Late Summer’s humid grasp eventually allowed the first day of the Minnesota State Fair to fade gently, sweatily into night, but not before food and dining editor Steph March and mspmag.com editor Drew Wood ate, drank, and walked themselves into a new food/ drink stupor of epic proportions. They did it for you; eating every single new fair food so that you wouldn’t have to.
Using the State Fair’s New Foods for 2014 list as their guide (and their verbatim food descriptions below), they systematically ate all the food and, after sleeping off their food comas, put their thoughts into this handy new foods cheat sheet, with the highly-scientific rankings of GET IT, SKIP IT, and YOUR CALL. So print it off, put it in your fanny pack, and use it to go eat your face off with confidence.
Bacon-Wrapped Turkey Leg – A roasted turkey leg wrapped in a layer of bacon. At Texas Steak Out, located on Underwood Street north of Randall Avenue. Steph March: The ultimate primal snack. Meaty, smokey, and a huge fatty pain to eat. You have to be committed for this. YOUR CALL
Drew Wood: If you’ve got the chompers and wherewithal to gnaw your way through a sinewy, muscular turkey leg via a guardian layer of smoky bacon, more power to you. I did not. YOUR CALL
Beer Gelato – Made fresh daily on-site, this rich, smooth and creamy gelato is blended with local craft beer. At Manciniʼs Al Fresco, located on Carnes Avenue near Nelson Street. SM: It’s malty and rich, not too sweet, and more than just another vehicle for beer. Loved it! GET IT
DW: Made even more delicious by the fact that the beer they used is Summit Oatmeal Stout. GET IT
Bison Dog – Hickory-smoked, gluten-free, and made from naturally pasture-raised bison in River Falls, the Bison Dog can be served Chicago-style or with your choice of fixings on a gluten-free, poppy seed or plain bun. At Chicago Dogs, located in The Garden on the corner of Dan Patch Avenue and Underwood Street.
SM: It’s a good Chicago dog, but nothing that will redefine your world. YOUR CALL
DW: Not too familiar with what a bison dog’s texture should be but this one was definitely more beef stick than wiener. That said, it had solid flavor in an understated kinda way. GET IT
Blue Cheese & Corn Fritz – Four deep-fried corn fritters stuffed with crumbled blue cheese and served with a fresh herb chimichurri. At The Blue Barn* (New Food Vendor for 2014), located west of the Skyride at West End Market. SM: Crunchy on the outside, rich and moist on the inside, don’t skip the chimichurri dip. GET IT
DW: What Steph said . . . And, like any good Fair food perfect to share with the group so you can move on to your next conquest. GET IT
Breakfast Juicy LuLu – An English muffin with two American cheese-stuffed sausage patties – served until 11 a.m. At LuLuʼs Public House* (New Food Vendor for 2014), located next to Schilling Amphitheater at West End Market.
SM: Yes, breakfast sandwich lovers, you will be happy. GET IT
DW: If you’re going to get it, get it early . . . By the time I showed up at 9:45 a.m. on the first day of the Fair they were sold out. YOUR CALL
Caramel Apple Ice Cream – R&R Ice Creamʼs own tractor-churned vanilla ice cream infused with real caramel and diced Granny Smith apples – a blend of sweet and tart. At R&R Ice Cream, located on Randall Avenue at Underwood Street.
SM: Sure, nice, not bad. YOUR CALL
DW: You’ve got a finite amount of space in your stomach, so ask yourself, do you really want to waste it on something that’s just alright? YOUR CALL
Caribbean-Style Lobster Roll – Chilled lobster salad tossed in a citrus chipotle mayo seasoned with Caribbean flavors – including cayenne pepper, allspice and nutmeg – served on a soft buttered and grilled roll. At Café Caribe, located on Carnes Avenue near Chambers Street.
SM: A nice surprise! Great flavor, lots of lobster, perfectly toasted bread. GET IT
DW: This was the first thing I ate Thursday morning (so like at 8:30 a.m.), and it was still a super solid experience. GET IT
Chicken in the Waffle – This southern classic is crispy chicken nestled in a crunchy waffle cone, then smothered with a creamy sausage gravy. At The Blue Barn* (New Food Vendor for 2014), located west of the Skyride at West End Market.
