December 8, 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. 

Since the 2019 State Fair, the Fair hosted a couple Food Parades (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. I also provide a rating out of 5, with 5 being the best.

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.

* The Fair originally had 27 official new foods when they first announced this list in late June. Since then, one vendor with an official new food, Potato Man & Sweety, decided to pull out of the Fair, and the Fair added a few new vendors. So who knows how many new foods there are. Just know there’s plenty to eat.

To see publicity photos of the official 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: This was worth it. It was light and refreshing, and the sausage at Sausage Sister & Me is cooked well. It’s $8, which I thought was priced right. I got it with jalapeños, cilantro and added sauce, and I think it would have been a bit bland without it. 

4/5


Bison Bites

From Giggles Campfire Grill, in The North Woods

Note: not a full order.

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

My take: The food from Giggles is pretty good. You can’t go wrong with the walleye cakes or the duck wontons. The reviews for these ravioli were mixed with my group. They were stuffed quite full, which I enjoyed. They might have been a bit too plain. They definitely don’t beat the deep-fried ravioli at Vescio’s.

3/5


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. That’s definitely the case with this one. It’s not too sweet.

Insider scoop: Sara has an unofficial new food, a Brewpub Reuben hand pie, that mixes Utepils beer with ham, sausage, Swiss cheese, and kraut.

4/5


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: I adore The Blue Barn and just about everything they serve is phenomenal, but this just didn’t do it for me. So it’s pretty dense. Think like a scone like texture. I didn’t get donut. Then there are scraps of chicken inside the biscuit/scone/donut mix. Then there’s an oddly sweet buffalo icing on it. It was also $12.75 for two of these. You would want to share them if you got an order, but I don’t think you need to seek it out.

1/5


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: It’s definitely shareable. It’s good! Don’t pass over the Blue Moon. Their bread pudding is really good, too. And if you have a picky eater in your bunch, their woodfire pizzas are decent.

4/5


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: Yes. Yes. Yes. If you’re heading to the Fair before September 1, you need to get this whether you’re vegan or carnivore. I split an order with a friend and it was perfect. Two pops come to an order and I was plenty satisfied after one. They will ask you if you want “the green sauce”, to which you’ll say yes. At $8, it’s priced right. I would say this is one of the best new foods from 2021. Too bad it’s not available the entire State Fair.

5/5


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!” Pass.


Cucumber Jalapeño Limeade

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

TRYING 8/31…STAY TUNED!

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: Jason Matheson’s Betty & Earl’s biscuits, which are also available at Potluck in Rosedale Center, are definitely worth it. The berries were perfect and plentiful. It didn’t wow me, but it’s good.

3/5 


Esquites

At the Midtown Global Market booth, International Bazaar

EATING 9/1…STAY TUNED!

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: Sounds boring. 


Greek Stuffed Ravioli

From Dino’s Gyros, Carnes Avenue

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

My take: Hard pass. The outside of my ravioli wasn’t seasoned and the inside had too much bland filling. If you’re looking for ravioli, go to Vescio’s by the Grandstand.

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. 

1/5


UNOFFICIAL NEW FOOD: Horchata Milkshake

At the Midtown Global Market booth, International Bazaar

Soft serve flavored with cinnamon, vanilla, and toasted rice. Served with a fried churro.

My take: I liked it. I love milkshakes. I love horchata. I don’t think I would replace my trips to the Cattle Barn for this, but it’s good. It’s also $7, which is a bit on the high side for milkshakes, even in 2021.

4/5


Hummus Bowls

From Baba’s, by Little Farms Hands

Choose from a variety of hummus bowls, served with warmed pita bread.

My take: The owners of Baba’s are the adult children of the man who owns Mediterranean Cruise Cafe, a great restaurant off of Highway 13 in Burnsville. Their bright and beautiful truck is a safe spot for gluten free fairgoers (the pita bread is not GF). I tried the chili variety and liked it. It didn’t feel like a State Fair food, but if you’re inhaling Pronto Pups all day, this would be a nice change of pace. The bowls cost $10-12 and are shareable, although I wish it would have come with a bit more bread. You’ll find their hummus on shelves at 150 stores, in Lunds & Byerlys and Kowalskis. Sounds like the perfect alternative to Holy Land to me.

4/5


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: I opted to not eat the sundae but just try one of their donuts. I’m really happy about that decision. I’m sure this new food is fine, but the yeast raised donut is made right there at the Fair and it’s light, fluffy with the perfect dough to icing ratio. Bonus: the Fruity Pebbles donut offers for a fun Instagram experience.

5/5


Kerala Fried Chicken Kati Roll

From Hot Indian, Food Building

TRYING 8/31…STAY TUNED!

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 in the International Bazaar booth. I’m excited to see them get their own location.


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. However, I have heard these are passable, unless you are GF/vegan and you stopped by Mancini’s with a carnivore. I’m gonna pass.


UNOFFICIAL NEW FOOD: Love Me Tender

From LuLu’s Public House, West End Market

A Betty & Earl’s biscuit is sliced open and filled with a deep-fried chicken tender, scrambled eggs and cheese. It’s served with a honey Sriracha sauce on the side. 

My take: At $7, this is one of the best breakfast finds you’ll get at the State Fair. It’s really filling. You will want to share it. The sauce isn’t too spicy, but they serve it on the side in case that makes you cautious.

5/5


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: If I had to choose between trying this and the Doughscuit from The Blue Barn, I would go for this. Owner Charlie Torgerson smokes meat well, and the whole thing worked well. It was a bit small for the $10 I paid. Walk, don’t run.

4/5


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: Coming in at $9, the I-Scream is priced right and is definitely sharable. It wasn’t overly sweet. The chicken and macaroni waffle is $12. You’re gonna need a team to take that one on. They produce quality items at Nordic Waffles, and their expanded booth should allow you to get through the line faster. 

4/5


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: The only reason why you need to visit the Green Mill booth is if you have kiddos who are really picky eaters. This burger can’t even be classified as a Lucy since there wasn’t really molten cheese inside. It was basically a Italian seasoned patty inside some breading with a marinara sauce.

0/5


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: These are really, really good. I usually have a “no seafood at the State Fair” rule. Amber Atkins sums it up perfectly in Drop Dead Gorgeous. I heard these were good, and I wanted to support Duluth’s New Scenic Cafe, so I stopped by. The avocado is fresh, the slaw is crunchy, the tuna is delicious. You get two per order (note the photo above shows one taco). The only reason why I’m not giving it 5 stars is the price. $15 is steep for anything at the Fair.

4/5


Scorchin’ Ghost Pepper Bites

From LuLu’s Public House, West End Market

Cheese bites made with actual ghost peppers. They’re served with a horseradish and orange marmalade dipping sauce.

My take: I can handle spice and these definitely have some kick. It doesn’t hit you right away. But even if you can handle spice, they’re not worth it. They’re a bit soggy.

1/5


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. I’m good.


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. Let me know if you’ve tried them! 


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. Pass.


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