This year marked my second time ever attending the Minnesota State Fair so it’s safe to say I had no idea what I was doing in the least. What I did know is that I was well-equipped with a smart couple of ladies and a cryptic iPhone note with a list of items like “French onion monkey bread” and “deep fried grilled cheese” that I wrote while drinking the night before to guide us.
First and foremost, there are some aspects of such an event you have to accept before entering: It will be uncomfortable. You will perspire. You will spend much more money on food that will give you heartburn now and later than is considered reasonable. You will be run over by three strollers, minimum. You will rub your stomach and achy feet afterward and wonder aloud, “But why? What for?” There. Now that you’ve accepted those terms, there is a higher chance of you enjoying your time at the fair!
Suspending all belief of moderation, my friends Erin (@duemidwest on IG, Twitter and her very own website!), Alicia (@theloniousme on IG, Twitter) and I embarked on a food tour of the fair. Family-friendly activities? NO THANKS! Rides? Hell no we’re all good down here thanks though. Animals? Yes. Baby ones, preferably, but even so – it was food and photos of that food we were after on this day.
⌊ the blue barn ⌉
We knew after entering the gates that our first stop would be here. I wanted those French toast bites with Pop Rocks from last year something fierce.
You beautiful barn. For whatever reason, I switched gears and went for the Chicken in the Waffle with sausage gravy, which was a new food in 2014 and is pictured atop of this post. The gravy was unexpectedly spicy so a surprise chocolate malted milk ball at the bottom of the cone both calmed the heat and gave my sweet tooth what it had been looking for earlier! This was an excellent breakfast-y option.
⌊ sweet martha’s cookie jar ⌉
After a bite of Erin’s Breakfast Jucy LuLu from LuLu’s Public House — her second one because they forgot to put cheese (?!?!) in the first sandwich (!?!?) — we moved on to breakfast dessert which is a thing that can exist at the fair.
We opted for a regular-sized cone of Sweet Martha’s chocolate chip cookies, a mainstay here. While the cookies are good, you need to enjoy them quickly because once you’ve lugged around a pail of them for a few hours, they lose their magic. Same goes if you think you’re really doing yourself a favor to save some for home later. I’m sure there’s a delightful grandmother somewhere out there with a trick on how to resuscitate them, but fair food is meant to be enjoyed at the fair and enjoy we did until there was not one left.
⌊ goertze’s dairy kone ⌉
If those cookies were breakfast dessert then what I ate next was just completely unnecessary. A Cracker Jack caramel sundae. This is an actual transcript of what occurred at the Goertze’s Dairy Kone:
Guy: Hi miss, what would you like?
Me: I’ll take the Cracker Jack sundae!
Guy: Would you like everything on it?
Me: Sir, that’s why I’m here.
Up till now, we’d all done a pretty OK job at sharing our food with one another. On this one I must have blacked out after we all took photos and in between then and the short walk over to the Agriculture Horticulture Building, the sundae was on its last legs. I’d demolished it.
A sight to behold. This is a much, much better idea than their Fire and Ice Kreme concoction from last year (but was still on the menu this year … eesh) that included Sriracha sauce and Fritos on top of vanilla soft-serve. That was unpalatable, this one is everything. I love this place’s whole vibe and their ice cream on its own is really some of the best I’ve had.
⌊ food break ⌉
While the ice cream settled, we looked around at one of the main displays in the Agriculture Horticulture Building. I’m a sucker for succulents.
They also had this display of flowers that you could spin and look through a kaleidoscope for some stunnin’ imagery.
⌊ land of 10,000 beers craft beer hall ⌉
There’s never been a more accurate title for a Minnesota State Fair exhibit. Minnesota has really exploded in the last few years as far as taprooms go and, if I’m honest, I’m a little burnt out by it all. My tastes have gone more toward cocktails and cider lately, probably because my taste buds were in need of a break from all the IPAs. My favorite, Fair State Brewing Cooperative, makes sours which is less beer-y to me than your standard lager so if I’m having beer, it’s going to be some of theirs.
I picked out this flight that included a beer from Town Hall Brewery (Minneapolis), Steel Toe Brewing (St. Louis Park), Fair State (NE Minneapolis) and Fitger’s Brewhouse (Duluth). I enjoyed the last two, didn’t care much for the first two so much to the chagrin of a passerby (who audibly gasped) I dumped them out. Not sorry. Stomach space is VERY VALUABLE here, folks, don’t go filling up for no reason.
⌊ here’s a pig ⌉
This is a very cute, innocent, fuzzy, sweet, tuckered out piglet that I saw in the Miracle of Birth Center and needed to share with you. OK. I feel better.
⌊ the strawberry patch ⌉
I didn’t have extremely high expectations for the Strawberry Donut Delight — a fresh-glazed donut sliced in half and filled with strawberries and whipped cream –- but it sorta blew me away and we were all a little bummed we were too stuffed to fully enjoy it. We each took two- to-three forkfuls before throwing in the towel. Another time, my sweet treat.
⌊ food break ⌉
Had to try and walk all that off a bit, you know?
⌊ blue moon drive-in theater ⌉
No, we’re not done yet. I didn’t wake up early, get dressed, hop on a shuttle to St. Paul only to cry “uncle” after what could be considered at least three meals. After walking out of the Midway, I found myself gravitating toward the carbs. French onion soup is one of my newer favorite foods. Bread is my original favorite food. Combining them into this “Cheesy French onion monkey bread” was kinda genius, guys. Sure, the bottom of the bread got slightly soggy after sitting for a bit, but that was due to the broth being poured over top — it actually held up with the caramelized onion and melty cheese otherwise. I’d seen a few photos from people who tried this before us saying it was under-cooked which was maybe a kink they figured out by the time we went Aug. 28. This was a winner for us.
⌊ the rabbit hole ⌉
Don’t get mad at me but this isn’t available anymore!!! You likely have already seen this floating around: The Carpe Diem from The Rabbit Hole, a restaurant inside Midtown Global Market.
Its 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. And it was very, very good. I waited in the hands-down longest line of the day for this one though it went surprisingly quick, and before I knew it I was offering up bites of it to Alicia and Erin because I am a very, very good person.
It was warm, slightly chewy in an appealing way and, most importantly, cold. By this time the weather had heated up quite a bit and I remember this being a refreshing few bites for us. When you were lucky enough to get the ice cream, cone and compote all in one go … whoa. While it was only available for a limited time, I don’t think that’s why this one was a hyped stand-out. I wouldn’t mind seeing it on the restaurant menu.
Look: Erin snapped this adorable shot of my first bite!
⌊ the mouse hole ⌉
This is it. It’s the finale. This is what our entire trip to the fair culminated to: fried cheese curds. I’m not necessarily a curd puritan but I appreciate a bag of squeaky ones now and again (all right, I actually packed a bag of them for lunch just the other week). These ones from The Mouse Hole were Erin’s pick and she did not steer us wrong. The golden beauties had some traits of a squeaky curd inside so you know they’re of decent quality, and they were extremely greasy on the outside so, you know, they were fried. They’re a quintessential fair food and they were a good note to end on.
⌊ in summary and in conclusion ⌉
My advice: Don’t Minnesota State Fair alone. Don’t even consider it. Share nicely. Make welfare checks on your friends every couple of stops. Can you do savory now? How about sweet? Your stomach is slowly trying to kill you from the inside? OK. We’ll take a break.
p.s. I’m going back Saturday because I still need those grilled cheese bites.