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State Fair 2010 Reviews!

14 hours and one giant blister later, I am home and ready to share.

Chicken Fried Bacon - Giggles: Bacon is a breakfast food, right? I was the proud recipient of one of the first two orders, and I think this one has staying power. It's like the best chicken strip you've ever had. The key to this sort of dish getting the balance right between the batter and meat. They nailed it in this regard, and the cinnamon sauce that came with it was perfect. And it wasn't even greasy! The portion we got (5-6 slices) was very generous, though I saw somewhat smaller plates later in the day.

Turtle Sundae Fudge Puppy - Fudge Puppies: Wife loved this. I was hoping for it to be warmer, since we ordered it at 7:45 in the morning, and I thought the caramel sauce tasted artificial and cloying, rather than teasing out the salty notes in the waffle. I also thought $5 was a bit much for the portion.

Korean BBQ Tacos - Blue Moon Drive-In: The drive in had always intrigued me generally, as have Korean BBQ tacos. For starters, the advertised short rib and pork tacos was not available. We went with the chicken. It more or less tasted like a competent, tangy chicken taco. I was missing the complexity I would assume makes these so popular.

Jerk Chicken Roti - Harry Singh's: After hearing a customer ask for some hot sauce because there wasn't enough flavor, I decided to ask for some on the side for dipping. I was glad for the extra kick, but the plate is plenty flavorful, if savory and subtle. The bread held up very well to the nutty sauce, but you'll still want to find a table. Eating while sitting on a retaining wall under the noon sun might was not the best idea, but for $5, this would be a filling lunch for any sane person.

Honey Sunflower Ice Cream Sundae - Ag Building: If you haven't had this (and I hadn't) you must. I've had ice cream just about every which way at the fair, and this is the best I've had. The cream is a sort of dense and nougat-like, and the honey itself really shines. Mind the wait during peak hours (we waited 20 minutes for ours), but by all means endure it.

Deep Fried Bologna on a stick - Netterfield Food Court: It took us some time to find Netterfield Court. It is a "courtyard" forged of a coalition of those saccharine-colored trailers that populate the culinary ghettos near the tractors and the kids midway. This is more or less a corn dog, though I like the way the meat seems to melt in your mouth. If corn dogs and the idea of bologna melting in your mouth are unsettling to you, stay away.

Pigs Ears - Famous Dave's: Not at all what I expected. These were fried with a peppery breading, with a final product resembling clam strips in taste and texture (albeit with more inconsistency from piece to piece). I applaud them for making pigs ears into something relatable, but aside from the novelty, I'm not sure why you'd order it. The piquant BBQ sauce was an arbitrary pairing.

Cheese Curds - Mouth Trap: We went with the Mouth Trap, vs. the Original. These seemed a bit lighter on their feet, which I appreciated. Otherwise, you know what cheese curds taste like.

Sweet Potato Tots - O'Garas: A nice concept with flawed execution. Ours was a mix of perfectly fried and undercooked tots, that latter of which fell apart (evoking memories of high school lunch). There also isn't a dipping sauce. It could have benefited from one of those ubiquitous aioli/chipotle mayo scenarios.

Funnel Cakes - Food Building: I appreciate the simplicity of the funnel cake. We scored a coupon from a friend, and got these for $3. That's a bargain.

Uffda Brat - Sausage Sister and Me: I ordered "the works", which included mashed potatoes and sauerkraut wrapped in the lefse. Everything was pretty good except for the lefse itself, which was dry and floury. What happened there? The lingonberry sauce would have been apropos of the plain version, but was easy to ignore.

Thomasinas Cashew Brittle - One of the Expo Buildings: Everything I love about peanut brittle, minus everything I hate about peanut brittle (namely, the peanuts). Kinda pricy at $2 a bar, but delicious.

Also, unless I missed something, the MN countryside stand with all the funky sodas did not return.

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  1. My jerk chicken roti was perfect.

    I tried the deep fried mashed potatoes with bacon and cheddar on a stick--really disappointing, no bacon or cheese flavor. The sweet potato fries from the same stand were too sweet and totally limp.

    We tried but couldn't get anywhere near the wild rice burgers in the food building--go early!

    Footlongs and Pronto Pups were classically great.

    Strawberry scone from French Meadows was delectable.

    Good (different) lemonade at Holyland in the International area.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Haricotsv2

      Waaaaah! Did not want to read that about the deep fried 'taters on a stick. Big bummer.

    2. Elk burger at Giggles was very good. Nice condiments shack and tent shaded picnic tables. Most inviting food sighting of the day was at Giggles, foot long walleye sandwich. It looked incredible!

      1. We stopped at Giggles Campfire Grill and had the deep-fried Boat Load of Sunnies with lingonberry dipping sauce and the deep-fried Walleye Fries with a herb-lemon tartar sauce.

        1. Here are the photos of a Boat Load of Sunnies and the Walleye Fries.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Davydd

            How much did these cost? My mom is a Sunny nut.

