Main Street Meats re-opens with a flair for sausage
The day after Labor Day, a particularly inviting odor started wafting up Main Street in Park Rapids.
It was the smell of smoking meat.
Jeff Berndt, a meat cutter and sausage maker of 17 years, moved here from the Twin Cities to take over Main Street Meats.
His wife and three daughters will follow next spring when school is out.
"Gosh it smells good in here!" said a customer from Detroit Lakes who only identified himself as Ron.
Berndt is busy filling the meat coolers with all natural pork, beef and chicken.
The interior of the business that closed in April has been spiffed up with new paint, bleached floors and a manager anxious to sell his wares.
Berndt plans to process all sorts of wild game, especially deer, but he wants his specialty to be sausages.
"I'd love to have 100 varieties," he said with a twinkle in his eye.
A timer goes off and he runs to the smoker where rows and rows of beef sticks are smoking.
The smell is hypnotic. His meat thermometer indicates awhile longer in the smoker. They're not up to 160 degrees.
"I've got mild, spicy, spicy pepper jack, hot Italian with mozzarella, snack sticks," he said.
Slabs of double smoked bacon sit waiting to be cut in a display cooler. A large selection of hormone-free pork chops, steaks, beef cuts, chicken and other meats invite purchasing.
"Brats are my biggest seller," he said.
There are chili-cheese brats, brats stuffed with wild rice, mushroom-Swiss brats, jalapeno brats.
During the football season they should hit the spot - or the parking lot.
Brats come in a natural hull casing. They're not pre-cooked. Berndt recommends grilling them to preserve the natural juices.
Berndt smokes meats for shredding. He says they make the perfect party food to go. All you need to do is heat them up.
In the back of the business two bears await processing. The hunters want steaks, sticks, brats and patties.
Next summer Berndt hopes to have a line of patties ready to grill. He's excited about preparing something special for the Governor's Fishing Opener in May 2013.
He's been coming up to the area since he was 5 years old. His grandfather, and now his uncle, has a cabin on Bad Medicine Lake.
Berndt is an avid angler, but doesn't hunt.
"I've seen too many deer to want to go out and hunt," he says wryly.
He and Ron the customer get chatting about meat and how certain things are made.
Berndt doesn't give away many trade secrets, but tells Ron how the meats are prepared.
"He's very knowledgeable," Ron says.
He's been welcomed into the neighborhood by the Park Rapids community and is pleased at the response customers have upon entering.
In the freezer he sells shredded beef and pork, potato bakes and chicken.
He plans to market his own Tater Tot hotdish.
He's not a meat snob. He admits he's comfortable doing mainstream foods.
But he dreams up new combinations of exotic flavors for sausages.
It should be simple and easy, he said of preparing his inventory at home.
In one cooler sits deli meats and cheeses.
Ron selects a couple brats, shakes hands with Berndt and promises a return visit. He's smiling.
"It's been fantastic," Berndt said.
He will hire extra help during the deer season.
Meanwhile he dreams of being the sausage king - or prince - of Park Rapids.
The store's hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays.
The phone number is 732-1416.