a moveable feast: food at the minnesota state fair

Last year, I talked a bit about my undying love for the Minnesota State Fair. The big pig. The giant slide. The fish pond. The butter heads. I didn’t talk much about the food, except to mention that I would recap it in a separate post.

Given that I’m not going to be able to make it to the Middle West this summer, and that the fair is currently going on without me (how could they? sob!), there is no better time to write an ode to food at the fair than now.


Get ready for a caloric-laden food tour of the Minnesota State Fair, in picture form.

First up: Savory Delights.


If you’ve ever been to the Great Minnesota Get-Together, chances are you’ve had these Fresh French Fries. They are an obligatory purchase for many, although I, feeling no great love for potatoes, find them relatively uninteresting. What I do enjoy is dousing them heavily in malt vinegar.

They were apparently voted Best French Fries in America by Gourmet Magazine (a factoid I feel very meh about), but they are the fifth most popular food item at the fair. Find them around the fairgrounds at one of their several locations.

After downing all of those salty fries, make sure to chug at least three glasses at the All You Can Drink Milk (for $1) stand. Over time, the price of drinking as much milk as you can has gone up, from 10 cents, to 50 cents, to the now-ungodly sum of $1. Just as I’m not so big with fries, I’m not terribly into chugging milk… but this is the #3 food item at the fair, people. I’m just doing my part to inform you how all those folks you bump into along the fair’s crowded avenues are spending their cash.


Feeling famished?

You can always try out these raw meats or giant head radishes. Just kidding. These are part of competitions. Yes indeed, apparently, there is a “dress up a scarecrow in the form of your favorite garden crop” competition. Just kidding.

Sort of.


A few more iconic fair foods include the greasy Cheese Curds (above left, popular fair food #2), and The Big Pepper booth (iconic more in design than in popularity).

To risk sounding like a broken record, I don’t find these options very enticing. I was about to give up hope on savory food fair, when I remembered two of the (in my opinion) most delicious fried options available to fairgoers.


At Harrington’s (shown above, top), there is a little miracle available for purchase known as Fried Green Tomatoes. These are amazing. Served with ranch dressing, it is difficult to resist popping one into your mouth the moment they are placed in your hands. Beware, though, because they will be hot. And you will be burned. I was.

The Perfect Pickle stand (shown above, bottom) hawks giant pickles, as well as fried pickles. Fried pickles! Also amazing. Also also, likely to burn you, in a wicked way. Three types of fried pickles are sold here: I recommend trying the Sampler Pack, so that all three flavors (Perfect aka original, Cajun, and Gourmet) can be sampled. Watch out for the Gourmet Pickle, filled with cream cheese. It is the most delicious, but also the most likely to wound your tongue when hot.

Enough of this savory junk, am I right? Bring on the sweets!

Have you ever dreamed of eating this many cakes? I have. But I have never succeeded. Sadly, these cakes are not for eating, so I may never achieve this important life goal.


Those are not corn dogs shown above (because corn dogs are just another one of those gross savory things that I won’t touch). Those are Deep Fried Candy Bars. Years ago, when the deep fried candy bar stand’s wares rose to prominence amongst the legions of other nearby fried foods-on-stick, I was kind of grossed out. I tried one, probably a 3 Musketeers, and I didn’t think much of it.

That all changed last year, when we indulged in some deep fried Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. These are a must eat, in my opinion. They’re also quite filling, so consider saving them for the end, as we did.


Mini Doughnuts go hand in hand with fairs nationwide. So what makes the Mini Doughnuts at the Minnesota State Fair anything special? They are piping hot and fresh, for one. Secondly, the generous amount of sugar thrown into the bag ensures that the sweet tooth in your group will get an extra meal out of pouring leftover sugar straight from the bag down her throat.

Please invite me to be the sweet tooth in your group.


Additional sweet options include, clockwise from top left, Sweet Martha’s Chocolate Chip Cookies (the #1 fair food), Saltwater Taffy, Lynn’s Lefse, and French Crêpes. Savory menu items exist at the lefse and crêpe stands as well.

There is so much terrific food to enjoy at the Minnesota State Fair. So so so so so much more than I could ever cover while maintaining moderate interest from anyone. Items that didn’t make it into photos because they were so fitfully enjoyed included Walleye Cakes, Spring Rolls, and a Breakfast Burrito.

We had hoped to return this year, to try some Fried Alligator, BBQ Pork & Potato, Lamb Fries (read: testicles), and SPAM curds. Alas, these great foods will have to stick around another year or two to await our triumphant return.

Pssst: don’t forget to visit the SPAM stand!

