All the creamy, juicy, deep-fried, sugary delights your Minnesotan heart can handle: Here are the 10 best new State Fair foods.
10. Double Dose of Pork Belly
One-hundred percent ground pork belly burger topped with crisp smoked pork belly, pepper jack cheese, coleslaw, and pickled onions, served on a toasted bun. At RC’s BBQ. $7
Let’s hear it for the noble hog, provider of incalculable meaty goodness, especially its deliciously fatty belly. It’s a pig tummy twofer on this sammie, with smoky, satisfying results. The hockey-puck-sized patty boasts more flavor than your standard-issue burger, and it’s draped by a bacony blanket of even more pork belly. The cool punch of crisp, vibrant slaw and pickled red onions really sets it apart.
9. Sweet Corn Blueberry Éclair
Kernza flour éclair filled with sweet corn pastry cream and topped with blueberry glaze. At Farmers Union Coffee Shop. $6.50
Though it looks like a Cronenbergian alien baby at first glance, the sweet corn blueberry éclair from Farmers Union is a beautiful dish. The iridescent slurry of blueberry on top is fresh and uncloying, and the dense, granular flour cake stands sturdy around a river of delicious sweet corn cream. The combination is uncharacteristically balanced for a State Fair food. Bring a beach towel though, ’cause this one is messy.
8. Sonoran Sausage: ONE.BAD.DOG
Tex-Mex sausage stuffed with pepper jack cheese, wrapped in bacon, baked, and served on a cornmeal-dusted bun with fresh corn salsa and a drizzle of avocado ranch sauce. At Sausage Sister & Me. $7
If we walked away from the fair sporting cornmeal-coated fingers and faces, it’s only because we literally scarfed down this incredibly good bad dog. Cheese-stuffed, bacon-encased, and dressed up with avocado ranch, it’s arguably got too many shticks for one bun. Against all odds, it works. The fiery pepper jack and smoky sausage are meant to be together, the bacon shell is the rare one that makes the food better rather than just saltier and more caloric, and the crema-like drizzle tops it off with a bit of brightness. Even in a sea of sausage, this is one worth tracking down.
7. Mini Sconuts
Buttermilk scone holes filled with chocolate, marshmallow, and Nutella, deep-fried and topped with a dusting of powdered sugar. At French Meadow Bakery & Cafe. $5
These generously sugar-powdered golden orbs contain molten multitudes. We’re talkin’ a gooey mélange of Nutella and marshmallow crème that bursts majestically when your teeth sink through the deep-fried shell. There’s nothing particularly sconey about this dish, but who cares? You’re basically getting artisan doughnut holes stuffed with melty, nutty, not-too-sweet filling worthy of the breakfast gods.
6. Maple Cream Nitro Cold Press Coffee
Locally sourced heavy cream and maple syrup in a cold brew coffee infused with nitrogen. At Farmers Union Coffee Shop. $6.50
The big knock on cold press is its stymying bitterness, a problem Farmers Union solved with soft whips of heavy cream and a generous touch of maple flavoring. Maple Cream Nitro Cold Press Coffee is supple and silky. You think such a concoction would take 10-15 minutes of barista time, but no, the folks manning the taps at Farmers Union turn these out just as quick as you can order them.
5. Cranberry Wild Rice Meatballs
Swedish-style meatballs with cranberries and wild rice blend covered with Lingonberry Sauce. At Hamline Church Dining Hall. $11.95, $12.88 with tax
This is one of the few places at the fair where you get to eat off of real plates using metal utensils instead of flimsy plastic forks. And you get a whole meal for the price of two corn dogs. The tasty meatballs come with a choice of sides (mashed potatoes all the way), coleslaw, and a roll. There’s always a line, but it moves along efficiently, if not always quickly. You can tell everyone working here takes great pride in their outpost at the fair, which is celebrating 120 years of feeding fairgoers. The meatballs are available at lunch and dinner, starting at 11 a.m.
4. Bacon Fluffernutter
Grilled cinnamon bun sandwich with a bacon, peanut butter, and marshmallow cream filling. At The Sandwich Stop. $9
As painful as it is to admit that we enjoyed such a blatantly pandering flavor blast as this, we damn sure liked it. This pancake-y sandwich has gooey peanut butter, obnoxious powdered sugar, strips of bacon, and an unnecessary syrup dipping sauce. And yet! We gobbled it right up, spending the ensuing minutes giving our hands a “State Fair Bath” of spit and napkins. Somehow, we convinced ourselves that the protein in the peanut butter made it health food.
3. Pie’n the Sky Malt & Sundae
A sweet and tart mix of crunchy, spiced “airplane” cookies and lemon curd, topped with dark chocolate drizzle and served with vanilla ice cream as a sundae or malt. At Dairy Goodness Bar, located in the Dairy Building. $5 for the sundae
Get this. Get this and never look back. Leave your family or friends or kids or whoever you brought with you to the fair. Take a few quiet moments to yourself and the 100,000 other fairgoers and luxuriate in the creaminess of real Minnesota ice cream, made all the better by a tart lemon curd, crumbles of Biscoff cookies, and a drizzle of dark chocolate. Everyone who eats this will be instantly happier and probably a better person.
2. Giant Gluten-Free Egg Rolls On a Stick
Exactly as described. At Que Viet. $6
When it comes to quirky cuisine on a stick, the humble egg roll doesn’t have the pizzazz of pizza on a stick, the match-made-in-heaven obviousness of bacon on a stick, or the timeless classic status of a Pronto Pup. You’d be forgiven for overlooking Que Viet—big mistake. These bad boys have tons of zesty, savory pork packed into a perfectly crispy, golden-brown shell. And to the dipping sauce, we issue an emphatic damn. It’s sweet and tangy and practically good enough to drink once you’re done dunking.
1. Slow-Roasted Pork Mole Tamale
Fresh corn tamale with slow-roasted pork, mole coloradito sauce, and black bean and pineapple relish. At Tejas Express. $10
People peddle a lot of gimmicky bullshit at the fair, but this was the rare debut with no sticks or tricks—just an actually delicious, well-executed dish. The tender, juicy chicken and fluffy masa in this tamale were beautifully bolstered by hearty, earthy mole and super-fresh veggies. At 10 bucks, it’s no steal, but as one of maybe three fair foods that won’t make you hate yourself—and that could hold up as a menu standout all year round—it’s also very worth it.