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Food & Drink

New 2022 MN State Fair Food: Predicting the Winners and Losers

Let's get all Mel Kiper on the Fair's 38 new food concoctions.

Look at all this stuff.
Minnesota State Fair

Each and every year, MinnPost rounds up critical reactions to new Minnesota State Fair food offerings. Reliably, the City Pages review crew was the toughest to satisfy. 

Then, as we’re sure you remember, the Coronavirus pandemic shut down both CP and the 2020 Fair. The Great Minnesota Get-Together crept back last year, sorta cautiously and very shell-like, and the one-month-old Racket staff opted to not revive the city’s most discerning on-a-stick appraisal squad. This year? We’re coming back, baby! 

To preemptively rev our Jonathan Gold-ian engines, we decided to scout the 38 new fair food items for 2022, which were revealed this morning to standard local media fanfare. No news outlet has yet sampled these fairground delicacies, so we figured: Why not call some shots, churn some excitement, and even talk a lil shit? And we’ll happily eat crow if⁠—when teeth finally meet Chick N Swiss Sausages⁠—the forecasted duds prove to be delightful surprises. (Or, in the language of CP’s old/proprietary Scarf!, Shrug!, Skip! system, prove to be Scarfs!

The Fair runs from August 25 through September 5. Let’s get hungry. 

(All descriptions and images come courtesy of the Fair’s PR team.)

All Quacked Up!

Description: Fried, farm-fresh duck egg from Graise Farm in Faribault atop shaved smoked ham, aged cheddar cheese, tomato and spinach, served open-face on toasted sourdough bread with paprika aioli.

Prediction: We don’t know that people go to the Fair for deli sandwiches, but the duck egg adds interest and novelty to what looks like a tasty but not necessarily crucial Fair offering. Does not vibe with the preferred method of Fair eating: the ol’ walk ‘n’ chomp.

At The Hideaway Speakeasy, located in the Veranda, Grandstand upper level, northwest section

Arepa Bar’s Three Arepas–Pulled Pork, The Queen and Vegan 

Description: Baked Venezuelan crispy corn pocket with choice of three fillings (all arepas are gluten-free): The Pulled Pork Arepa is pork shoulder slow-roasted in red wine and vegetables served with shredded cheddar cheese, cabbage, carrots, green onions and parsley; The Queen (Reina Pepiada) is pulled chicken and avocado puree salad topped with mozzarella cheese and fresh arugula; and the Vegan Arepa is house-prepared black beans, fried sweet plantains, cabbage, carrots, green onions and parsley.

Prediction: OK, this is cheating a little because we’ve eaten at Arepa Bar in the Midtown Global Market, so we already know their arepas rock. Assuming they can get ’em out fast enough for a State Fair crowd, this is an easy win. 

At Midtown Global Market’s Arepa Bar*, located in the Taste of the Midtown Global Market booth at the International Bazaar, east wall (Available Aug. 31-Sept. 5 only) *New Vendor

Baba’s Two Hummus Bowls–Beauty and the Buffalo and Coco-Nuts

Description: Beauty and the Buffalo bowl features ranch hummus, buffalo chicken, crumbled blue cheese, scallions, buffalo sauce and buffalo dust, served with pita puffs. The Coco-Nuts bowl features hazelnut chocolate hummus, chocolate chips, hazelnuts, shredded coconut and bananas, served with powdered sugar pita puffs. (Coco-Nuts is vegan and can be gluten-free without the pita puffs.)

Prediction: Baba’s Coco-Nuts dish will be an interesting case study in the “Dessert Hummus: ​​Atrocity, Appropriation, or Advancement?” story for which the Baba’s team spoke with Racket last year. We’ve got high hopes that this’ll fall into the “advancement” category. 

At Baba’s, located on the east side of Underwood Street between Lee and Randall avenues, just south of Little Farm Hands

Birthday Cake Paleta 

Description: A Mexican frozen dessert on-a-stick made with chunks of birthday cake, sprinkles and a vanilla extract base, specially created by locally owned La Michoacana Rose (pronounced meech- oo-a-kahn-a) to celebrate Hamline Church Dining Hall’s 125th year at the fair. Additional paleta varieties are also available.

Prediction: Already thinking about how refreshing, sweet, and perfect this is going to be on a hot and dusty afternoon at the fairgrounds. This’ll be a runaway winner come August.

