There are always new foods at the Minnesota State Fair, but if you’re new to the Great Minnesota Get Together, you need to start with the basics. I asked my Facebook and Twitter followers to list their favorite Fair foods. I compiled this list:
1. Pronto Pup/Corn Dog/Poncho Dog
Basically, it’s a breaded hot dog on a stick. However, there are some big differences between the Pronto Pup, the Poncho Dog and the traditional Corn Dog, especially with die-hard Fairgoers.
A Pronto Pup has cornmeal in its crust, just like a corn dog. It also has wheat and rice flour, along with a few other secrets. It also has less sugar than a corn dog crust, with some noticing the less-sweet taste. The sausages inside the Pronto Pups come from Wisconsin. The Pronto Pup claims to be the original corn dog served at the Minnesota State Fair, making its debut in 1947.
Ketchup and mustard are painted on your Pronto Pup by their staff. It makes for a delightful Instagram photo.
Pronto Pup booths are located throughout the Fairgrounds. In 2018, they added a huge permanent headquarters near the Ball Park Cafe.
On the other side, the Poncho Dog is sweeter than the Corn Dog, thanks to its batter. It also has a bit of a thicker batter.
When you look at sales and popularity, the Pronto Pup comes out as the victor in this battle. You can buy Corn Dogs at the grocery store. My advice is to buy a Pronto Pup and a Poncho Dog and do a side-by-side comparison.
2. Corn on the Cob from Corn Roast
For many Minnesotans, an ear of corn-on-the-cob from the Corn Roast, located just east of the Grandstand, is a must. The corn is hot, buttery, and fresh. I’ve gone behind the scenes and have witnessed how hot it gets behind the counter. When I showed up, the thermometer read 120 degrees. It’s one of the cheapest State Fair foods, too.
3. Sweet Martha’s Cookies
In 2017, Martha Rossini Olson sold over $4.23 million dollars of cookies, making her the number one food vendor when it comes to gross sales. They’re made right on the Fairgrounds and it’s tradition for Fairgoers to buy a bucket (they were $17 in 2018) and take them home.
Heads up: they fill the bucket way beyond the lid, so get ready to eat a bunch of cookies before you can close the lid. When you’re at the Fair, look down on the ground — chances are high you’ll see a smooshed cookie that fell out of the bucket.
Get these at the very end of your day at the Fair. Avoid the Sweet Martha’s location near the Grandstand, especially after a concert. Instead, check out her third and newest location in the northern end of the Fairgrounds.
When I surveyed Fairgoers, Sweet Martha’s cookies were one of the most popular classic foods. However, when I asked Fairgoers what the most overrated State Fair food is, cookies “won” by an overwhelming number of comments. I’m with them — the cookies are a bit overrated. Instead, give deep-fried cookie dough a shot. That’s located at Sonny’s in the Food Building.
4. Cheese Curds
Deep-fried chunks of cheese hold a special place in the hearts of Fairgoers. A few years ago, a cheese curd vendor retired and wanted to pass the booth along to the next generation. State Fair officials don’t let booth owners change hands like that, so they kicked the vendor out. Minnesotans were angry, but it’s probably because that booth had the best cheese curds on the Fairgrounds and not as much about who the owner is.
Not all cheese curds are created equal. Now that the vendor mentioned above is gone, your best best is to get your curd fix at the Mouth Trap in the middle of the Food Building.
5. Mini Donuts
Fun fact: Tom Thumb Mini Donuts were first introduced at the Minnesota State Fair.
There are various mini donut vendors around the Fairgrounds. Tom Thumb is located near the Food Building and Ye Old Mill, a State Fair staple.
In 2017, Grandstand Mini Donuts received some scrutiny when it was discovered that proceeds from the booth go to Democratic political causes, although there’s no mention or sign mentioning that at the stand. That’s why the booth is cash only and has a 4 bag limit per order — $20 is the maximum you can give a political cause before they have to report your name in Minnesota. Read more about this controversy here.
- Fresh French Fries (two locations)
- All-You-Can-Drink Milk (white and chocolate milk for $2)