Minnesota State Fair

Minnesota State Fairgrounds
1265 Snelling Ave N
St Paul, MN 55108

Twelve days of fun ending Labor Day:

August 23rd through September 3rd, 2012

6h00 – 24h00 (22h00 on Labor Day)


What’s your favorite fair food?


39 thoughts on “a moveable feast: food at the minnesota state fair

    1. I’ll be making a heck of a lot of fried green tomatoes soon, since I’m betting that most of ours won’t ripen before the first frost hits!

    1. I’d like to tried a fried Oreo, too! Considering I can eat about 30 Oreos in one sitting, I’d be excited to see how many of the deep fried persuasion I could take down – before ralphing unhappily in the corner, of course.

  1. Haha, man now I really want to go to the Minnesota State Fair. I love fair food so much. It is so terrible for you, but so gosh-darned enticing. I think this has to do with the unabashed way people cook food there. “Wait…you DON’T want your candy bar deep-fried? GET OUT. We don’t like your kind here.” I think it makes everybody feel okay with being a fatty all day. :D

    Unlike you I am a huge savory person, so famous french fries and cheese curds sound yummy (though I’d probably pass on the pickles). In terms of sweet food I got the chance to have a deep-fried twinkie in San Fran when I was 16. I remember absolutely nothing about it, but it does mean that I am no longer obligated to try one again in the future. :D You can definitely keep the roll of sweet tooth.

    Hope you can make it next year so we can hear all about those crazy foods!

    PS <3 spam

    1. Dude, I love your intense comment. I love fair food so much too. Mostly cotton candy, but I branched out for this post way more than I normally would have. And it wasn’t so bad:)

      The pickles were the best part! I think I’m going to try to make some soon, as we’ve practically got cucumbers coming out of our ears.

      I think I had a deep fried Twinkie once too. I must have been unimpressed, since I don’t really remember the experience.

      Oooh, I hope I can make it next year, too. SPAM!

  2. Here are the things I want:
    Cheese curds, because I hear that they squeak.
    Pickles, because PICKLES.
    Deep-fried Reese’s, because hello.

  3. wow, that fair food looks much better than ours.
    All those cakes left uneaten saddens my soul.
    I made my way out to our fair once just for the deep fried candy confections. I was entirely underwhelmed and very disappointed. I should have tried the fried peanut butter cups.
    I’d make the trip to Minnesota just for some fried pickles.

    Ours has lots of odd meats – snake, rabbit, etc. It makes me think we have nothing better to offer in Arizona other than road kill.

    1. Oh dear, nothing better than road kill. That’s not incredibly appetizing, nor does it inspire me to visit your part of the country during fair season. Snake, blergh. Rabbit, sure. It just doesn’t scream celebration, though.

      Sad uneaten cakes, I know! If it helps, they were probably stale long before I took that photo.

      I found the deep fried 3 Musketeers underwhelming as well. But the Reese’s were waaaay better. Definitely worth a tummy ache – although I didn’t get one, so I’m not qualified to make that statement:)

  4. My favorite fair food is the strawberry shortcake they serve at the Commonground Fair in Unity, ME. I’m pretty sure they use honey instead of sugar. Or something. Because it’s killer.

    1. Oooooh, ooh ooh, and my favorite fair food is the deep fried Shiitake basket at Common Ground!! SO so so so so so so so so so so so GOOD. The best!

      1. That’s actually the only mushroom anything I’ll eat ever. And I think it’s because I can dupe myself into thinking they’re not-mushrooms, because the batter is so ridiculously delicious.

        Are you going this year?

        1. It is so delicious. So so delicious.

          I don’t know… probably not? It’s such a long haul from here, and if the weather is nice I’d probably rather go hiking & camping? And I thought it was inconvenient to get to Common Ground when I lived in Bangor! Ohh dear:)

  5. Oh, a big thank-you to you-hoo…I really feel like I just attended the fair again with you two! What a lift!
    (You probably haven’t yet unearthed the article I sent you about-this is for real-DEEP FRIED BUTTER at a fair in Texas, I think)

    1. Yoooo-hooooo! I missss yooooou!

      I think it’s silly that you have all these complete delights so close to you, but you aren’t interested in stuffing your face 100%! It really would be advantageous if the fair food people started a localized delivery service. What would you order?

      I saw that thing about deep fried butter – wasn’t it in Iowa? It sounded amazing. That’s what I would order!

  6. Part of me wants to simply say “only in America!” but I know that that is a rude and annoying generalisation, so I won’t … :D The other part of me wants to immediately book a flight for August next year so that I can partake in some of this weird and wonderful iconically American grub myself (except the pickles, you can have my pickles).