SM: The cone is a nice way to hold your spicy fried chicken and saucy gravy. GET IT
DW: One of those things that sounds like a gimmick but actually makes perfect sense in its execution. All chicken and waffles should be served this way. And, yeah, the spice on that chicken was perfection. GET IT
Chilaquiles – Corn tortilla chips covered in chili verde sauce with chicken then topped with eggs and garnished with lettuce, tomato and sour cream – served until 10:30 a.m. At El Sol Mexican Food, located on the southwest outside corner of the Food Building.
Chocolate Dessert Salami
SM: Missed it. YOUR CALL
DW: Another food that fell victim to being sold out pretty early. Sounds tasty though. YOUR CALL
– Chocolate, butter, almonds and walnuts all blended and rolled into a distinctive salami shape, dusted with powdered sugar, then sliced and served on specialty crackers for a unique Italian dessert. At Sausage Sisters, located inside the Food Building.
Not meat, but an elegant tasting slice of chocolate, with an orangey-almond side. Tasty, but maybe out of place. YOUR CALL
Perhaps because Sausage Sisters is in the shadow of one of the most iconicaly self-destrcutive and glorious State Fair foods, Mouse Trap cheese curds, the kinda fancy non-meat seemed outta place to me. SKIP IT
Deep-Fried Breakfast On-a-Stick
– American and Swiss cheeses, a sausage patty, one egg and Canadian bacon all sandwiched between two pancakes, then dipped in a light, sweet batter and deep-fried on-a-stick. At The Sandwich Stop, located on Clough Street on the east side of the Poultry Barn.
Too much, too too much. But teenage boys would die for it. YOUR CALL
If you like the taste of deep fryer grease and only deep fryer grease this bad boy is your jam. SKIP IT
– A sweet, creamy peanut butter ball coated in chocolate, dipped in funnel cake batter, deep-fried, dusted with confectionersʼ sugar and served with a strawberry sauce. At Spaghetti Eddieʼs, located on Cooper Street at Dan Patch Avenue.
A massive overload of chocolate and peanut butter in hot batter. Ain’t nothing wrong with that. GET IT
What it lacks in good looks it makes up for in being one of the few deep-fried desserts on a stick in which you can actually taste the dessert and not just the deep fried outside. Super tasty despite the fact that it was one of the last things we tried and I felt like I was going to die before we ordered it. GET IT
Deep-Fried Lobster On-a-Stick
– Canadian lobster pieces poached in butter, dipped in a corn batter, deep-fried and served with a spiced dipping sauce. At LuLuʼs Public House* (New Food Vendor for 2014), located next to Schilling Amphitheater at West End Market. SM:
Shockingly supple lobster surrounded by crisp and decent batter. GET IT
I think it all depends on the lobster you luck into (someone we were with got a kind of tough/ chewy lot), but mine were buttery and tender like Steph’s. GET IT
Hot Toasted Waffle Ice Cream Sandwich
– Two hot, crunchy, toasted waffles sandwich a wedge of rich vanilla ice cream with a light powdered sugar dusting – itʼs hot, cold and crunchy. At West End Creamery* (New Food Vendor for 2014), located at West End Market.
Hitting all the tickets: hot, cold, crunchy, creamy want one right now. GET IT
Proving you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to come up with a top notch new Fair food. Simple and perfectly executed . . . But eat it quick or it’ll be all over your shirt. GET IT
Iron Range Pierogies
– An authentic Polish favorite, these deep-fried dumplings are stuffed with potatoes and cheddar cheese, topped with crispy onion strings and served with a zingy horsey sauce. At The Blue Barn* (New Food Vendor for 2014), located west of the Skyride at West End Market.
