The top 10 foods to start the 2020 Minnesota State Fair

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From alligator to milkshakes to deep-fried Twinkies, there are hundreds of foods available at the Minnesota State Fair.

And there are just as many guides to help you navigate your way around: a guide for new foods, a list of foods for first-timers, and another rattling off underrated foods. There’s even a guide with foods that the State Fair staff recommend.

It’s tradition for me to publish a list of the 10 foods you need to have at the Great Minnesota Get Together. It does change each year, and your feedback makes an impact. Don’t bother suggesting cookies or corn, though. Sure, they’re good, but they’re too basic. And gosh, those cookies are way overrated.

The countdown to the 2020 Minnesota State Fair is on! Set an alarm for 6 am on August 27, 2020 when the 12 days of fun start again.

The top 10 foods to start the 2020 Minnesota State Fair

Wild Rice Cheeseburger

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Wild Rice Specialities, Food Building

Once again, the Wild Rice Cheeseburger is my number one food at the Minnesota State Fair. It’s a hamburger patty with wild rice mixed inside. There’s a thin, melty slice of cheese on top. I get it with onions, but you can opt out of those if you want. The bun is buttery and perfect.

In 2019, I had multiple people contact me on Twitter after they tried this burger because they wanted to thank me for the recommendation.

This cheeseburger needs to be in your life. If you have a Blue Ribbon Bargain book, Wild Rice Specialities typically runs a deal for $1 off.

2019 Cost: $8.

Deep-fried Cookie Dough

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Sonny’s Fair Food, Food Building

Put down the bucket of Sweet Martha’s Cookies and venture into the Food Building for Deep-fried Cookie Dough. One order comes with three generous portions that are skewered on a stick and topped with powdered sugar. It’s rich, so you’ll be good after eating just one ball.

In 2019, there was a new vendor serving deep-fried cookie dough. It doesn’t even come close to what they’re doing at Sonny’s.

2019 Cost: $8.

Australian Potatoes

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Australian Potatoes, Judson Avenue across from Coliseum

I asked Twin Cities Live Facebook fans what they feel are the most underrated foods at the Minnesota State Fair, and the Australian Potatoes came in number one. I can see why. They’re hot, thinly sliced potatoes that are deep-fried and covered in ranch, chipotle, sweet chili, and cheese.

You will not be able to eat an order of these on your own. They’re incredibly filling. If you go with a group of folks, splitting an order of these turns into one of the most cost-friendly foods you can find on the Fairgrounds.

The owner tells me that the ranch/bacon/cheese option and the spicy chipotle flavors are the most popular. The booth has been at the Fairgrounds for nearly 30 years.

2019 Cost: $11 – 13.

Onion Rings

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Danielson’s & Daughters, outside the south side of the Food Building

The Onion Rings from Danielson’s and Daughters is another underrated food Twin Cities Live viewers tipped me off about. They’re thin and light, and when you bite down on them, the whole onion doesn’t come out from the batter.

They typically have a coupon for these in the Blue Ribbon Bargain Book as well.

2019 Cost: $6.50.

Blueberry Key Lime Pie

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Farmers Union, on Dan Patch Avenue near the main gate

From the list of new foods from 2019, the Blueberry Key Lime Pie hands down took the blue ribbon. It had the perfect blend of sweet and tangy and the graham cracker crust was delectable.

It was the right size to share with one other person, and it was priced right, too. I can’t say the same for the BLT from the Farmers Union, which clocks in at $13. That’s pretty steep, even for State Fair standards.

2019 Cost: $8.

First Kiss Apple & Cider Popsicle

Minnesota Apples, in the Agriculture Horticulture Building

You need a break from the deep-fried goodness while you’re out at the State Fair, and one of the best spots to visit is the Minnesota Apples booth in the Agriculture Horticulture (Ag Hort) Building.

The First Kiss apple is developed by the University of Minnesota and is tangy and super juicy. The name comes from the fact that it is one of the first apples to come from the season’s harvest. In 2019, the Minnesota Apples staff were afraid they would run out by the end of the Fair. Fortunately, they made it. However, don’t run the risk in 2020.

While you’re at their booth, make sure to get a cider popsicle. It’s an inexpensive treat that will cool you down.

Make sure you know there are three counters to order from at their booth, not just one. Every time I stopped by in 2019, people would stand for the “register” closest to the middle of the building. There’s no need to stand in that line. You can walk right up to any of the windows and pick out your apples. All windows sell the exact same menu items.

2019 Costs: First Kiss Apple $3, Apple Cider Popsicle $1.50.

Peg Muffin & Boss Hog

The Peg, outside of the Agriculture Horticulture Building

The Peg is the State Fair’s only full-service, sit down restaurant. It’s like a Perkins, but the food is oh-so-much-more better. They have been on the Fairgrounds for over four decades.

If you’re going in the morning, you should stop by for Peg Muffin. It’s a sausage patty, fried egg, cheese and tomato on an English muffin. Epic good. The only issue: The Peg only serves breakfast until 11:30 am.

If you’re not an early bird and are a carnivore, you need to order the Boss Hog. The sandwich, new in 2019, is a meat lover’s dream, with smoked ham, bacon, barbecue pork, pepper jack cheese, coleslaw, chipotle and mayo on a bun.

2019 Costs: Peg Muffin $6, Boss Hog $12.

Fresh French Fries

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2 locations, including Judson Avenue by the Dairy Building and by the Midway

Not all French fries are created equal. There is something about these fries that make them stand out. It could be potato, it could be how their fried, or it could be the salt. But there are no better French fries on the Fairgrounds than from this specific booth.

2019 Cost: $6.50 – $13.

Pickle Dog

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Pickle Dog, Carnes Avenue near the Midway

I will admit it: it’s incredibly easy to make a pickle dog, or as some will call it, a pickle roll up. It’s pastrami with a healthy spread of cream cheese with a pickle spear, which is rolled up. But there is something special about eating one of these at the State Fair.

The Pickle Dog is the classic. The Fire Dog has jalapeños and the Reuben Dog has sauerkraut. You’re good no matter the choice.

2019 Cost: $7.

Mini Donut Beer

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Ball Park Cafe, Underwood Street near The Garden

You need something to wash all this food down, and a Mini Donut Beer is a great choice. Made by Stillwater-based Lift Bridge Brewery, the beer isn’t as sweet as you would expect. It’s best without the sugar rim.

2019 Cost: $5.50 – $9.50.

Honorable mention

Pig Wings

Mancini’s al Fresco, Carnes Avenue near Ye Old Mill

Egg Roll On-a-Stick

Que Viet, Cooper Street near Bandshell

Vanilla Malt

Sadie’s Frozen Custard, near Miracle of Birth Center

Frozen Grain Belt Blu Beer

Schell’s, West End Market

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