I have worked at the Minnesota State Fair every year since 2005. Some years, I’m there 11 of 12 days. For me, the State Fair is a tradition.
Every year since I launched my website, I have posted a guide of my favorite foods (and sometimes, beverages) to get at the Minnesota State Fair. Here’s the best of the class of 2023.
1. MinneCookieDough Pie
Where: Minneapple Pie, outside the Dairy Building
This official new food for 2023 was the one food I raved over, and it knocked deep-fried cookie dough on-a-stick off of this list. This wasn’t too sweet, had a lovely crust, and came with a scoop of ice cream (your choice of vanilla or cinnamon). At $10, it was priced right. It’s definitely shareable with a group of 3 or 4 people, but you’ll find yourself going in for another bite. Minneapple Pie also has a deep-fried blueberry pie that’s legit, too.
2. Onion Rings
Where: Danielson’s and Daughters, outside the Food Building
These aren’t the traditional chain restaurant onion rings where the onion string comes out from the fried batter. They’re special. They’re addicting. They’re delicious. And they have a coupon in the Blue Ribbon Bargain Book so you can get an order for $5.50. Save some (or order extra!) to add into my next pick.
3. Wild Rice Cheeseburger
Where: Wild Rice Specialties, Food Building
This still was the first food I got at this year’s State Fair. It’s a burger patty with wild rice blended in. It did fall from the top spot in my list, though. The burger seemed… smaller. Fortunately, they didn’t raise the price (with a coupon in the Blue Ribbon Bargain Book, it’s $7). You can add onions at their booth, or you can get an order of onion rings from Danielson’s and Daughters and slap those on this very juicy, greasy burger. Make sure to add some chipotle mayo on top (there’s a bottle on the counter).
4. BANG BANG Chicken Tenders
Where: LuLu’s Public House, West End Market
With more than 300 food vendors on the Fairgrounds serving 500+ food options, you wouldn’t think chicken nuggies would make my list. But this isn’t your typical dino chicken. These tenders always come out juicy and are served with a dipping sauce that has some kick. One order has three for $8, or you can get a baker’s dozen for $23. The tenders also come on their Southern Chicken Biscuit Sandwich, which adds a jalapeno pimento cheese spread and is served on a Betty & Earl’s biscuit, which are baked on the Fairgrounds.
5. Fish Taco
Where: San Felipe Tacos, Next to The Garden
This has made my top 10 list before, and after trying it — along with other tacos on the Fairgrounds — I’m adding it back. You get a big taco shell, filled with deep-fried tilapia, cabbage, and mango salsa. Best part: it’s $10. That’s a steal of a deal. After chatting with co-owner, Michael, I wouldn’t be shocked if the price goes up next year, but even at $12, this is a great Fair food that won’t make you feel deep-fried guilt.
Where: Tejas Express, The Garden
Inside the extremely loud karaoke garden, you’ll find Tejas Express. I stopped by to try their new food, a steak taco, which was mediocre. My boyfriend never had their Beergarita, which has made my top 10 list before, and he was blown away. And it’s back on my top 10 list. The Beergarita is a blend of frozen margarita mix with Leinenkugel’s beer. It’s cold and refreshing. The original was our preferred choice. The strawberry one was too sweet for the hot weather.
7. Big Fat Bacon
Where: Big Fat Bacon, just east of the Grandstand on Dan Patch
I’m not going to lie: it’s been a few years since I had Big Fat Bacon. I remember when it first was introduced at the Fair. It was a huge deal. If you’re not familiar, the idea is simple. It’s bacon… on a stick. But goodness, it’s so good. There’s a glaze on it that makes you keep wanting more. And you get a good amount for $6. Carnivores, it’s worth a visit.
8. A Malt… from the Cattle Barn
Where: Moo Booth, outside of the Cattle Barn
There are a lot of places to get ice cream on the Fairgrounds. The Dairy Building, Kiwanis, Sadie’s. You really can’t go wrong with any of them, but there’s just something special about the malts outside of the Cattle Barn. First of all, there’s literally no line to wait. You walk right up. Every year, they have the traditional flavors (vanilla, chocolate, strawberry), and they have a flavor of the fair (2023 was raspberry). Unlike the Dairy Building, these malts don’t have fresh fruit inside, but they still do the trick. You get quite a bit for $7, too.
9. A “Midway Men’s Club Happy Hour”
Where: Midway Men’s Club, next to Visitors Plaza
When I’m looking for a spot to sit at the Fair with a group of friends, the Midway Men’s Club is my one of my favorite spots. Located in the middle of Fairgrounds, the booth is staffed by volunteers and proceeds from sales go to non-profit organizations around St. Paul. This booth has some of the cheapest beer prices on the Fairgrounds, and the $4 cheeseburger on the menu pairs perfectly with a Mich Golden Light. Look behind their booth for plastic patio furniture and a big fan where you escape the noise of the Fairgrounds for a few minutes.
10. About A Foot Long Hot Dog
Where: Multiple locations, but go to the one by the Coliseum
This last one sounds pedestrian, but so many people at the Fair this year were making the “About a Foot Long Hot Dog” a State Fair must get. Put whatever you want on it, but I prefer mine with mustard and onions. The onions make it so much better. There are multiple booths scattered around the Fairgrounds, but the location in front of the Coliseum has the nicest staff and seating for you to enjoy this State Fair staple.
Where: Fresh French Fries, near the Midway & Dairy Building
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