OK, folks, you asked for it. The write up from the annual food pilgrimage known as the Minnesota State Fair.
Every year I make a plan, and every year I think I get better at it. This time, I made a group chat for everyone in our group and linked the list of the new fair foods. Then asked them for what THEY really wanted to try. Then, I read through sooo many food reviews to solidify my top choices. Then came THE MAP.
I printed out a black and white map of the fairgrounds and divided into 6 color-coded food zones. then I listed every food we were interested in trying, and figure out which zone they were in.
It worked great. As we waddled through the fair, I would declare: we are entering the “green zone. The following foods are in this area!” Then we would all decide which enticed us the most and set off in search of those things.
Before I start off, let me preface this by saying I did not eat all of everything. In fact, some things I never even tried. It was, and always is, a group endeavor. I usually have one-three bites of an item, depending on if I love it or not. Our crew:
Here is what we ate, in order, and what we thought of what we consumed:
Nashville Hot Chicken on a stick, from the Blue Barn:
I loved it but was surprised at how sweet it was. I would’ve liked more heat (it was more Minneapolis than Nashville, TBH). In our group, most thought that while the crunch was great, it was too sweet.
While I was getting that, others in our group split off for Bang Bang chicken tenders at Lulu’s Public House — Joey D declared them the second best food of the day (no picture — the crew was not yet in the zone of pics before eating!). Miranda stopped at Nordica Waffles. She chose their All-Day breakfast waffle, redolent with egg, bacon and cheddar cheese. Delish in her book! No one tried the new offerings — I was surprised by that.
Next came a must-have: pickles. Lucy always gets the big pickle on a stick, while the rest of us devour deep-fried pickles with ranch dressing.
For a few years we’ve been meaning to stop by the Hideaway Speakeasy at the Grandstand, and we finally made it there to try the Pomegranate Bubbly Mojito. YUM! I could have that any day! And the Boozy Berry and ‘Barb Trifle rocked as well.
Meanwhile, the younger set skipped over to Rainbow Ice Cream to get a Halo Cone and a Rainbow Cloud Roll:
As floofy and sweet and decadent and delightful as you would want them to be!
Outside the Gradtasnd we stopped by Juanita’s Fajitas to try the Cuban Fusian Fajita. Meh. It takes like a poor man’s Cubano, with a touch too much mustard.
After a not -on-the-list stop for Spam Curds (Why?)
We hit another must-have every year.
BIG. FAT. BACON.
They have upped their topping game, with sprinkles and potato chips and all sorts of naughty goodness. The kids stuck with chocolate sauce, while I hit the orange chipotle sauce. I could swim in that stuff.
Next we went up to the new north end, where we grabbed some adult beverages and tried the Tailspin at the Hangar: pulled pork, corn, coleslaw with cheese and BBQ sauce. It was good, but nothing to rave about.
The next stop was at Brim, for one of the most talked about items by all the food reviews: the Grilled Sota Sandwich. Basically, it’s a fancy, grilled PB and J. I loved the blueberry marmalade, and the Irish soda bread was great, but frankly: I hate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We bought two of these because we were sure we would devour them. In fact, we ended up throwing part of them away. I don’t know: maybe it felt too school lunchy for a group with 5 kids not ready for summer to end?
Also from Brim: the Joey Mary, an iced coffee slushie with a skewer of baked goods. I didn’t have any, but others declared it good.
Next up was Giggles, where the lines are always long because there is always something nummy to try. I LOVED the duck dummies! (we did have a minor moment when one of the teens didn’t realize she had been eating duck and had a bit f a freakout. Whoops). Super crispy, juicy and not gamey at all!
We washed it down with the only new beer I wanted to try: the Third Street Toasted Pumpkin Seed ale, which was tastily toasty. Plus, of course, we had to have the Excelsior S’Mores Beer!
Next stop: Green Mill. A buy one get one coupon prompted a quick ‘za fix, but we were really there for the garlic cheese bread with marinara. That stuff was good!
No fair visit is complete without Tom Thumb mini donuts. We had 5 bags.
One of my fave food items was up next. This one was controversial — everyone was afraid: the Cheesy Sriracha Funnel Cake bites from Funnel Cakes. These were awesome. Doughy, cheesy, with a more tangy than spicy sauce on the side. We agreed these would be awesome after the bar food!
And can’t skip the corn!
We made our way back to the coliseum when it started to rain and tried another one of the 10 ten new foods I wanted to experience: the deep-fried Dilly Dog at Swine & Spuds. It was ok. But not exciting enough. Hard to eat: the pickle kept slipping out of the batter. These would be better if it was sliced and deep-fried as bites. Easier to eat.
The rain continued, and we needed a break. So we slipped into a bar area for drinks (try teh Snagria beer sometime at the fair!), and Mike ran out for some Fresh French Froes. We always get these — they are so good! Mike brought back a vat of ketchup and our own bottle of malt vinegar (a philosophical discussion ensued on whether or not that was stealing, and how it compared to grabbing fist fulls of Taco Bell sauce to take home. See: we can think as well as eat!).
The rain stopped, so we headed over to Mancini’s, where I wanted to try the red wine gelato. That was great! Rich had been craving sausage, so we grabbed one on a stick, too. A little spicy for him, but the rest of us liked it!
Last year one of my absolute fac=vorites was the grilled peaches with goat cheese at the Produce Exchange, so Frankie, who missed the fair last year, wanted to give it a whirl. Sooo good. We also tried the new “lemonade apple.” Tasted like an apple. Not worth $3.
Two offerings at Hot Indian Foods at the International Market Place were on my list, but i knew not everyone was into Indian food. So I chose the Bhel Puri, typical Indian street food with grains and veggies and spices. Delicious and so different. Not true fair food (I mean, it was pretty healthy), but worth trying (I do kinda wish I had tried the Kentikka Fried Chicken sliders instead).
A stroll to the dairy building got us trying, for the first time, the famous ice cream there. Dayum. We will be back.
Then we found the BEST VENDOR AT THE FAIR!
We tried all three foods and omigosh. Fantastic. I don’t do eggs, but everyone who had that sandwich said it was arguably the best thing at the fair. The blueberry key lime pie and the lavender lemonade were perfect, too!
We hopped over to the food building, grabbing a Twisted Sister from Sausage Sister and Me (a must have every year):
Two more food building stops netted us a mini pecan tart from Sara’s Tipsy Pies (I never asked how this was, Erika!).
After that, we wanted to try the Polis Sausage Pierogi from iPierogi, bt they were out. So Mike opted for a cabbage roll. He said it tasted just like all the baggage rolls he ate growing up: warm, filling, and bland. He had a love-hate relationship with it. I say: pass!
Last vendor of the night: RC’s BBQ. Sooo good. We tried the Jammin’ Brisket Grilled Cheese, which is something I could eat every damn day.
But even better was the Hot Hen, a mess of potato chips, pulled pork, blue cheese fondue, jalapenos and more. Perfect game food!
And with that, it was all over but visiting the midway. I hope you enjoy the fair this year! Let me know if you agree with our decisions!