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10 best foods to start the 2023 Minnesota State Fair

Every year, I update my guide of the 10 best foods you’ll find at the Minnesota State Fair.

This list does not include the traditional foods like the Pronto Pup, cheese curds, or Sweet Martha’s cookies. However, they probably wouldn’t make this list.

I really enjoy when fairgoers stopped me on the street and told me they read my State Fair articles before heading out to the Fairgrounds. Thank you! It means a lot.

The 2023 Minnesota State Fair takes place August 24 – September 4, 2023. To learn everything State Fair, head to their website.

1. Wild Rice Cheeseburger

From Wild Rice Specialties, Food Building

Once again, the Wild Rice Cheeseburger in the Food Building is my favorite food at the Fair. Hamburger meat is mixed with wild rice and creates a really juicy and delightfully greasy burger. It’s worth adding the cheese and sautéed onions. Don’t stop going because this vendor is in the busy and crowded Food Building. Wild Rice Specialties is right inside one of the doors. You’ll want to enter in the door nearest the Leinie Lodge Bandshell.

2022 price: $9 ($6 after coupon in Blue Ribbon Bargain Book)

2. BANG BANG Chicken Tenders or Southern Chicken Biscuit Sandwich

From LuLu’s Public House, West End Market

These chicken tenders, which are never frozen, are one of the best values on the Fairgrounds. You get four tenders for $8, which is a steal, considering their size. An order comes with sauce which has a little bit of a kick, but nothing to make you sweat.

Also for $8, you can get two of the chicken tenders in a Betty & Earl’s biscuit. They’re made on-site, too. Thanks to Jason Matheson for gracing Minnesotans with these delicious carbs. LuLu’s spreads pimento cheese on that sandwich and it really can’t be beat. The Southern Chicken Biscuit Sandwich was a new food for 2022.

The guys behind LuLu’s are also the masterminds behind the Axel’s restaurant chain in the cities. Bull Bites are back on the menu at LuLu’s, by the way.

2022 price: $8

3. Malt from Gopher Dairy Bar

From Gopher Dairy Bar, outside of the Cattle Barn

I am very picky about ice cream. I’ve tried many of malts and sundaes at the State Fair. Sure, the selections in the Dairy Building are good, but you cannot beat the malts served by the University of Minnesota students at the Gopher Dairy Bar on the outside of the Cattle Barn. They’re part of the Gopher Dairy Club (read more about the U of M’s meat and dairy lab here) and have vanilla, chocolate and strawberry malts, along with a rotating flavor. In 2022, it was caramel. There’s nothing flashy about these malts, but they’re filled to the brim and they’re cheaper than what you’ll get in the Dairy Building. If you want ice cream at the State Fair, go to the Cattle Barn first.

2022 price: $7

4. Nitro Ice Cream

From Nitro Ice Cream, Food Building

Nitro Ice Cream has been at the State Fair for nearly 20 years, and honestly, I’ve never had it. Again, I am picky about my ice cream, and to be honest, they always hand out samples, so I thought it was a gimmick. It made a 2022 list of foods Minnesota State Fair staff love to eat, so I stopped by. It’s incredibly smooth and creamy. They flash freeze it in less than 1 second thanks to liquid nitrogen, which is what makes the ice cream so smooth.

They serve only one flavor — vanilla — but for an additional cost, you can add hot fudge, chocolate or caramel. Plus, at $6 for a regular size, it’s priced right and it’s completely shareable. Don’t pass it up.

2022 price: $6-8 (toppings extra)

5. Australian Battered Potatoes

From Australian Battered Potatoes, Judson Avenue near the barns

This year, I asked fans of my Facebook page what they thought the most shareable State Fair food is, and Australian Battered Potatoes ranked number 1. For $12.50 – 14.50, you can get a heaping plate of what could be considered a thick scalloped potato that’s deep-fried. Then on top, you can add your choice of toppings. I’m told the option of bacon, cheese and sour cream is the most popular choice. Don’t forget to sprinkle ‘chicken salt’ on top.

2022 price: $12.50-14.50

6. Deep-fried Cookie Dough

From Sonny’s, Food Building

Deep-fried Cookie Dough, another shareable food, has been on my favorite foods list for years. It’s warm, gooey chocolate chip cookie dough sprinkled with powdered sugar and served on a stick. I don’t know what else to say. These balls are extremely rich, so you won’t need more than 1. They’re much better than those overrated cookies in the bucket. Note: there are two places on the Fairgrounds serving deep-fried cookie dough. You must go to Sonny’s. The other place doesn’t cut it.

2022 cost: $10

7. Pickle Pizza

From Rick’s Pizza, near the Education Building

I hated pickles when I was a kid. I’ve come to tolerate them as of late, but it’d be a stretch to say that I love them. So I wasn’t running to try pickle pizza, a new food for the 2022 Fair. I stopped by on day 2 and chatted with Tristin and his dad, Rick, who are from Florida. They invented this pizza at the Calgary Stampede in Canada a few years back, and it was a big hit. They’re making dough right on the Fairgrounds, and the crust is the perfect level of baked. They grow their own dill, and that really makes it great. It has a healthy amount of cheese. The pickles are put on after it goes in the oven, and they’re the most pedestrian part of the pizza. Honestly, I would just go to their booth to get a slice of regular pizza from them. Hopefully they don’t raise the price in 2023. The slices are healthy in size, so it is shareable, but handing over $9 for a piece of pizza is bordering too much.

2022 cost: $9

8. Porketta Wings

From Mancini’s al Fresco, near Ye Old Mill

On a couple nights after I was done working, I would bring people around the Fairgrounds to show them what to eat. It became custom to ask if they’ve had the Porketta Wings from Mancini’s al Fresco. The restaurant, which is run by the same family who owns Mancini’s on West 7th in St. Paul, season and roast split pork shank. They’re bone-in, so consider them like mini pork chops on a stick, but way more tender. This is like the slow cooker porkettas you would have for Sunday suppers. The order is definitely shareable, too.

2022 cost: $10

9. Mini Donut Beer

From Ball Park Cafe, outside of Food Building

Lift Bridge Brewing’s Mini Donut Beer, which is only available at the State Fair, has been on and off my list before, but after having one during the Fair, I realized why it’s so good. The owners of Ball Park Cafe tell me it’s the number one selling beer. It’s not overly sweet, which I appreciate, and you can get it with or without the cinnamon sugar rim. The Ball Park Cafe’s 25th anniversary is in 2023.

10. Onion Rings

From Danielson’s & Daughters, outside of Food Building

I hate when the onion comes out of the breading on an onion ring. It’s stringy and floppy. You’re not going to have that problem with these onion rings from Danielson’s & Daughters. They’re the perfect snack size, which makes them shareable, too. Pair them with a Wild Rice Cheeseburger or a foot long hot dog and you might have the perfect State Fair meal.

2022 cost: $7.25 ($5 after coupon in Blue Ribbon Bargain Book)

Honorable mention

Cheeseburger & a cheap beer

Midway Mens Club, near the Butterfly House

Steak Dinner

Pickle Barrel Steak Tips, near the DNR Stage

Hawaiian Sunrise

Minnesnowii Shave Ice, in front of the Grandstand

Deep-fried Blueberry Pie

Minneapple Pie, in front of the Dairy Building

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Dianne Madigan

    Can’t wait to hear more!

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