Never one to disappoint, the Minnesota State Fair rolled out 28 new foods for its 2014 run. While this is less than some years, it is still quite a number to tackle. So, for those looking to try the only ones that are worth their buck, and worth the walk to get there, here are my top picks for the best new foods at the Minnesota State Fair.
In no particular order…
While O’Gara’s owner, Dan O’Gara, said adamantly that he was not trying to compete with the iconic state fair cheese curds with his pretzel curd creation if there is one thing that can over take them, this may be it. “We’re not trying to compete with the cheese curd. We wanted to make [the pretzel curds] to make the beer taste better,” O’Gara said. Whatever the goal, they succeeded. Despite being deep-fried, the crunch of the pretzel is maintained and the cheese is incredibly gooey.
Tip: they provide a chipotle ranch which pairs great with the curd, but they also have a hot mustard for those looking for some spice.
Located at the Green Mill just west of the Family Fair Stage in Baldwin Park on Cooper Street.
Gluten-Free Beer-Battered Brat
I’m a gluten lover through and through, and I’m not all that crazy about brats, but I have noticed more and more people are dropping the grain-related protein for other options. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one. In attempts to be a bit friendlier to the gluten free fair goer, Sonny’s created a beer-battered brat that is gluten free. It was delicious. The batter was not too thick and was the perfect savory taste to compliment the brat. I highly recommend, even for those who dabble in gluten.
Located at Sonny’s inside the Food Building near Underwood Street.
Korean BBQ Collar with Kimchi Pickles
Many are familiar with Famous Dave’s and their ribs, but this menu is a one-of-a-kind fair treat. Senior Director of Culinary and Executive Chef for Famous Dave’s said he uses the state fair as his test kitchen. Well, in my opinion, he passed this one. The meat was so tender you could cut it with the plastic fork provided. The pickles were tangy with a soft kick, but not the typical kimchi spice. The soy sauce paired well with the garlic, lime and sesame flavors, complementing the collar. All-in-all, it’s a great, lighter option for fair goers as a serving includes four slices of meat.
Located at Famous Dave’s at the corner of West Dan Patch Avenue and Liggett Street.
Chicken in the Waffle
This was the item I had been most looking forward to, and the Blue Barn did not disappoint. Owner Stephanie Shimp said it took her nine years to get a spot at the state fair, and now that they’re here I hope they never leave. The waffle part of the dish is a sweet waffle cone filled with buffalo chicken bites that are draped in a blanket of gravy, topped with a garnish of cilantro. The heat from the chicken is balanced with the gravy and the sweetness of the cone. And while Shimp said this has been a popular item, when asked what the most popular item the first day had been, “Meatloaf.”
Honorary item: Blue Cheese & Corn Fritters
These were great for blue cheese lovers, but may be a bit overwhelming in flavor for those that prefer lighter flavors.
Located at the Blue Barn in the West End Market near Dan Patch Avenue and Liggett Street.
Without sounding as though the rest of the dish doesn’t make this a great treat, the real reason to try the SnoRibbons is the unique texture. It has the texture of an Fla-Vor-Ice pop, with the creaminess of ice cream and the melt-in-your-mouth quality of cotton candy. Combined with fresh fruit, a condensed milk syrup topping and pretzels for an added pop, these truly are a sight, and taste, to behold. “My husband is a mad scientist. I literally had to reign him in when it came to flavors,” owner Stephanie Olson said. There are two flavors offered every day, and never a repeat. Olson said that if the ribbons return, next years flavors will also be all new. Tip: While a hefty portion, Olson says it’s only about 140 calories.
Located at the Blue Moon Dine-In Theater on the corner of Chambers Street and Carnes Avenue.
Note: The jury is out on one very popular state fair item – the Breakfast Juicy Lucy. Located at Lulu’s Public House in the West End Market, they are no longer served after 10:30 a.m. While, I got there right on the dot, they had already sold out! So for those dying to try Minnesota’s newest juicy Lucy, be there early!