    1. Thank you – I see that so often online, and it is a sort of annoying generalization. After today, I’ll have run close to 20 miles this week, which is by far the best I’ve done in a long time. I deserve to at least look at some pictures of food, right? :D

      That said, there’s an awful lot of super fatties in this country, and a lot of poor eating habits, and a lot of non-exercising habits. And it disgusts me. So maybe I should be the one saying “only in America!”

      YES. Come feast with us! I will eat all the pickles!

      1. Emma, it is exceptions to the stereotype like yourself that have made me realise that America really is a place that I’d like to visit … you deserve much more than to just look at photos of food!

        (Believe me, if it wasn’t for the plans my man already has for this time next year I’d be pushing hard for a US trip!)

    1. What kind of fair does the non-city of Halifax have? You must have good stuff, given you’re all large and in charge out there (non-city city size, not your body weight)… maybe?

      Or is it all just dancing and baking school, all the time?

      1. We don’t big fairs here – not like the Minnesota State affair. We’re too small, I suppose. Halifax is pretty big, but the rest of the province is made up of smaller towns and villages. There are lots of exhibitions (often fish or cow based), festivals, bbqs and mini fairs. Sometimes a dance. Often drinkin’. Firehall breakfasts and church lunches. It’s a pretty good deal.

        But nothing – NOTHING – like that beast up above.

        1. Fish exhibitions?!

          Please let me know the next time there is a fish exhibition. I want to come and partake in the glorious festivities!

  7. Who doesn’t like a blog post featuring fried fair food! The Allegan County fair is a similar scene. This fall I will do a better job documenting my foodie adventures. Usually I just see how big the giant pumpkin is, and wander through the livestock barns.

    1. Had to look up Allegan County. So close to New Holland Brewing Co., lucky you!

      I enjoy the big pumpkins too, as well as the livestock. At the Minnesota State Fair, I also love seeing all the fish in the fish pond. It might be my favorite part.

      Except for the food, of course!

  8. Holy Moly Emma, that is a serious fried food fest. I’m not sure what I think of the fried pickles, but fried Reese’s – yes please!
    I haven’t been to a state fair in ages, you made me member how much I am missing. Summer fun indeed.
    Have a good week,

    1. Hehe, yes, it seems like folks aren’t very into the idea of fried pickles. Maybe it just takes getting used to, because holy gosh, they’re good. The Reese’s as well…

      Mmm, I suppose summer fun is over now. Not such a loss, onto beautiful fall!

  9. This makes me think that I might enjoy savory foods a tad more than sweet, at least when it comes to the fried stuff! I think the Texas state fair starts soon, but not sure if I can go. They really try to outdo everyone with the frying – coke, butter, jambalaya, you name it. :P I want a mini donut right now!

    1. Oh, the fried butter, I alternate between desperately wanting to try it, and desperately wanting to vomit when I think too hard about it. How do you fry coke? Fried jambalaya sounds amazing. Confusing as well.

      I want a mini donut too!

  10. Hey, Emma! Well this year the big boar at 1200 lbs. only outweighed the biggest pumpkin by 13 lbs! And on the first day of the fair he was up and walking and eating corn cobs, although he did have a limp! However by the 11th day he was mostly snoozing and the biggest pumpkin had rotted and had to be replaced by the runner up! Guess they have alot of air in them and sometimes they go downhill fast after picked, or so the explanation went! Most entertaining animals, as usual, for me were the goats and they were a riot! Two young ones were sparring and butting, leaping around, and then 3 decided to cram into a crate and then the one farthest in burst out and the ramming fest continued….the human onlookers were very amused! And of course, the food…corn fritters, pork chop on stick, fresh scones with peaches and whipped cream, wonderful coconut macaroons from the Salty Tart (bakery from midtown global market in the old sears bldg. on lake st.), fruit smoothies, Manny’s ham and pineapple torta with fresh pineapple on the side, deep fried pickles, wild rice hamburger with lots of fried onions, and flat bread pizza with creamy cheese, roasted corn, bacon and green onions to name a few! John and I went during the day and then returned later with nephew and his 2 young kids for a late aft. and eve with alot of midway action! Maybe this will help lure you back for next year! Love, linda

  11. I can’t believe it’s like, september and i haven’t commented yet on this post. THIS post, of all things. In a twist of irony, it’s because we’re still cleaning up from our little “state fair” here for the wee one’s birthday.

    Minnesota? seems to now how to throw an end-of summer party. I really want a fried green tomato dipped in ranch. We would be good fair partners; neither of us would touch corn dogs, and i’d let you have the extra sugar from the bag of donuts. let’s go. :)

And now I'd like to pass the mic / So you c'mon and do anything you like ...aka, Leave your reply.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s