            1. re: semanticantics

              Both the Sunnies and the Walleye Fries were $7.50. Both were pretty generous helpings too.

          2. I know this seems like a major fair buzzkill, but....

            Does anyone know of what local/sustainable meat choices are available at the fair? I swore off factory farmed meat in 2010 and am wondering what my choices are for meat this year.... otherwise it will just be carbs and sweets for me (not so bad either)!

            4 Replies
            1. re: mtullius

              How about the sunnies at Giggle's? Can you factory-farm sunnies? Yeah, probably... the mere thought is depressing.

              Donna's Bar-B-Q (by the cow barn?) sells "organic brats". I'm not sure what this means in terms of factory farmed meat, but it might just possibly be something you can eat. I had one a few years ago, and it was very nice.

              You could talk to the nice folks at Holy Land Deli about their meat. I know it's halal, but I don't know if that means less "factory" in the farming or not.

              Oh, wait - I know!!! The Lamb Shoppe in the Food building. They're a small, family-run "lambery" in Hutchinson, MN, that sells meat to the Wedge. Check out the Wedge's info on the Lamb Shoppe:


              1. re: AnneInMpls

                Thanks Anne! I will check out the organic brats. I should have mentioned that I don't eat fish (just a taste preference), so I won't be checking out the sunnies! It's not a big deal-- there are plenty of non-meat yummy things at the Fair, and one can easily make a meal out of them... cheese curds.... mini-donuts... honey ice cream..... (this will work until/unless I decide to cut out factory farmed dairy...)

                But it is kinda sad to not have any sort of meat on a stick, whether pronto pup or otherwise....

                1. re: mtullius

                  The Lamb Shoppe has leg-of-lamb on a stick....

                2. re: AnneInMpls

                  Had the lamb on a stick from Lamb Shoppe last night at it was very good. Local, grass fed and delicious!

              2. The first of at least 3 trips to the fair (yay!) this afternoon. I only had a few hours, so I was not very adventurous.

                1) About a foot long hot dog, with grilled onions and mustard from the crank mustard machine, near the haunted house. Always my first stop, and I swear every year they make the buns a little smaller so you think you are getting better value. Generous with the onions, and I got a well-grilled snappy dog that was super.

                2) Cheese curds, from the food building. More than adequate, but I still say the mouse trap ones are better. It must be that the oil holds up better somehow.

                3) Big fat bacon, from the Big Fat Bacon stand across from Channel 4. I had not tried this in previous years due to perceived low value of a $3 slice of bacon. Well, lets be honest, there are not a ton of value-laden choices at the fair, but I do adjust my expectations and I STILL have a tough time with this one when I could buy half a pound of really good bacon and have it on a Saturday morning. That said, this was as advertised -- a big piece of very good bacon. I tried the orange chipoltle sauce on a bit and could take it or leave it. I'm not feeling like I need to try it again, but I did not feel ripped off in the least.

                4) Ghost wings, from the Wings and Things stand in the Hippodrome. I was glad to see you could get an order of 3 wings for $3.50, as I do like my wings hot but wanted to try a smaller portion due to the hype. Got three drummies, so score for me! They smell spicy, but how much hotter than Runyons too hot sauce could they really be?

                Ohhhhhhh.....myyyyyyyyyyyy. Ok, these things are REALLY hot. Not at first, but the heat build is unreal. My lips nearly went numb. I tried to finish the first one towards the back of my tongue, only to have that fire up about 4 minutes later. Call me a wimp if you want, but I was in the middle of my second drummie when I gave up and threw the other 1.5 pieces away. Now I know why the contest is finish 5 full wings in 7 minutes to get your picture up on the wall. I'm glad I tried them, but this was not an enjoyable wing for me.

                5) Milk booth! Thank the state fair gods the all-you-can-drink milk booth was near the exit to the Colosseum. I don't know if dairy is right or wrong after extremely spicy food. I just knew they would keep filling my cup and the lines were pretty short. An easy 5 glasses later (so what, about 1/2 a gallon) of pure cold white milk, I was feeling like I could see again. Yay milk!

                6) Pickle dog, from the pickle dog stand near the midway. Disappointed in the ever smaller pickle size. I still like the flavor combo, but I think I'll just make these at home and forgo this decreasing value treat.

                That was all for today. Lots more sampling to do next week.

                6 Replies
                1. re: Lincster

                  Great review. Will be watching for more posts.

                  And thanks to our other SF posters as well.

                    1. re: green56

                      That's where the horse show is held.

                      1. re: KTFoley

                        Ah! The [Warner] Coliseum! Gotcha!

                        1. re: green56

                          Sorry! I always loved the name hippodrome, though I saw on the historical marker that it has been the coliseum (and now the Warner Coliseum) for many more years than I remember. My parents always called it the hippodrome, so I've stuck with it.

                    2. re: Lincster

                      Lovely report! I'm thoroughly enjoying all of the state fair reviews and am that much more excited to go this Thursday!

