July 23, 2021

Give Me The Mike

Exploring Minnesota and Beyond

A review of new foods at the 2021 Minnesota State Fair

An ongoing review of the official and unofficial new foods making their debut at the 2021 Minnesota State Fair.

After a year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Minnesota State Fair returns in 2021. It’ll be the Great Minnesota Get Back Together. 

Since the 2019 State Fair, the Fair hosted a couple Food Parade (my review here), a Kickoff to Summer party, and hosted a few events where some vendors were allowed to open. That gave us a taste, but now it’s time to feast.

Since Give Me The Mike launched in 2017, it has been tradition for me to post a list of new (official and unofficial) State Fair foods, along with my reviews. The class of 2017 included the giant egg roll from Que Viet, 2018 introduced Nordic Waffles, and 2019 brought forth Birchwood Cafe’s Blueberry Key Lime Pie at the Farmers Union, which is in my top 11 foods heading into this year’s State Fair.

Here’s how this guide works. If you see a photo of a food, that means I have tried it.

The State Fair has 26 official new foods this year, but vendors will have unofficial new foods that they will introduce as well. I will post both as I eat my way through the State Fair, which runs August 26 through September 6, 2021.

To see publicity photos of these new foods, check out the State Fair’s website.


Banh Minn Bun or Banh Minn Bowl

From Sausage Sister & Me, Food Building

A sausage with seasonings inspired from Japan and China, including togarashi and Chinese 5-spice, is topped with shredded and pickled carrot, radish, chopped jalapeño, and cilantro. You can get it served in a French baguette or in a bowl. 

The name and original description of this item received some criticism. Sausage Sister & Me posted a statement on their Instagram

My take: Sausage Sister & Me makes quality food, but it can be a bit expensive for the amount you get.


Bison Bites

From Giggles Campfire Grill, in The North Woods

Ravioli with ground bison, braised fennel portobello mushrooms and basil. Served with a sweet bourbon sauce.

My take: Vescio’s deep-fried ravioli is a State Fair tradition. This will need to be really good to make a splash.


Blue Raspberry Blitzed

From Sara’s Tipsy Pies, Food Building

A hand pie filled with raspberry, blueberry and apple filling, mixed with UV Blue vodka and topped with cotton candy sugar.

My take: Sara Hayden is no stranger to the State Fair new foods list, and her pies are always consistent.


Buffalo Chicken Doughscuit

From The Blue Barn, West End Market

Biscuit-style doughnuts are stuffed with chicken, glazed with a sweet and spicy buffalo icing, and topped with crispy bacon bits.

My take: The Blue Barn has one of the best overall menus at the Fair. This leans a bit gimmicky, but I will definitely try it. 


Caramelized Banana Pudding

From Blue Moon Dine-In Theater, Carnes & Chambers

It’s the classic banana pudding, with those Nilla Wafers your grandpa had. It’s topped with a cocoa crispy cereal, caramel sauce and whipped cream.

My take: The Blue Moon’s Bread Pudding is top-notch. Their pizzas are well worth it, too. 


ChoriPop

At the Midtown Global Market booth, International Bazaar

The Herbivorous Butcher, located in Minneapolis, is a vegan butcher shop, and it’s fantastic. It was voted as one of the best butcher shops in Minnesota. Between August 26 – 31, they’ll be at the State Fair serving their vegan chorizo dipped in a corndog batter, served with your choice of an avocado salsa or mole sauce. It’s served with Mexican BBQ chips. They’ll also serve deep-fried cheese (which is already at the Fair) and horchata soft-serve milkshakes (yes, please). 

My take: Do it.


Cracklin Prime Nachos

From Coasters, at the entrance to the Midway

Deep-fried chicharrón, or pork rinds, served with sliced prime rib, nacho cheese, pico de gallo, and green onion slices.

My take: In my 30 years attending the State Fair, I’ve never had food from Coasters, nor have I heard anyone say, “You need to eat the food from Coasters!” I’m hesitant.


Cucumber Jalapeño Limeade

From the Farmers Union Coffee Shop, Dan Patch near the main gate

A non-alcoholic limeade with juiced Minnesota-grown cucumbers and jalapeño syrup.

My take: Add a splash of vodka and you have yourself a perfect drink. Their lavender lemonade, a new beverage in 2019, was fantastic.


Dual Berry Shortcake

From LuLu’s Public House, West End Market

Strawberries and blueberries cover a biscuit from Betty & Earl’s, which is located inside Potluck at Rosedale Center. The whole thing is topped in whipped cream and a balsamic glaze.

My take: Seems tough to mess this one up. LuLu’s had a flop with another simple concept, deep-fried pepperoni chips, in 2018.


Esquites

At the Midtown Global Market booth, International Bazaar

Popular Mexican restaurant chain Los Ocampo will be at the State Fair September 1 – 6. They’ll serve Esquites, or Mexican street corn, which is a must-get. It’s corn on-the-cob topped with mayonnaise, Cotija cheese, and chile powder. Los Ocampo is not a stranger to the State Fair; they were a resident in the Midtown Global Booth in 2013. They’ll also serve Mango on-a-stick, tacos, and Horchata.