Nice to see pierogies at the fair, but we see them at Blue Plate joints all the time. YOUR CALL
The zingy horsey sauce alone makes these worth it, but if you eat at Blue Plate these aren’t anything new for you so you might want to save your stomach for more novel conquests. YOUR CALL
Jello Salad Ice Cream
– Inspired by the classic Minnesota potluck dessert (and served in church dining halls everywhere), this jello salad treat features a sweet cream base flavored with fresh lime juice, swirled with cranberry sauce and blended with marshmallows dipped in marshmallow crème. Made by Minnesotaʼs own Izzyʼs Ice Cream, this flavor is only available at the Hamline Church Dining Hall during the 2014 Minnesota State Fair. At Hamline Church Dining Hall, located on Dan Patch Avenue near Visitors Plaza.
If you have a Jello Salad in your past, or have spent lunches in a church basement, you’ll be happy. YOUR CALL
Izzy’s are masters at creating exact facsimile flavors in their ice cream and this is no exception. Jello salads are a staple when my in-laws throw a holiday celebraish and this ice cream tastes almost exactly like theirs right down to that weird, chalky tongue feel thing you get from an actual jello salad. If you like Jello salad . . . GET IT
Korean BBQ Collar with Kimchi Pickles
– Slow-smoked pork collar finished with a garlic ginger BBQ glaze and served with kimchi pickles (cucumbers marinated in Korean kimchi red pepper powder with fresh ginger, shredded carrot, green onion and a touch of soy). At Famous Daveʼs, located near the corner of West Dan Patch Avenue and Liggett Street. SM:
Perfectly fatty, roasty, porky with a sweet spicy hit. Take a break from fried and GET IT
For some reason this seemed so not-Famous Daves when I first heard about it, so I was skeptical, but they execute this paleo beast perfectly. GET IT
North Shore Pasta
– Walleye Mac & Cheese – An Iron Range portion of fresh-smoked walleye with sweet corn kernels and roasted red peppers atop a bed of cavatappi noodles – all smothered in Gigglesʼ secret smoked Gouda sauce and toasted with Parmesan parsley bread crumbs. At Gigglesʼ Campfire Grill, located on Cooper Street and Lee Avenue in The North Woods. SM:
It feels like a 2 lb. boat of heavy, creamy pasta with just a bit of walleye, but the flavor wasn’t bad. YOUR CALL
If you had eaten nothing else yet you still couldn’t eat this beastly amount of food, which makes it a pretty swell value considering it was only like $8 and was loaded with walleye. YOUR CALL
PB&J French Toast
– The ever-popular peanut butter & jelly sandwich is fused with French toast, then sprinkled with powdered sugar and served with your choice of ham, bacon or sausage. At Robbinsdale OES Dining Hall, located on Underwood Street next to FAN Central.
Two hot massive PB&J sandwiches with a side of bacon. SKIP IT
Cafeteria-grade PB&J slathered between cafeteria-grade French toast, with a side of cafeteria-grade sausage. Draw your own conclusions. SKIP IT
– Green Millʼs version of the tater tot, these handmade pizza tots combine sausage, pepperoni, mozzarella, seasonings and hash browns, and they are then dusted with Parmesan cheese and served with a side of pizza sauce. At Green Mill, located west of the Family Fair Stage in Baldwin Park.
The tater tots taste like you’re eating pizza, which might make you wonder why you’re not just eating pizza. YOUR CALL
Yup. Taste just like pizza, so the only real pro I can see to the shape-shift is that they’re potentially less messy when attempting to eat and walk without stepping in manure. YOUR CALL
– These real Wisconsin cheddar cheese curds are coated in a batter made from crushed pretzels, bread crumbs and American Pilsner beer; deep-fried to create a crunchy outside and a soft delicious inside; and served with a zesty dipping sauce. At OʼGaraʼs at the Fair, located on the corner of Dan Patch Avenue and Cosgrove Street. SM:
Heavier and more substantial than the traditional curds, these have a crisp, malty outer crust. GET IT
With my Mouse Trap love earlier I’ve already tipped my hand that I’m a curd man, so of course I liked their new crunchier beer-ier cousins. GET IT
Prime Rib Taco
– Sliced rotisserie prime rib served in a flour tortilla with sautéed onions and peppers and topped with chili con queso. At LuLuʼs Public House* (New Food Vendor for 2014), located next to Schilling Amphitheater at West End Market.