                      As for the milk and hot food, the milk is the perfect thing to drink after the spicy food (so glad you took advantage of the all you can drink milk booth!). It neutralizes and helps block the Capsaicin's receptors (Capsaicin is the chemical that puts your mouth on fire.).

                      I love hot wings and I love good, fresh milk. You might have something there, and I may just have to replicate your actions...

                    3. Crack me up! So true about specific vendors. For cheese curds, only the place on Dan Patch and oly the french fries in the red and yellow cups.

                      I grew up in I'LL and we didn't eat when going to the Fair. We did the Drum and Bugle Corps and that was about it. MN is, I think, special with its love of their Fair and the people who are so passionate about the food. Not that I am familiar with many states' fairs. But years ago I was told the Dan Patch cheese curds are the best and I've never tried any others. Maybe to my loss. But, that's the way it is.

                      Does anyone know? Did the fried dill people folk move out of the food building and up towards Heritage Square, or is that a new fried dill pickle joint?

                      I had the fried oysters many years ago. They were okay. Fried oysters. Not screaming delish like my beloved fried dill pickles, but good. We're talking place just to the east of the poultry/rabbit barn, close to the giant green pepper that looks like a huge tooth?

                      1. I love honey and get the ice cream every year. DID NOT know about the lemonade! Thanks for the heads-up!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: green56

                          we always have to have the honey ice cream sundae. tho good this year, we were disappointed because there was so much ice cream that we hardly got any honey so the proportion was just wrong. so went to the older man of the bunch and asked for a little more honey after we ate most of it and he gave us the tiniest squiggle of honey. not to complain about too much ice cream, but the honey topping is a big part of the pleasure of the sundae and we missed that this time.

                          other favorites from our sampling this year that we enjoyed were the breakfast burrito at tejas. they offer a free cup of coffee if you get it before 11 am. a great value: the burrito was like a delicious denver sandwich in a wrap and the coffee was quite good.

                          the corn dog at the elk burger place in the food building was delicious and also a great value to boot. it had wild rice in the middle and the coating was wonderfully crisp and corn bready. my favorite corn dog thus far.

                          and that $1 cup of 1919 root beer was perfect. the young girl serving it filled it to the top and her big brother said "don't fill it so full", but i reaped the benefit of a big luscious cup of thirst quenching root beer.

                        2. +1 on the chicken fried bacon. Honestly, other than the milkshakes at the cow barn run by the U, the chicken fried bacon was probably the best fair food I've had ever (granted, I've only been going to the fair for 8 years). Kevin 47's review was spot on - the ratio of batter to bacon was perfect. The bacon itself wasn't fatty, it was thick-ish, and the sauce was a perfect accompaniment. Every once in a while, there's something that sounds odd, but turns out to be a total winner. It's rare. This is one of them.

                          1. The two highlights for me from my visit to the fair were both ice cream based (although the preference for ice cream may have been influenced by the weather...):

                            Ruby Red Ice Cream - Ag/Hort Building - made with raspberries and MN grown dessert wine by Izzy's ($3/scoop).

                            Peaches and Cream Parfait - Salty Tart between Ag/Hort Building and International Bazaar - soft serve frozen greek yogurt, peaches and gingersnaps. Delicious, but a bit expensive at $7.

                            Salty Tart
                            920 E Lake St Ste 158, Minneapolis, MN 55407

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: LauraB

                              I sampled that Ruby Red ice cream at Izzy's the other day. Wow! Lovely stuff. They told me that an entire bottle of wine (or was it two?) goes into each batch. I guess there's a reason why this stuff is for adults only.

                              And I've heard so many recommendations for Salty Tart's Peaches and Cream parfait that it's tops on my list to try when I finally get to the fair. Hang the cost - I'm all about delighting my tastebuds regardless of the price.

                              1. re: AnneInMpls

                                I don't post here often, but I just wanted to thank whomever made the recommendation for the Lingonberry Float. (the original post was in another thread) Wow! This is now on my must-have-every-year list. The Mediterranean Lemonade from Holy Land was also very refreshing on a very hot afternoon.

                                I personally did not care for the chicken fried bacon. The dipping sauce was a nice counterpoint to the bacon, but I thought the breading was too heavy and the bacon was dried out. A waste of calories and stomach space.

                                1. re: MaryI

                                  Maryl, you sold me and I want to try the float. Where did you get it?

                                  1. re: linfr21

                                    How to find that wonderful Lingonberry float:

                                    1. Go to the Bee-and-honey section of the Ag Building (which you should do anyway, to sample some honey and say hi to the bees).

                                    2. Then look towards the Grandstand. With any luck, you'll see a Rainbow Ice Cream stand on the nearest corner. This is the only (?) Rainbow Ice Cream Stand that has the elusive lingonberry ice cream and floats.