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

Breakfast Gnocchi

Description: A bed of potato gnocchi topped with scrambled eggs, bacon, pesto cream, shallots and balsamic glaze.

Prediction: The Blue Barn is always doing some goofy stuff with breakfast foods—sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, and sometimes it really, really doesn’t. Not to fence-sit, but this could totally go either way. 

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

Buzz’n Hot Honey Chicken Sausage Kebob

Description: Hot honey drizzled over chicken sausage skewered with cornmeal biscuit chunks and served on a bed of coleslaw.

Prediction: Big fan of hot honey on all things savory (pizza, salads, toast) and sweet (ice cream, other kinds of toast), so this feels like it’ll at least land in the “pretty OK!” category. 

At Sausage Sister & Me, located in the Food Building, east wall

Celebration Cake On-A-Stick

Description: White cake infused with almond flavoring and decorated with white frosting. This mini version of Mancini’s house cake can be personalized on-site with short text to celebrate a favorite fair fan or special occasion.

Prediction: You know what? I’m a sucker for a gimmick, and this personalization angle is really speaking to me. Already waiting (and hoping, and praying) for teens to abuse the option and ask for their cake on-a-stick to say stuff like “deez nuts” and “suck it.”

At Mancini’s al Fresco, located on the north side of Carnes Avenue between Nelson and Underwood streets

Chick N Swiss Sausage

Description: Grilled chicken sausage custom-made with chunks of Swiss cheese and asparagus, ground pineapple, bacon and jalapeño, served on a bun.

Prediction: Hm. Asparagus pee smell on a hot day at the fair, huh? You do you, I guess, Gass Station Grill.

At Gass Station Grill, located on the west side of Cooper Street between Dan Patch and Judson avenues, outside southeast corner of the Food Building

Chicken Tandoori Rolls

Description: Chicken seasoned with tandoori spices, onions and peppers wrapped in paratha (pronounced purr-AH-tah) flatbread, then grilled and served with a side of avocado cilantro lime sauce.

Prediction: Hey, we love tandoori chicken as much as the next guy, but is a chicken flatbread the best you can offer? What it lacks in inventiveness it’ll have to make up for with some exceptional seasoning and a strong command of the basics.

At Holy Land, located at the International Bazaar, southeast corner

Chilaquiles Breakfast

Description: Fried corn tortilla strips sauteed with guajillo (pronounced gwa-HEE-yo) chile salsa and topped with scrambled eggs, pico de gallo, cotija (pronounced kuh-TEE-huh) cheese, avocado and crema (pronounced KREH-muh).

Prediction: Fighting for my life to not say something offensive to Midwesterners who need this pronunciation guide. These’ll probably rule. 

At Tejas Express, located in The Garden, north wall

Concha Bacon Burger

Description: All-beef patty with raspberry aioli, lettuce, pepper jack cheese, pickled jalapeños and bacon served on a concha, a traditional Mexican sweet bread roll.

Prediction: Oh fuck yeah, concha burgers! El Norte Kitchen was doing these back in 2020, and they were good. High expectations for Aldo’s take.

At Aldo’s, located in Warner Coliseum, west side

Cotton Candy Float

Description: Cotton candy soda poured over Kemps vanilla ice cream and topped with cotton candy.

Prediction: State Fair food critics are typically pretty kind to bevs like this one, due to the fact that they’re wolfing down 15,000 calories worth of grease and meat on day one of the fair, and any refreshing reprieve is welcome. We predict the Cotton Candy Float will be good—but it will also be overrated.

At German Root Beer and Popcorn, located east of Chambers Street, just south of the Grandstand

Deep-Fried Ice Cream

Description: Handmade ice cream bar covered with a crispy corn flake coating, deep-fried, drizzled with raspberry and blueberry sauces, and topped with sprinkles. (Vegetarian)

Prediction: This is a no brainer. Of course it will be tasty.

At Snack House, located in the Warner Coliseum, south side

Dej Qab Zib 

Description: A coconut lychee (pronounced LAI-chee) colada made with a blend of coconut milk, lychee syrup, lime and mint, served over ice. (Vegan)

Prediction: An elevated Hmong virgin pina colada? Sounds refreshing… and responsible!