Missed it. YOUR CALL
A fancy way of saying “steak taco,” which you’ve had, and just kind of bland all around. SKIP IT
Rustic Stuffed Scone
– A savory, Parmesan-crusted, baked butter scone stuffed with all-natural ham, Swiss, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, and a creamy house-made béchamel sauce. At French Meadow Bakery, located on Carnes Avenue between Underwood and Nelson streets
The ones we tried were too dry with not enough filling, but they seemed off, like they could be better. YOUR CALL
Maybe it’s because those pretzel [curds] were making me thirsty (!!)
, but these were just way too dry for me. In theory, they sound better. YOUR CALL
– Pork tenderloin coated with a seasoned breading, then fried, cut into strips and served with a lemon, garlic and mayonnaise dipping sauce. At Smoothies and Jurassic Dogs, located on Murphy Avenue across from the Pet Center.
Well . . . no. SKIP IT
But the very best thing of all, there’s a counter on this ball, so see if you can beat your very best score, see if you can skip a whole lot more just . . . SKIP IT
– Baby shrimp and cream cheese are combined, then batter-dipped, deep-fried and served on-a-stick. At The Shrimp Shack, located on Underwood Street at Carnes Avenue. SM:
RUN THE OTHER WAY. SKIP IT
The first bite I took was alright, but then I saw Steph spitting hers out and I was like, “Wait, what did I do wrong here?” Then I realized what I’d done wrong was that I’d only gotten the actually-tasty corn-batter outer layer. Despite Steph’s involuntary rejection of her bite, I manned-up and took a legit shrimp-filling bite. I kept mine down . . . but barely. SKIP IT
– Just like a fusion of feathery light cotton candy, flaky shaved ice and creamy layered snow, SnoRibbons melt in your mouth. Itʼs like eating snow and tasting ice cream at the same time. This colorful, gluten-free treat is low in calories and sugar and made with fresh, natural ingredients. Exotic flavor combinations are served on a rotating basis and include: strawberry pretzel cream cheese, coffee & donuts, grasshopper pie, red hot velvet, green tea black sesame, horchata vanilla, salty dog, cococaramel, banana toffee crunch, salted caramel corn crunch, frozen hot chocolate, chocolate cherries jubilee, mango tangsicle, blue cotton moon and more. At Blue Moon Dine-In Theater, located on the corner of Chambers Street and Carnes Avenue.
Fun, with an interesting texture, didn’t seem to melt as fast as other things. YOUR CALL
One flavor we tried was “Horchata Churro," which was vanilla rice snow, rum caramel bananas, cinnamon churro cookie, and milk sauce, and it was, astonishingly, as complex tasting as its ingredient list would indicate. GET IT
BEER AND OTHER OFF-GUIDE NEW THINGS WE FOUND:
- Flat Earth has brewed two beers (porter and XXXX) that are served at Giggles with a graham-chocolate coated rim and floating marshmallows. SM:
Fun! But never mind the rim dip, it makes drinking awkward. YOUR CALL
Last year’s Lift Beer Mini Donut Beer raised the State Fair beer bar, and the S’Mores Beer jumped so far over that bar it also cleared approximately 16 sharks along the way. Cygnus X-1 Porter is an absurdly good beer and sometimes the last thing you want to add to something that’s absurdly good is, well, anything. YOUR CALL
Grain Belt Blu
- A blueberry infused beer that you can get topped with a frozen blueberry beer foam. SM:
FTW. GET IT
Grain Belt Blu alone is tasty enough to warrant the buy, but you top it with a frozen foam version of itself and for a moment you see unicorns flying over rainbows. It’s also worth noting that they’ll put a layer of the blueberry beer frozen foam on top of any of the Schell’s and Grainbelt beers on tap. GET IT
- At Blue Barn, this roast beef slider had spicy pimento cheese sauce and fries on the sandwich. SM:
Beefy, flavor-packed, orange-cheezy in the right way. Solid. GET IT
The french fries on top of this flavor explosion are food equivalent of a Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson celebration after making a spectacular one-handed touchdown grab: totally superfluous and unnecessary to the task at hand but appreciated nonetheless. GET IT
Looking for a more definitive ranking of the new foods? Then now’s probably a good time to check out Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl’s Top 5 New Fair Foods here.