                                    3. Run towards this stand with your $$$ in hand. (The float is expensive but worth it.)

                            2. I made my first (hopefully not last) venture on Friday night. The weather was nice and the people watching was stellar, as always.

                              Taking the park and ride as I usually do, I went through the front gates and headed straight to the 'About a Foot Long' stand. One with fried onions and mustard...just what I needed. Further down the main drag, cheese curds were my next victim. Those were also right where they need to be. Maybe a little mushy, but I don't care to wait at the mouth trap location. From there, it was over to Giggles where my friend had to get the bacon. I thought it was good, but it didn't knock my socks off. We had to get to the concert so I really didn't get to enjoy anything after that, which is why I feel so incomplete.

                              My next stop shall include:

                              -Ice cream
                              -Turkey sandwich and/or gizmo
                              -Something from the Bazaar

                              I must be forgetting an item or two, but I'll scan this thread for ideas.

                              1. Volunteered Sun for The U, and damn near died. I am too old and smoked and drank too much to be in 94 degree temps with the humanity in the high 60s. Too much like Saint Louiy.

                                But, got my fried dill pickles. They have gotten all growed up and now have their own spot at the corner of Ligget and Dan Patch.

                                The pickle slices are thinner, the cream cheese less. All you get is the taaste of the breading (ick) and ranch dressing.

                                My heart is broken. They are nothing to search out and have any longer. Just tasteless.

                                I will let them know my feelings when next I go. I am really disappointed.

                                Could not eat anything else as 3 elephants were sitting on my chest and I couldn't breathe. Did have a cuppa'milk, and have saved me cup for the next venture when ittiz Cooler.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: green56

                                  I'm confused, no more fried pickles in the food building?

                                  1. re: debbie421

                                    Nope. They moved to west of the Grandstand, on the SW corner of Dan Patch and Liggi
                                    Ett. They have their own building - bright green. You can't miss it.

                                2. I think that Harry Singh's is a hidden gem! I split the Jerk chicken with my husband, but I'm going to get the veggie all to myself on my next trip!!

                                  Also loved the corn fritters at the Fried Green Tomatoes booth!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: MayrMN

                                    mmmm. I liked the chicken roti at Harry Singh's last year but am trying to cut down on my meat consumption. What's in the veggie one, exactly? Or approximately? Just trying to get a sense of it before we go sometime soon (Wednesday?)- trying to avoid the heat.

                                  2. Here's my 2 cents.

                                    Jerk chicken roti: I thought this was just okay. It was pretty spicy, and not all that exciting. Wouldn't get it again.

                                    Honey lemonade: no longer the greatest bargain at the fair as they doubled the price to $2. It's still delicious though.

                                    Peaches and cream from Salty Tart: expensive but delicious, like others have noted.

                                    Jerk pork chop from West Indies Soul: jerk sauce was very tasty, but preferred the chop from the Chicken and Chops booth.

                                    Dole Whip: always refreshing on a hot day.

                                    Salem Lutheran Church breakfast: sausage and bacon were very tasty, pancakes would have been very good if they weren't slightly undercooked in the middle. Has anyone had the pie or cinnamon rolls here? Are they any good?

                                    1919 Root Beer: It's good, but it doesn't taste particularly unusual...a standard root beer.

                                    West Indies Soul Cafe
                                    625 University Ave W, St Paul, MN 55104

                                    Salty Tart
                                    920 E Lake St Ste 158, Minneapolis, MN 55407

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: Quince

                                      i always seem compelled to get the tiny dixie cup of eggshell coffee from the salem lutherans for $1-- then i'm always like: "sk, you dumbass, you're sweating your balls off and trying to drink a scalding hot cup of coffee and walk without tripping and juggle your giggles basket all at the same time, and if you see anything else yummy looking, you won't be able to get it because you're all out of hands." but i suppose it's one of those things a girl's gotta do.

                                      1. re: soupkitten

                                        Somebody once told me that a hot cup of coffee is more 'cooling' than a cold glass of milk. Something about calories and fat I suppose.

                                        1. re: John E.

                                          interesting! well, even with my post above, i wound up skipping the eggshell coffee this year, i had cold press from the farmer's union instead. maybe i'm getting smarter. or maybe the honey and cream i added to the cold press negated the cooling effects. anyhoo :-P

                                    2. Can anyone tell me where the Turkey Sandwich spices come from? I keep asking when I get one, but the high school girls behind the counter give me blank stares every time.

                                      Had the Peaches and Cream from the Salty Tart/Midtown Global Market stand, and it was pretty tasty, although my ice cream turned into soup in a matter of minutes. Hope they keep doing that one.

                                      1. The apple dumpling we had yesterday was fabulous!

                                        1. More photos.

                                          The Big Fat Bacon from the stand in front of the DNR Building

                                          Fried Pickles

                                          Giggles Chicken Fried Bacon

                                          Mouth Trap Cheese Curds from the Food Building

                                          Chicago Style Hot Dog in the Food Court

                                          1. Am I the only one who tried the Deep Fried Cheeseburger from Axel's or the only one who like it? I thought it was delicious, and a bargain at only $3. Then again, it was the first think I had when I got there and I was pretty hungry. I'd order it again though. Yum.

