A&Z Nut Wagon

Best Beef Jerky, April 2006

We have beef jerky, declares the hand-painted sign outside A&Z Nut Wagon, a tiny red-stucco store in Boyle Heights that while named for its chief stock-in-trade—roasted-in-the-shell legumes—is renowned for its jerky. It is thick and smoky and, unlike commercial brands, comes apart in your mouth in flavorful shreds. Proprietor Guillermo Gonzalez attributes its distinctiveness to the lean round steak from which it is prepared, the spices (salt, pepper, and chile d’arbol), and the dry cooking, which takes up to eight hours at a Rosemead smokehouse. Gonzalez sells just the one variety of jerky (“I have no time for nothing else”), but customers line up for it at his counter, to which the turn-of-the-century wooden wagon of A&Z’s founder is attached.