RANKED: The best foods not new to the Minnesota State Fair

Photo by Jason DeRusha

I met chef Thomas Boemer at the State Fair standing by Baba’s Hummus and Scenic 61, near Little Farm Hands, and we were talking about State Fair classics. The things that most of us eat, while adding a new food here or there. It’s a funny thing – new food gets all the hype, coverage and lines, when most of us really want the old classic foods.

I told Thomas (Revival Smoked Meats and Fried Chicken) that I wrote about it once and nobody cared. I told him I would try again, so there you go. I’ve ranked my favorite foods from the State Fair. What are your favourites? Put them in the comments.

  1. Fresh fries: Minnesota potatoes, fried at low, then medium, then hot, provide the ideal blend of creaminess and crispiness. My star every year.
  2. cider gel at Minnesota Apples in the Ag/Horticulture building: simple and perfect: an ice pop of frozen apple cider from an orchard in White Bear Lake.
  3. Turkey sandwich from Turkey-To-Go: I don’t know what they’re marinating this turkey in to make it so juicy and flavorful, but that and the squishy bun are awesome.
  4. Cheese curds Mouth Trap: Creaky fresh cheese, freshly fried – it doesn’t get better
  5. Martha’s Sweet Cookies: Don’t get greedy on me about these cookies – they taste like the fair and they’re magic right out of the oven.
  6. Chicken in the waffle at Blue Barn: This is the newest entrant on the “classic” list, and I would also put these Pop Rock-laden French Toast Bites and Blue Cheese and Corn Fritters with Chimichurri on my list.
  7. corn roast: I am a late convert to roast corn. It always seemed silly to me – you can get candy corn anywhere. Not this sweet corn. This is a special hybrid bred by Untiedt Farms just for Brad Ribar and his Fair Stand. It’s sweeter, juicier, more everything.
  8. About a foot long hot dog: It’s one of the best hot dogs in the state, and I’ve eaten a lot of it.
  9. BBQ Beef Brisket Sandwich and Dynamic link at RC’s BBQ: One of the best pitmasters in the country. I love Charlie Torgerson’s stand. Cold beer, clever ideas, great stuff.
  10. Pina Colada (in a real pineapple) at Manny’s Tortas in the Food Building: Manny’s still there. I love this guy, and it’s cool, refreshing, and delicious.
  11. steak sandwich at Butcher Boys near the grandstand: maybe it’s the giant plume of smoke coming from the caravan that attracts me. This sandwich is a staple for my family every year.
  12. Duck bacon wontons at Giggles: Yes, you love walleye patties (for good reason), but I love these duck ravioli. Great beer garden here too!
  13. Pork Mole Tamale at Tejas Express: Perhaps the most underrated stand from a culinary point of view at the Fair. The tamale has such amazing flavor, I can’t resist.
  14. Cashew Roll at Colonial Nut Rolls: I used to bring them home from the Fair for my wife when I started reporting there in 2003. There’s something about the freshly baked bun and that creamy nougat who does it for me.
  15. (Tie) Garlic fries and onion rings at the Ball Park Cafe: Yes, you’re going to stink all day, but yes, you’re going to love the taste of these garlic fries. I love onion rings, and the beer selection here is where serious beer drinkers hang out at the Fair.
  16. Fried pickles at Preferred Pickle: It’s fun to see the fried pickle popping up as an appetizer at local restaurants. These guys do it well. The salty and crunchy combo works perfectly.
  17. Fried pepper rings au Gros Piment: It’s funny, it’s fried, it’s sold out of a giant green pepper. Go on.
  18. Pronto Pups: Corn dogs are for losers. Get yourself a pancake-wrapped dog that you’ll only find at the Fair.
  19. gimmicky sandwich at Carl’s Gizmo (Machinery Hill): Reminds me of my time in the Quad Cities – a loose meat sandwich, like a MaidRite, packed with flavor, topped with cheese. It’s a classic for me.

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