                                            1. I thought I'd throw this out there since I rarely see it, but I think it is one of the best things going at the fair: Demetri's Greek Food.

                                              The stand is right by the Giant Slide, toward the Grandstand and if you are hungry, you can't beat their gyro. It's chock full of lamb, lettuce, and slathered with a fantastic tzatziki sauce. Without a doubt, it's the best gyro I've had in Minnesota and almost stands up to the Doner Kebabs/Shawarmas I've had overseas. With the evolution of street food here in town, this is one you don't want to miss. Consider grabbing one of these, wandering over to the beer garden a block away, and adding an order of Garlic Fries and a cold beer. You'd be having a meal that would make any TV Food personality awfully jealous.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Db Cooper

                                                Second. I had a few bites of a friend's gyro and it was excellent. The portion is pretty huge too.

                                                1. re: Db Cooper

                                                  Interesting! I don't think I've had a good gyro in Minnesota. I'm going to add this to my list of things to try, even though it's meat. Mostly my list so far just includes dessert type items...not that that's a BAD thing... Thanks for the recommendation.

                                                2. Had the apple cider float ( Kristian Regal sparkling cider and cinnamon ice cream) at the apple focused booth along side the grandstand. Awesome. Refreshing.

                                                  Agree with liking the corn fritters at the Green Fried Tomatoes booth.

                                                  Thanks for the tip on Giggles. had the chicken fried bacon and the walley cakes. Very good.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: type2runner

                                                    Hey Type Runner,

                                                    I love apples. Where exactly is this apple focused boooth?

                                                    1. re: linfr21

                                                      I am not exactly sure about the booth mentioned above, but there is an apple exhibit/food stand in the Ag/Hort building that sells apples (for 75c), cider, cider freezes and applesauce. I tried the cider freeze ($1) and found it very refreshing.

                                                      1. re: linfr21

                                                        along side the grandstand, pretty much under the walkway that goes to the second level.
                                                        I think the awnings are pink striped (I think)

                                                    2. Got the Roasted Corn and Bacon Pizza from Blue Moon Diner. Huge portion at $5. Nice crispy crust.

                                                      1. We made our annual trip to the Fair and had some old favorites, and some new food adventures. Here's my take on what we tried:

                                                        -Lingonberry Lefse near the Mouth Trap. My first lefse experience. Pretty good-- a heavier and potatoier crepe, or so it seemed to me. Would have been better if it had been hot/fresh.

                                                        -Cheese curds from the Mouth Trap. Delicious, as always. We like the Dan Patch ones too; did a side by side tasting last year and found that each had its strengths.

                                                        -Peaches and Cream from the Salty Tart. Wow. Everyone who has raved about this is right on. The frozen yogurt is delightfully tart, the peaches are great, and bits of cookie are very tasty. A really lovely treat.

                                                        -Ruby Red Ice Cream. A definite winner. Also had the apple cinnamon, which was not as extraordinary, though fine too. So much wine flavor.....

                                                        -Honey Ice Cream. A major disappointment. To each his own, but for our taste, the quality of the ice cream was distinctly subpar (especially compared to the Izzy's we got at just about the same time), there was little to no honey flavor, and the portion size is just ridiculously huge. Most of it ended up in the trash.

                                                        -Honey Lemonade. This got a thumbs up.

                                                        -Corn Fritters and Fried Green Tomatoes. Fritters were relatively light and tasty. Tomatoes were appropriately tart and very hot. Pretty good.

                                                        -Cream Puff. Quite tasty, though awfully messy. Seemed very fresh.

                                                        My wife had the gyro from Demetri's and was impressed. But I'll let her report....

                                                        Salty Tart
                                                        920 E Lake St Ste 158, Minneapolis, MN 55407

                                                        8 Replies
                                                        1. re: mtullius

                                                          whoops. sounds like you just got honey ice cream.

                                                          the correct order is "honey sundae, please."

                                                          if you don't get the fresh honey lacquer on top of the honey/sunflower ice cream, it's only a little more exciting than the scoop of vanilla sans the hot fudge.

                                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                                            I hear you, soupkitten, and we did consider the sundae. But the ice cream should still stand on its own, shouldn't it? I mean, there's a big difference between a sundae made with, say, lousy generic store brand vanilla vs. one made with Izzy's or some other great vanilla, no?

                                                            I was expecting the honey sunflower ice cream to be something special on its own, too. And to me, at least, it was most certainly not.

                                                            1. re: mtullius

                                                              The ice cream is Kemps, so, you're right, it's not the same quality as Izzy's. And I absolutely agree that the portion is too dang large, even to share between two people. I wish they'd cut the portion and the price.

                                                              However, I think the taste of the honey comes through loud and clear, even without the extra honey topping.

