Where to Eat at the Great Minnesota Get-Together
I love the Minnesota State Fair so much that I try to go all 12 days. Every year there’s a list of new food booths, serving every type of wild deep-fried and on-a-stick creations, but when it comes down to it, half of the $33 million in food sales is from top ten classic items. I am a traditionalist when it comes to state fair foods and don’t stray too far from the cheese curds and footlong hot dogs. Here’s a list of my go-to fair favorites (and a few new dishes that are worth a try).
If I could pick only one state fair food, this would be it. Ground beef and Italian sausage covered in their secret red sauce and seasonings, topped with melted mozzarella cheese and served on a delicious toasted Italian roll. It’s like an Italian sandwich torpedo. I’m lucky enough that these guys hit both the Iowa and Minnesota state fairs, so sometimes, I get to eat them twice a year.
Location: On the west side of Cooper between Lee and Murphy.
There are a lot of great dairy items at the great Minnesota Get-Together (we do carve our princesses out of butter). My favorite is the stand run by the Kiwanis ladies adjacent to the Fine Arts building. I have a hard time picking between chocolate, strawberry, or vanilla… so I’d suggest ordering all three and sharing with your comrades. It’s been around since 1969 and I think they still employee some of the original folks. It’s the only malt at the fair worth slurping.
Location: On east side of Cosgrove between Wright and Randall.
Speedy’s About a Foot Long Hot Dogs
I love the classics, and it just doesn’t get better than this one. I think this stand has literally been at the fair since the stone age and they do a hot dog better than any one else. You just can’t beat a simple, no-frills footlong.
Location: Next to the DNR building.
I’ve been known to make a few stops at this french fry stand, it’s a fixture of the fair and for good reason. A bag of these fries is perfect walking around food (plus, it’s easy to share).
Location: North side of Judson Ave. between Underwood St. & Nelson St.
Original Cheese Curds
More than 100,000 pounds of fried cheese curds are consumed at the MN State Fair every year, but not all curds are created equal. Trust me, I have tried them all. My go-to cheese curd purveyor has gotta be the Original outside of the food building. These gooey nuggets have a perfectly crispy exterior and an irresistible molten cheesy interior that’s garnered quite the following.
Location: On south side of Dan Patch between Nelson and Underwood.
Sweet Martha’s Cookie Jar
I think I remember Martha telling me they make a million cookies every day of the fair. This is a fair must, and one of those food experiences that cannot be accurately replicated at home EVEN IF their dough is available for purchase in your grocer’s freezer. Few things can beat piping hot, messy chocolate chip cookies served with an enormous glass of milk. Martha (yes, Sweet Martha is a real person), I adore you!
Location: South side of Carnes between Nelson and Underwood.
Izzy’s Ice Cream
Even when the temperatures creep close to zero here in the winter, I crave Izzy’s amazing ice cream. So it’s no surprise that on a hot day, I make a beeline for Hamline Dining Hall, which serves up several Izzy’s flavors. This year try out their mini donut batter crunch ice cream.
Location: North side of Dan Patch between Underwood and Cooper.
This poutine stand is a newbie, and a great addition to the abundance of gluttonous fair foods. Poutine is a Canadian specialty that’s crept across the border into Minnesota over the past couple years, showing up on pub menus across the state. Duke’s version is pretty damn good (and traditional) – fresh cut fries smothered in gravy and cheese curds.
Location: North side of Judson between Nelson and Clough.
I always make a stop at Cinnie Smiths a priority. One of the greatest pleasures in life is the gooey center of a warm cinnamon roll, so what can be better than a dozen mini cinnamon rolls with a side of creamy vanilla soft serve?
Location: Murphy Ave. & Underwood St.
Tom Thumb Donuts
Mini donuts are right up there with footlongs and cheese curds when it comes to quintessential Minnesota State Fair food. You just can’t walk past a Tom Thumb stand, as that fried dough smell wafts through the air, without buying a bag. These are only good straight out of the fryer, piping hot and dipped in sugar.
Location: West side of Cooper between Wright and Dan Patch
Blue Moon Dine-In Theater
This quirky stand introduced their awesome sweet corn ice cream in 2012, but this year it’s all about the Comet Corn. Yep, that’s carmel corn plunged in liquid nitrogen. It’s a fun treat that kids will love on a hot summer day.
Location: Located on Carnes Ave. & Chambers St.
Famous Dave’s Barbecue
This year you gotta try the amazing fried cajun pig skins from Charlie T. at Famous Daves. They’re easy to share and great with a squeeze of citrus and side of traditional Alabama white sauce. These skins are the best new food I tasted this year.
Location: On West Dan Patch Ave. & Chambers St.
Texas Steak Out
A novelty that seems to only make an appearance at state fairs and Renaissance festivals, turkey legs are one of my favorites. There’s something about gnawing on a giant turkey leg that seems so primal and instinctual, I just can’t pass it up. For the fair’s best version, head to Texas Steak Out (and for nay-sayers, try the spiral cut potatoes on-a-stick or juicy brisket).
Location: On Underwood St. across from Little Farm Hands.
• Complete List of New Foods 2013
• Official Minnesota State Fair App
• Rick Nelson’s “10 food favorites you don’t want to miss at Minnesota State Fair”
• Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl’s “Top New 2013 MN State Fair Foods—and the Best of the Old Ones, Too”
Aug 22-Sept 2, 2013
1265 North Snelling Ave. N., St. Paul, MN
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