McDonald’s Meats in Clear Lake, MN

Jerry Ingeman

The drive to the proverbial lake seems endlessly long and fraught with anticipation, not to mention dull snacks like peanut butter sandwiches and potato chips. For those who call a resort or cabin up north “home” on summer weekends, better munchies for the road may be in order.

Enter McDonald’s Meats, known affectionately as “The Jerky Stop.” A Clear Lake standby, McDonald’s is a third-generation family business established in 1914 by the late John Leo McDonald. Located on Highway 24 in Clear Lake, MN, the shop is perfectly situated for a northbound commute from the cities — take I-94 W to Clearwater, cut across Highway 24, and catch Highway 10 to continue your trek. Though the shop isn’t as flashy as the nearby Nelson Bros. Truckstop (an all-in-one bakery / gas station / restaurant / gift shop along the freeway), it certainly has plenty to offer with an old-fashioned, down-home ambiance.

The shop’s extensive selection of homemade jerky, sausages, bacon, and fresh steak is sure to tempt any carnivore. An entire cooler of snack food lines one wall and includes cheese curds, snack sticks, and 19 different kinds of jerky varying from venison to the standard beef or turkey. Other coolers contain a wide array of sausages and brats, all made in-house from fresh ingredients.

Jerry Ingeman

On a recent visit, we picked up three kinds of jerky, each still juicy and — unlike many gas station offerings — readily chewable. A teriyaki pork variety was cut into 1/2-inch-wide, short strips and seasoned with a Minnesotan-friendly blend of garlic powder, onion powder, spices, and soy sauce. This rather lighter-handed spice treatment made for a savory jerky in which the pork flavor shone through. McDonald’s elk jerky, meanwhile, was a blend of ground elk and beef, formed into flat lengths and smoked. The elk variety had a rather bland flavor, with a slight sweetness at the fore and a tender, easy-to-chew texture. McDonald’s turkey jerky proved to be the favorite of our three choices, with a smoky flavor imparted by the “real wood — not liquid — smoke” in which the shop takes pride. A sample of the new cheddar version of the shop’s “world-famous wild rice sausage” was a hit as well, offering a slightly zestier twist on the standard brat.

The next time you head toward Highway 10, forget the PB&J. For an omnivorous household, McDonald’s Meats has top offerings for snacks on the road, as well as dinner for your destination. Print out this coupon before you go, and you’ll get the cheddar wild rice sausage free!

McDonald’s Meats, Inc.
Center and Church Sts.
Clear Lake, MN 55319
320.743.2311
OWNER: Dave McDonald
HOURS:
Mon-Fri 8am-6pm
Sat 8am-4pm
Sun Hours vary

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Maja Ingeman

The daughter of an artist and a music teacher, Maja spent much of her childhood traveling the country in a rusty old van, attempting to model all of her father’s salable jewelry at the same time, and sampling the many edibles available both on the road and at the art fairs they visited. Though she now lives in Minneapolis, the coffee addiction and love for food that she picked up en route to one of their many destinations never left her. Between marketing work in the medical device industry and poring over the Harvard Business Review, she can typically be found holed up in her kitchen, baking bread every weekend and experimenting in between.

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13 Comments

  1. I drive past this shop several times a year and have never stopped in for reasons I can’t quite explain. It may be because I’m in a hurry to catch the surface bite on the lake, or possibly the draw of pizza and light domestics at Zorbaz, but I’m thinking I need to swing on in this summer for sure. Thanks for the tips!

  2. Author
    Maja Ingeman 03/26/2010 Reply

    No problem! And I agree — there is a certain appeal to Zorbaz — you’re talking Grand Rapids, right?

  3. No, Gull Lake. Pretty much the same experience though, right? Sort of a fantastic train wreck.

  4. Soleil 03/26/2010 Reply

    Ughhhh, Zorbaz… I forgot that you existed. Your Macho Nachoz are a raw blister on my memory.

  5. The smoked turkey breasts from McD’s are so so good. Decent jerky, but the turkey breast is what gets me in the door. Yum.

  6. First off McD’s closes at like 6pm right as the cabin rush is in full swing-CRAZY!!!…if you get their early enough make sure that you get a brat from the grille.

    The terriyaki jerky is my favorite. But mostly I stop in for olives, pickled asparagus, meat sticks and bloody mary mix- cabin breakfast of champions.

    Also they sell pretty awesome t-shirts, the one I picked up is banana yellow and has big ass pink pig smack dab in the center.

  7. Rashmi 03/26/2010 Reply

    Hmmmm…I will definitely have to try their Turkey Jerky and make some curry out of it. I wonder if they would make Goat Meat Jerky. Usually I make my own Goat Meat Jerky at home during the Winter but if I opened a restaurant then I would love to have a commercially certified Jerky Maker. It is an acquired taste but the Jerky meat makes very very good Curries.

  8. BrianJ 03/26/2010 Reply

    My in-laws live only a few miles away from there and we drive by it frequently. I’ll have to stop in next time we’re around.

  9. I worked a software dev contract for 3 months where I drove from St. Paul to St. Cloud every day and drove by this place on every one of those trips. I *lived* on that jerky for that entire period.

    I need to get up there and get some again. It’s been too long.

  10. Their pickle brats are great!

  11. I love McDonald’s meats. I make it up there every once in a while to visit friends, and we always have to stop in. Of all the brats I have tasted, their wild rice brats are the best! I have never had a wild rice brat that has a lot of flavor, most of the time they are bland, but the ones at McDonald’s are so good!

  12. If they’re grilling pork chops, try one of those! We love to stop here but the hours aren’t always friendly for travelling to and from “Up North.” Once I was stuck in traffic from Eden Prairie for 3 hours and missed their closing time by 5 minutes. Have you ever seen the beginning of Office Space when the guys are sitting in traffic? I was throwing a pretty major tantrum while sitting dead stopped on 94, watching the minutes tick down to 6 pm. Shamp’s in Pine River is also worth a stop.

  13. http://www.176up.com/u/nikeause/archives/2013/273619.html 07/14/2013 Reply

    McDonald’s Meats in Clear Lake, MN | The Heavy Table – Minneapolis-St. Paul and Upper Midwest Food Magazine and BlogThe Heavy Table – Minneapolis-St. Paul and Upper Midwest Food Magazine and Blog http://www.176up.com/u/nikeause/archives/2013/273619.html

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