                                                              Incidentally, I tried the honey chocolate nut ice cream this year from the same stand. It's a "don't bother" as far as I'm concerned.


                                                              1. re: mtullius

                                                                mtullius, I posted the same thing re: the honey sunflower ice cream last year. No discernable honey flavor at all. Just tasted like a huge mound of low-grade vanilla ice cream. I pawned it off on my then-7-year-old-very-chowhound-son who ate a couple bites and threw the rest away.

                                                                I felt like the lone dissenter, so thanks.

                                                                Thank goodness for my volunteer gig and a new, fancy camera. After 20 years, I've completely lost interest in Fair food. I don't really care for concerts after getting my eardrums practically blown out at one 2-3 years ago (and I'm not even an old fart yet). I had almost stopped going to the Fair altogether, but my new hobbies saved the day.

                                                                My reviews consist of the tried-and-true: Pork chop on a stick (great), cheese curds from Food Building (great), ear of corn (great), lemonade (good), few of my wife's fries (eh), and a couple cookies from the family's cone from Sweet Martha's (great).

                                                                1. re: MSPD

                                                                  Dissent is good. It keeps us from devolving into group-think. Plus, usually if there's one dissenting voice, there's another out there who's been feeling too shy to speak up.

                                                                  I feel the same way about the corn fritters everyone raves as you do about the honey sunflower ice cream. I don't get it. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4340...

                                                                  Thankfully, there's something for everyone at the Fair!


                                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                    After loving the corn fritters initially, I've been disappointed in them the past two years. Seems to me that the dough got heavier, and the corn less fresh and abundant. This year's were particularly meh. Doughy, very little corn, and what corn there was tasted and felt shriveled. I ate one and threw away the rest. Next year I think I'll pass them up entirely. Fortunately, the fried green tomotoes were still great.

                                                                    1. re: clepro

                                                                      Oh, it's sad when an old favorite disappoints. I wonder what's changed with th fritters? First rule of State Fair vending: it's okay to add to the menu, but never okay to substract or tweak.


                                                                  2. re: MSPD

                                                                    By the way, perhaps one part of why we were dissatisfied with the honey ice cream is that we were mentally comparing it to Pumphouse Creamery's honey ice cream. If you're into the honey ice cream thing, you owe it to yourself to get over there and try some of that stuff.... Talk about tasting like honey! Now if we can just get Barb to make some with sunflower seeds....

                                                                    Pumphouse Creamery
                                                                    4754 Chicago Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55407

                                                            2. My second visit to the fair yesterday allowed for more exploration. Yes...it is a lot of food to try, but I really was there all day and walking! Therefore, I get magical state fair credit on the fat gram and calorie meters!

                                                              1) About a foot long hot dog, from the About a Foot Long Hot Dog stand near the adventureland park (across from the saloon with the orange chairs that has been there since the beginning of time. As always, my breakfast, I declare this stand to be inferior to the AAFLHD stand near the haunted house. I had to ask for extra onions (which were given with a sneer), and the dog did not have the snap of my one last week. Maybe its the elevation.

                                                              2) Pancho dog, from the Pancho Dog stand just down from the dairy building and near the pork chop on a stick stand. I have been a life-long devotee to the pronto pup. As a wiener dun in a bun, it has been my banquet on a stick for many years. However, I have felt the tug of a more flavorful coating, and so this year I chose to go to the dark side.

                                                              I can report a few things to those that are undecided: First, we have a price difference of $3.75 to $3 in favor of Pancho (don't even get me started with the papa pup). Second, I will judge the Pancho dog to be superior both in batter and, at least in my memory, in hot dog quality. Third, I do appreciate the smear of mustard offered by the Pronto Pup folk. It distributes the mustard better than the very pedestrian bottles of French yellow mustard that were available for use. I've become a convert! Don't hate me Pronto Pup gods....I will be back for a banquet someday!

                                                              3) Camel on a stick, from the Safari stand in the back of the International Bazaar (pics attached). Boy has the Bazaar cleaned up its look or what? I swear they used to TRY to make it look like the Minnesotan version of a 2nd world street market. This is much nicer. In any case, this is one of the new food items at the fair -- a $5 hunk of roasted camel meat, with a choice of mild or spicy sauce. I chose the spicy sauce, which was not very hot but had some interesting flavors that my palate could not identify. A reasonable hunk of meat with sauce, on a stick, is what you got.

                                                              In any case, if you are a big llama fan, you will be a fan of camel on a stick. It won't meet the standards that we all still share of the great Delicious Dromedaries restaurant on Nicollet in the early 80s. I really do prefer alpaca to camel, but with the right malbec, preferably from more southern regions, I can see camel becoming a staple again on some menus.

                                                              [The preceding paragraph was written in jest. Of course I prefer llama to alpaca -- who doesn't! The camel was actually sort of interesting, not tough at all and just a bit gamy. I don't have to have it again, and would like to try the mango on a stick from the same stand. All-in-all, worth trying!].

