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Food & Drink

Best Budget Bites: $1.99 Corn Dog from Kowalski’s

The humble dog doesn't perform any culinary abracadabra—it's simply cheap and tasty.

11:51 AM CDT on August 1, 2023

Jay Boller|

The corn dog depicted here was purchased by the editor and may differ, ever so slightly, from the corn dog consumed by the critic.

The cost of things these days? Far too expensive! Inflation, supply chain, giddy price gouging from proprietors large and small—the boring factors are too numerous to count. To protect our readers, Racket recently launched the Best Budget Bites series, where we’ll showcase a toothsome, wallet-friendly food item that’ll actually fill you up. Have a nomination? Hit us up: tips@racketmn.com.

What: Corn dog, à la carte
Where: All Kowalski’s Markets locations
Cost: $1.99
Availability: 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

“On a stick” as defining food feature might be an overdone trope, the culinary equivalent of what “it has pockets” is to dresses. But ubiquity does not negate the appeal of stick foods (or pockets). Kowalski’s Markets, the high-end grocery chain, houses an on-a-stick deli bargain: a humble corn dog that could qualify for Best Budget Bites-dom sheerly on its $1.99 price point and return on investment, fullness-wise.

The Kowalski’s version of a stick-afied pig-in-a-blanket is pretty tasty, too! Not groundbreakingly good, but better than a freezer section corndog cooked at home. Of course, the Kowalski’s corn dog can’t touch Minnesota State Fair deliciousness, though a trip to the chi-chi chain can sate on-a-stick appetites before the Great Minnesota Get-Together begins, or provide a satisfactory and thrifty alternative to a Pronto Pup. (Carnival cuisine pedants will want me to clarify that Pronto Pups are breaded with wheat-based—not cornmeal—batter.)

What the Kowalski’s corn dog lacks in bold flavor, it makes up for in girth, measuring 4½ inches long with a 1½ inch diameter. The outer layer really shines: literally, it’s greasy; figuratively, it’s the best part. The golden-brown crispy outside contains a ½-inch thick chewy, bready inner layer that cloaks a slightly salty and smooth-textured, nearly silky, hot dog. Whatever ultra-processed animal byproduct makes up the corn dog’s innards is there for bulk, protein, and to absorb the flavor of its cornbread puffy jacket. Dipping the dog in ketchup balances the breading’s sweetness with a little acidity. Occasionally, a corn dog can linger too long, scorched under the deli’s warming lamps like the U.S. Southwest crustifying under a heat dome. But budget eaters can’t really complain about a portable meal for under two bucks.

All 11 Kowalski’s locations serve hot food from roughly 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., a window in which my favorite south Minneapolis store on Lyndale Avenue always stocks freshly fried corn dogs. I called a random sampling of stores to be sure of their availability throughout the Twin Cities. The Oak Park Heights location was out when I called in the early afternoon on a weekday, but said they’d make more around 3 p.m. The employee who answered the phone at St. Paul’s Grand Avenue location told me they generally offer corn dogs through the dinner hour, but if the deli ran out, corn dogs only take four minutes to cook. 

“We can drop a few while you do a lap around the store,” she assured me, which is a great tip for families, or adults with immature palates, who want to partake in the greatest on-the-go meal deal in town.

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