By Eric Henderson


MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Just as summer hits and we’re all getting comfortable with our beach bodies, along comes the Minnesota State Fair to remind us of the Waterloo our guts are going to willingly lay down and die for.

Yes, it’s the announcement of the new fair foods for 2016. You can see the full slate of new items here.

Sure, not everyone was thrilled by the newest additions to the fair cuisine.

However, only a churlish cad would take a look at the forthcoming offerings and promise to pass on all of the above. Here are 10 items we are truly excited to sample and where you can find them.

(credit: Minnesota State Fair)

(credit: Minnesota State Fair)

Iron Range Meat & Potatoes

Description: A hearty portion of seasoned beef with a layer of cheddar cheese, topped with mashed potatoes, baked, and drizzled with a wild rice gravy.

Location: At Giggles’ Campfire Grill, located on the southeast corner of Lee Avenue and Cooper Street at The North Woods.

Why We’re Excited: Innovation isn’t exactly the flash point of this year’s freshman class, and in that sense, we embrace this dish’s willingness to stick to metaphorical meat-and-potatoes tradition. No wait, not metaphorical. Literal.

(credit: Minnesota State Fair)

(credit: Minnesota State Fair)

Paneer On A Spear

Description: Deep-fried Indian-seasoned paneer cheese coated with a local craft beer batter and served with tomato garlic chutney.

Location: At Hot Indian, located at the Midtown Global Market booth at the International Bazaar, east wall.

Why We’re Excited: You’ll often find the tastiest foods within the International Bazaar. It’s just a fact. The limited edition cachet — it’s only available from Aug. 31-Sept. 5 — just adds to the mystique. And paneer is manna for the palate.

(credit: Minnesota State Fair)

(credit: Minnesota State Fair)

Burnt Butt Ends

Description: Premium cuts of pork, seasoned with a BBQ rub, then smoked over oak and served with onions and jalapeños.

Location: At RC’s BBQ, located on the north side of West Dan Patch Avenue between Liggett and Chambers streets (former site of Famous Dave’s).

Why We’re Excited: Amid the pageant of carbs and fats, protein is the underrated savior of your State Fair dining experience. Of all the just-meat offerings, this seems to be the clear favorite. Plus it lets you order butt. It just rolls off the tongue.

(credit: Minnesota State Fair)

(credit: Minnesota State Fair)

SPAM Curds

Description: Cheese-flavored SPAM that has been cubed, battered and deep-fried, served with a side of ranch dressing.

Location: At SPAM, located east of Chambers Street, just south of the Grandstand.

Why We’re Excited: Choosing between the two SPAM-featuring items is a real Sophie’s Choice, no matter which side of the aisle you fall on regarding Hormel’s gelatinous magnum opus. The sushi intrigues, no doubt, but if truth be told, we’ve had SPAM sushi rolls at sushi restaurants for decades. Plus, this is the most promising spin on fair curds this year. (You’re cute, macaroni & cheese curds, but you’re not exactly rewriting the playbook there, are you?)

(credit: Minnesota State Fair)

(credit: Minnesota State Fair)

Deep Fried Nachos Supreme

Description: Pepper jack cheese cubes coated with a mixture of crushed seasoned tortilla chips and nacho cheese, then deep-fried, covered with taco meat, guacamole, more nacho cheese and sour cream, and served with jalapeños on the side. Also available traditional-style without the supreme toppings.

Location: At Texas Steak Out, located on the west side of Underwood Street between Lee and Randall avenues.

Why We’re Excited: This year’s slate wants a bit for deconstruction, experimentation and, as Jason DeRusha pointed out, whimsy. Using the base of your traditional nacho as the breading agent for deep fried cheese is one of the rare exceptions.

(credit: Minnesota State Fair)

(credit: Minnesota State Fair)

Candied Bacon BLT

Description: Crispy, thick candied bacon, rancher’s slaw and green tomato spread on a sweet egg bun.

Location: At The Blue Barn, located at West End Market, south of the History & Heritage Center.

Why We’re Excited: Much like the deep-fried nachos, here’s an item that digs into the simplest of recipes and rewires it. Slaw instead of plain lettuce, green tomato spread instead of drippy slices of heirloom, candied bacon instead of oven-crisped, and an egg bun instead of dried-out white toast. Consider us lined up.

(credit: Minnesota State Fair)

(credit: Minnesota State Fair)

Chocolate Agate Crunch

Description: Izzy’s® smooth chocolate Caramelia ice cream with chocolate cookie crumbles and edible chocolate rocks inspired by our state gemstone – the Lake Superior Agate, all folded with a salted caramel swirl.

Location: At Hamline Church Dining Hall, located on the north side of Dan Patch Avenue between Underwood and Cooper streets

Why We’re Excited: There are no fewer than eight frozen treats to sample this year and, let’s face it, if the mercury rises enough on your day at the fair, you’re going to be thrilled to try any one of them. But we’re putting our “cool and overcast” money on Izzy’s. Three levels of chocolate, one being edible rocks, sounds absolutely fine to us.

(credit: Minnesota State Fair)

(credit: Minnesota State Fair)

Carpe Diem

Description: A Taiyaki (fish-shaped) buttermilk miso waffle cone filled with balsamic-roasted strawberry compote and topped with vanilla ice cream, graham cracker crumble and a fresh strawberry.

Location: At The Rabbit Hole, located at the Midtown Global Market booth at the International Bazaar, east wall. (Available Aug. 25-30 only.)

Why We’re Excited: OK, we lied. We’re picking a second frozen treat. (For some reason, the State Fair’s press release lumped this into the main section and not with the rest of the frozen items.) The description (and location) makes it sound tasty as all get out, but then you add to that the spectacle of holding a golden fish in your hand? Irresistible.

(credit: Minnesota State Fair)

(credit: Minnesota State Fair)

Rustic Beef Pastry

Description: Moroccan-spiced, grass-fed beef and baby spinach topped with creamy goat cheese and nestled in a flakey butter crust.

Location: At French Meadow Bakery & Café, located on the north side of Carnes Avenue between Nelson and Underwood streets.

Why We’re Excited: At a certain point in the day, you just want to get the taste of deep-fried sugars out of your mouth. Most years, my go-to is the wild rice burger in the food building, but this year I’m going to take a chance on French Meadow’s mouth-wateringly savory offering. Spinach freshens up the whole bite, leaving the palate safe for any impending gastronomic gut bombs the rest of the day brings.

(credit: Minnesota State Fair)

(credit: Minnesota State Fair)

Bang Bang Fresh Chicken Tenders

Description: Lightly breaded, fresh, never-frozen fried chicken tenderloins served with Bang Bang sweet and tangy chili sauce.

Location: At LuLu’s Public House, located at West End Market, south of Schilling Amphitheater.

Why We’re Excited: We chose this one to sum up all the trends evident this year. One, it’s a shot of necessary protein. Two, it’s a highly traditional option that looks like it’s being done justice in lieu of flipping the script. Three, the never-frozen freshness is something that plays into the agricultural angle of the fair. Simple comfort food done well? That’s really the best you can hope for.

Eric Henderson

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