                                                              4) Wine ice cream, from the wine vendors display in the horticulture building (pics attached). I didn't try any of the wine, so I'm hoping someone can tell us if MN wine has improved at all. 10 years ago it was pretty undrinkable. For the ice cream, it is made by Izzy's and is only available to 21+ patrons. Three flavors -- apple cinnamon, chocolate raspberry, or ruby red -- and all made with a different Minnesotan wine which my picture resolution won't let me read. $3 for a healthy single scoop in a cup, or $5 for two scoops. I like Izzy's so it is not a surprise I would like the ice cream here -- very smooth. I had the apple cinnamon, and while my palate could not discern the wine, I'm sure others can. It was very good ice cream for $3 regardless.

                                                              5) Chicken fried bacon, from the Giggles stand up on machinery hill (pic attached). After my first try at big fat bacon last week, I thought I should certainly have the bacon-off and try the new sensation. $5.50 gets you 5-6 good sized strips of bacon in a light batter, along with a sweet-ish dipping sauce. I felt the bacon flavor got lost in the batter, and I didn't care for the sweetness of the sauce. However, there is clearly more value in the Giggles bacon than in Big Fat Bacon. That said, I am going to Big Fat Bacon for my fair bacon needs in the future.

                                                              6) Cheese curds, from the "mouse hole" cheese curd stand, not in the food building (pic attached for those trying to find it). I again declare these curds superior to the stand in the food building. A little crisper, and the cheese just tastes better in my opinion. However, the cost here is $5.50. I thought the food building was $5?

                                                              7) Philly cheese steak sandwich from Andy's Grille, in between the Natural Resources building and the midway. The rain started to fall, so I popped into Andy's for a bit. At $6, I felt the concoction was a bit flavorless, with average bread and average fillings. The staff is very friendly and is trying hard. The sandwich needs something however. Not bad, just not how I would choose to use limited resources (budget and stomach volume).

                                                              8) Bucket of chocolate chip cookies, from the Sweet Martha Cookies booth up the hill near WCCO radio. I mention them only to document that the overflowing bucket of cookies is now up to $15. I would have passed but for a plea from the lovely bride to bring some home. Still a very reasonable late night treat when warm, but honestly I don't even need a $5 small cone full to satisfy me.

                                                              I get to go one more time, but unless I find something truly extraordinary I have given to the hound community all that I know.

                                                              PS -- sorry for the upside down pics. I don't know how to fix that.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: Lincster

                                                                My last addition for the year will be the fried smelt, at the Walleye on a Stick stand in the food building. $5 for a "boat" of approximately 15 nicely fried smelt . I put a little salt, pepper, and malt vinegar on them and they were top top notch. Definitely recommended!

                                                              2. Just like I don't 'get' paying $3 for a single ear of corn at the fair. I don't get the ice cream with the honey and sunflower seeds on it. I had it at the fair once years ago and now occasionally we'll do it at home. Isn't it simply vanilla ice cream with honey poured on it with sunflower seeds sprinkled on top? What's to rave about? To me that would be like buying a bag of potato chips at the fair.

                                                                6 Replies
                                                                1. re: John E.

                                                                  ok, I'll chime in on the sunflower honey ice cream topic, I also thought people were raving about simply the ice cream and found it pretty blah. But I disagree with John E., in that I would say if you had some quality vanilla ice cream, like Haagen Dasz or Ben&Jerry's, and some good honey to drizzle over it, it would be fabulous. I am also old enough to remember Haagen Dasz Honey Ice cream (was that in the 70's or 80's?) that was quite good and in which you could taste the honey.

                                                                  1. re: faith

                                                                    You said you disagree with me and then you wrote some words that agreed with me? My point was that you can put honey on ice cream at home with some sunflower seeds, why pay for it at the fair? You said something about putting honey on Haagen Dazs or Ben Jerry's. How is that different from what I wrote?

                                                                  2. re: John E.

                                                                    " Isn't it simply vanilla ice cream with honey poured on it with sunflower seeds sprinkled on top?"

                                                                    No, not all all. It's ice cream sweetened with honey instead of with sugar. (Kemps makes it specifically for the honey association for the fair). The sunflower seeds are actually mixed into the ice cream, not just dumped on top. Otherwise, a cone of the honey sunflower seed ice cream would be pointless.

                                                                    If you order the SUNDAE it also has honey poured over the top, which I think is great for about four bites, then I'm done for the year, as it's too rich for me to have more. I do taste the distinct flavor of honey in the ice cream itself, even when I order just a cone.

                                                                    Here's a recipe for honey sunflower ice cream I'm going to try one of these days. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3241... Not that this is necessarily the recipe they use for the ice cream at the fair, but I'm linking to point out the absence of any sweetener other than honey. They also sell a version of the honey sunflower seed ice cream occasionally at the UofM Dairy Lab. Get it when you can! That is, if you're a person who prefers the taste of honey to sugar (which I am).