My take: Worth it.


Fudge & Fruit!

From Minnesota Wine Country, Underwood Street

Strawberries and fudge brownies dipped in a wine-infused dark chocolate alternate on a stick. The whole thing is drizzled with a wine-infused white chocolate.

My take: Sure.


Greek Stuffed Ravioli

From Dino’s Gyros, Carnes Avenue

Another ravioli. Huh. 

This is a Mediterranean pastry stuffed with cream cheese, mozzarella cheese, Tzatziki sauce, meat, and is deep-fried.

My take: When I attended an event with Fair officials a couple years ago, one said to be weary of vendors who introduce new foods every year. Dino’s Gyros is that vendor. Pass.


Island Hopper

From The Hangar, North End

An entire hollowed-out pineapple is filled with teriyaki chicken and rice with pineapple chunks.

My take: The Hangar has miserable service, horrible wait times, and mediocre food. Pass.


Jumbo Donut Sundae

From Fluffy’s Hand Cut Donuts, across from KSTP-TV on Carnes

A new vendor serving donuts topped with vanilla soft-serve ice cream, hot fudge and sprinkles. They’ll also have other iced donuts, cream filled donuts, and more pastry goodness.

My take: Can you make room for mini donuts and a donut topped with ice cream?


Kerala Fried Chicken Kati Roll

From Hot Indian, Food Building

Hot Indian has a new State Fair home in the Food Building. One of their new menu items in 2021 will be marinated, fried chicken tenders served with chutneys and slaw and wrapped in paratha, or fried dough. They’ll also serve Paneer Pakora, cheese cubes fried in a gluten-free batter and served with tomato butter, Butter Chicken Samosas (halal), Sweet Veg Samosas (vegan), and Bhel Puri (vegan).

My take: Hot Indian has done a great job at the Fair as part of 


La Floretta

From Mancini’s al Fresco, Carnes Avenue

This gluten-free and vegan item is oven-roasted and seasoned cauliflower florets served with a sweet chili sauce.

My take: Mancini’s Pig Wings happen to be one of the hidden gem foods State Fair staff love to eat. These should be on your radar, especially if you know someone who is GF or vegan.


The Naughty Biscuit

From RC’s BBQ, on West Dan Patch next to Sweet Martha’s

A biscuit is stuffed with smoked pork belly, beer cheese sauce, arugula, pickled red onions and candied jalapeños.

My take: Charlie at RC’s BBQ makes quality State Fair foods, and this has potential.


Chicken & Macaroni Nordic Waffle and I-Scream Waffle Sandwich

From Nordic Waffles, in the West End Market

Nordic Waffles, a 2018 State Fair newcomer, introduces two new versions this year. The Chicken & Macaroni version includes an entire chicken leg and mac ‘n cheese, all wrapped in a waffle. The I-Scream Sandwich is a take on an ice cream cookie.

My take: I hope they have enough staff working this booth. Lines in 2019 were really long. 


Pizza Lucy

From Green Mill, at Baldwin Park

Sausage patty topped with pizza sauce, pepperoni and mozzarella cheese, stuffed in homemade Green Mill pizza dough, and topped with Italian seasonings, cheese and crumbled pepperoni.

My take: They’re riding the coattails of the Juicy Lucy, but this won’t be nearly as good. Pass.


Sashimi Tuna Tacos

From Scenic 61 by New Scenic Cafe, by Little Farm Hands

The New Scenic Cafe, a restaurant in Duluth, makes its State Fair debut in 2021. Their new food, Sashimi Tuna Taco, are wonton shells filled with ahi tuna, avocado and a Thai slaw.

My take: Worth checking out.


Sidecar Sandwich

From Hideaway Speakeasy, at The Veranda in the Grandstand

Cognac-infused bacon layered with havarti, Gouda and cheddar cheese, and served on sourdough.

My take: I have never had quality food from the Hideaway. Pass. 


S’Mores Funnel Cake

From Funnel Cakes, Food Building

You take s’mores, and you put them on a funnel cake.

My take: I’m sure the kids will love it. 


Spufull Puff

From Potato Man & Sweety, Liggett Street by the Horse Barn

Sweet potatoes and cream cheese are mixed and fried, then topped with powdered sugar. They’re served with a maple dipping sauce.

My take: I love sweet potatoes. I’m stopping by.


Wedge-Hammer, Lake Storm Lemonade and Bama! Lemon Sweet Tea

From Summer Lakes Beverage, by Little Farm Hands

This new vendor will serve many gluten-free and vegan beverages. The Wedge-Hammer has ginger, orange and other citrus. You can try the Lake Storm Lemonade, a lavender-infused drink. Or get the freshly-brewed Bama! Lemon Sweet Tea.

My take: Another spot to note for the gluten-free and vegan Fairgoers.


Waffle Burger

Andy’s Grille, Carnes Avenue

A bacon cheeseburger is served in a waffle.

My take: McGriddle meets Nordic Waffle. I’m hesitant on the quality.


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