoked lake trout salad, smoked pancetta crumbles, cilantro. Served open-faced—our take on a New England lobster roll.
  • The G.O.A.T. – Lake Superior Bakehouse bagel, chèvre, crispy sliced smoked andouille, sliced Cortland apple, lettuce.

This porketta photo shoot.

Right around the time we began working in earnest on the cookbook, our creative team had the bright idea of trying to capture the heart of backyard smoking. This behind-the-scenes look at that shoot was one of my favorite Things™ largely because of the captions, but in no small part due to Greg’s rustic charm and bright attire.

This workplace drama.

Posing by porkettas isn’t the only thing Greg-with-two-Gs is good for. He and Leif have had an ongoing struggle for office dominance that has provided high-quality entertainment to anyone who might tune in.

An update:

This corrupted image of Smoked Ribs and Beans.

What better way to commemorate this delicious though short-lived daily special than this odd photograph? Designers, take note: You can now easily extract the exact color palette of our Smoked Ribs free of charge.

Working on the NWS Cookbook.

Bubbling below the surface of everything else going on this year—the strategic expansion and retraction of our menu, the addition of beer and wine (and cider, and alcoholic seltzer) to our deli, all of the new baked goods, and changes in leadership roles—has been a lot of work on the first-ever Northern Waters Smokehaus cookbook.

While there’s still quite a bit of work ahead of us, and the anticipated release date falls somewhere no sooner than Summer 2021, these past ten months of work on the book have been an exciting, sometimes nerve-wracking, ultimately very fulfilling ride.

These new faces.

The new folks who have joined our team have been pretty alright this year.

That’s all for 5 Things™ in 2019! See you next year!

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5 Things: June 28th, 2019

So many Things™ this week, so little time to discuss them.

Photo by Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com

Fortunately the Duluth News Tribune covered a big one for us—our beloved General Manager, and 18-year NWS staff member, Mary Tennis, is celebrating her last day being a central figure of Smokehaus life. Read about her next adventure here.

This week, we also had a planning meeting for our cookbook, which is currently in development. Mary has been central to the cookbook work that has gotten us so far, and I am personally grateful that she wants to continue working on the cookbook, because it means we’ll get to hang out, and she has an affinity for writing about food and NWS, which means future NWS cookbook owners are going to have some heartfelt reading in-store for them.

Grandma’s Marathon happened last weekend, and we survived the inundation of out-of-towners another year. We’re even doing pretty well at keeping all of our customer-favorite products in-stock. All of our salumi varieties are set to be available this weekend.

Honestly, none of these Things™ are what I want to write about this week. Maybe it’s the fact that, by the time this is posted, I will be in the midst of an 8-hour drive beginning a week of vacation, or maybe it’s just that, with all the heavy, beginning-of-a-new-chapter kind of stuff happening this week, I wanted to keep the blog nice and fluffy, but here it is—this week’s 5 Things™:

Our current best-sellers, by category (with brief commentary):

This information is based on our previous two weeks of sales. Take everything I say with a grain of salt. In the case of cured meats, several thousand grains of salt.

  1. Bent Hop is a winner. Bent Paddle Brewing Company has become a fine representative of our city’s craft brewing scene, and their Golden IPA is currently leading the beverage sales at our deli. It’s a perfect beer for Duluth summer weather, and by that, I mean it is versatile. Hot, sunny day? Crack open a crisp Bent Hop. Rainy, chilly, windy day? Enjoy that crispness indoors, and stimulate those blood vessels in your skin to a comforting simulacrum of warmth. Likewise, this beer goes well with just about every sandwich on our menu. Cheers to Bent Paddle.
  2. Carr Valley Apple Smoked Cheddar is almost the best selling cheese. Our little goat cheese medallions have outsold it, likely because of the ~$1 price point. The smoked cheddar, out of La Valle, WI, is a close second, which makes sense. It’s hard to punctuate a description of your store to include “smoked meats” and “cheese” without suggesting that the cheeses are also smoked, and beyond that, folks are frequently in the market for a good smoked cheese. The Apple Smoked Cheddar fills that role perfectly.
  3. Our top-selling baked good is Coconut Macaroons. Patricia, our CCO (chief cookie officer) can do no wrong. Somehow, since Patricia joined the team, cookies have become a top-seller in our deli. She even found a way to make coconut macaroons taste good—my own opinion, remember those salt grains. In addition to being sweet, and the perfect blend of chewy and crunchy, these cookies are also gluten free, which opens them up to a wider audience. They’re available for individual purchase, or make a great Box Lunch option.
  4. Big Jims are the current best-seller in meat sticks. They’ve outsold our Royale With Cheese bacon-cheeseburger sticks by a narrow margin, and our Smoked Salmon sticks by a sliiiightly less narrow margin. On top of that, they’re my personal favorite of our snack stick selection. Big Jim Hatch Chiles offer a mild, yet memorable, spice. The asterisk to this best-seller is that our Bison Buddies were out-of-stock the last two weeks. Bison Buddies still might be the one stick to rule them all. Only time will tell.
  5. “All Are Welcome” stickers are the best-seller in our swag selection. I love this because investing in the community is important and this item is about more than just the boundless accumulation of capital. Proceeds from the sale of these stickers go to Together For Youth, an organization that advocates for and provides support to LGBTQ youth in our community. I mean, the stickers look really cool too, but making an impact in the community makes them 100-times cooler in my mind. For more information about Together For Youth, follow this link.
  6. Here’s a bonus thing, which shouldn’t surprise you. Another tricky punctuation bit—should it not surprise you because, historically, I add bonus Things™ all the time, or should the fact itself not be surprising? Perhaps a bit of both. The Cajun Finn is still our number-one seller, selling 710 units in the last two weeks. I have been a part of at least one conversation about creating a specific “Cajun Finn-maker” shift to the deli roster.

Thanks for stopping by this week’s 5 Things™.