                                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                      Oh, I guess it's been too many years since I had the 'honey sundae' because when I had it, it was simply vanilla ice cream, honey and sunflower seeds.

                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                          I don't care if it was made with Blue Bunny soft serve. It was delicious.

                                                                          FWIW, my wife and I were squabbling over the last few bites, so apparently the portions aren't too big for us.

                                                                  3. I managed to sneak in a visit to the fair today, and I'm grateful for all the tips.

                                                                    The good:

                                                                    Chickpea-filled doubles (is one a "double")? from Harry Singh's. Got some ginger beer, too - I thought it was too sweet, but it had a nice hint of ginger burn. My picky toddler niece loved it.

                                                                    Wild rice corn dog from the wild-rice burger place in the food building. Loved it! It was perfectly cooked and a bargain at $2.50. This is now my go-to place for corn dogs. Thanks, carolita, for the tip!

                                                                    Peaches & cream from Midtown Global Market. FABULOUS! The frozen yogurt was really sweet, but had a nice tang. And it was chock full of ripe peach slices. Yes, it's a bit pricy at $7, but it's big enough serve two very generously. Again, thanks for the great tip on this one!

                                                                    The beloved:

                                                                    Roasted corn. I wouldn't miss this for the world - it says "I'm at the fair!" to me. My corn never tastes as good. Of course, I don't use any butter on my corn at home...

                                                                    The meh:

                                                                    Side order of mashed potatoes and gravy at the Ephiphany Diner. I got something to be sociable, because my companions really wanted to "have an ephiphany" for dinner. Actually, the mushy blandness and extra-salty gravy was kinda nice on such a chilly day. I added about a tablespoon of black pepper to give it some flavor. My niece told me I'm weird. To shut her up, I let her drink the rest of my ginger beer. (Actually, that was because this sweet little thing kept yelling, "I want more beer!" In the Epiphany Diner. I was so proud...)

                                                                    Unfortunately, all that starch filled me up, and I didn't have any room to try the camel-on-a-stick. What are the odds that they'll have camel next year?


                                                                    1. K. Went yesterday, was with 5 others (including two small kids), so not as flexible in terms of "let's dash over here to get what my heart desires at this very moment."

                                                                      First had one slice of deep fried pickles. I thought they were pretty good - I had never had a deep fried pickle that had cream cheese inside before. It worked. Someone was disappointed that they had changed - I wish I'd tried them before! Still, as good as they were, one or two slices would have satisfied me just fine.

                                                                      Next, a few Tom Thumb mini donuts. They are superior to the others I've had at the fair. My children virtually inhaled them. That was the only reason I didn't have more than a few!

                                                                      Next, a lemonade from the joint across from the pet building. Huh? I think they forgot the lemons. It was pretty much sugar water with a few drops of lemons. Yuck.

                                                                      Next, a foot long from About A . . . Foot Long. Their dog has great snap. Their onions tend to be a bit underdone for me, and I wish they had relish available - I really prefer my dogs all pickled up.

                                                                      Next. Giggles. I ordered porcupine meatballs and the old man ordered the chicken fried bacon. I thought the meatballs were a pretty good deal (you get six and they're served on a bed of mashed potatoes, so it will fill you up for around $6), but I thought they tasted just okay. The sauce had some smoky flavor in it that didn't appeal to me - like smoked gouda maybe? The chicken fried bacon was just okay to me too - I agree with the poster who said the bacon flavor gets lost in the batter flavor. It wasn't bad, just didn't amaze me, which deep fried fat should (to make it worthwhile). I thought the dipping sauce was a must - some sweet to balance the salty.

                                                                      Next, a depth charge at the Farmer's Union, provided by J&S Bean Factory. They know their stuff. Nummy dark roast coffee and a shot of espresso. That was just what the doctor ordered on a cool fair day.

                                                                      Next, lemonade from Holy Land in the bazaar. I love that they serve their lemonade slurpee style with mint blended in. It's a tad on the sweet side for me, but was very refreshing.

                                                                      Next, a vanilla cream puff eaten while we bolted due to child melt-downs. It was great, as usual, although I would have preferred chocolate (the husband bought one for me while I wasn't looking and guessed wrong). The trick to eating these is to slide the top puff off the bottom, and smear half the whipped cream onto the top one while you do it. Then you eat each puff-part separately. That way the whipped cream doesn't squeeze out and fall all over you and your clothing. That's about 20 years' experience of eating cream puffs talking.

                                                                      J&S Bean Factory
                                                                      1518 Randolph Ave, St Paul, MN

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: diesel

                                                                        Thanks for your great review. Thought I was there with you.

                                                                      2. Don't forget the classic food served at the Ballpark Cafe. Awesome chicken, great burgers, garlic fries and the best mashed potatoes and gravy at the fair. The Theisen's do it right.

                                                                        Also, a shoutout to the Rajun Cajun. Ron makes some incredible jambalya.