At Union Hmong Kitchen*, located at the International Bazaar, south wall, west corner *New Vendor

French Meadow Vegan Entrees–Earth Sliders TM and “Meat” Balls & Marinara

Description: Earth SlidersTM are a marinated, battered and crispy fried “chicken” patty topped with house-made, slightly spicy secret sauce, shredded lettuce and house-made cucumber pickles that have been marinated in turmeric, garlic and sweet onion, served on a grilled bun. “Meat” Balls & Marinara are Italian herb-seasoned “meat” balls browned and sauteed in house-made garlic and oregano red marinara sauce, topped with plant-based Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley, served with a slice of grilled sourdough bread. (Both entrees are vegan.)

Prediction: We’ve gotta figure out what to do about naming these vegan versions of meaty treats. Earth SlidersTM sounds like what happens in the bathroom after you leave the State Fair.

At French Meadow Bakery & Cafe, located on the north side of Carnes Avenue between Nelson and Underwood streets

Gray Duck Sundae

Description: Bridgeman’s Black Licorice Ice Cream topped with marshmallow cream, crunchy mini marshmallows, whipped cream and a cherry.

Prediction: Black licorice ice cream is intriguing, but probably polarizing. This would probably be a hit in Finland, however, as they love all things licorice. 

At Bridgeman’s Ice Cream, located on the northeast corner of Judson Avenue and Liggett Street

The Herbivorous Butcher’s Two Vegan Entrees – Poultrygeist and Steak-xorcist

Description: Poultrygeist is fried chicken topped with sausage gravy and french fried onions on buttery Texas toast; and Steak-xorcist is chicken fried steak topped with sausage gravy and french fried onions on buttery Texas toast. (Both entrees are vegan.)

Prediction: These sound delicious, though timing may be everything here; vegan fried chicken isn’t the best once it cools and gravy can make things soggy real fast.

At The Herbivorous Butcher*, located in the Food Building, west section, south wall *New Vendor

Kulfi: Indian-Style Ice Cream in Three Flavors 

Description: Made with condensed milk, nuts and infused spices. Available in three creamy flavors: Almond/Cashew/Pistachio Kulfi; Mango Kulfi; and Saffron/Almond/Pistachio Kulfi. (All Kulfi are gluten-free and vegetarian.)

Prediction: Hot Indian really nails what they offer at the Fair. With the spices and fruits and nuts, this could be an excellent alternative to all the killer sweets offered at other booths.

At Hot Indian, located in the Food Building, east wall

Lemon Cookie Tortilla Chips

Description: Lemon sandwich cookies deconstructed into four large tortilla chips made from a blend of cookies and corn, served with creamy-center-of-the-cookie cream dip topped with lemon curd.

Prediction: Sugar nachos! Corn is the unsung hero of the Fair, bringing a little bit of sweetness that doesn’t cause a sugar hangover. The cookies, cream dip, and lemon curd will do that for you, thank you very much. (This sounds delicious.)

At Blue Moon Dine-In Theater, located on the northeast corner of Carnes Avenue and Chambers Street

Minne Hot Hot

Description: Smoked Rib Tips tossed in Nashville Hot Sauce, served with Comeback Sauce.

Prediction: Look, RC’s typically does a serviceable job of BBQ at the MNSF. But mauling sticky, spicy sauce and shoveling steaming-hot ribs into your maw? When it’s 95 degrees out? To quote an increasingly unpopular president: Come on, man.

At RC’s BBQ, located on the north side of West Dan Patch Avenue between Liggett and Chambers streets

Minneblueberry Pie

Description: Handmade blueberry pie made with a crisp, flaky crust, filled with blueberries, and served with vanilla ice cream. (Vegan if served without ice cream)

Prediction: You can’t fuck up a hand pie, right? The ice cream sounds very necessary, as blueberry is one of the richer pies. 

At Minneapple Pie, located on the south side of Judson Avenue between Nelson and Underwood streets

Molotes 

Description: Deep-fried corn masa empanadas with choice of fillings: Chipotle Style is filled with shredded chipotle chicken and topped with chipotle sour cream, cotija (pronounced kuh-TEE-huh) cheese and fresh cilantro; and Elote Style is filled with roasted corn and topped with mayo, cotija cheese and Tajin (pronounced tuh-HEEN) seasoning (can be prepared vegan). (Gluten-free)

Prediction: Corn has never done us wrong at the Fair, and molotes are basically mandatory summer eating. 

At Midtown Global Market’s Andy’s Garage, located in the Taste of Midtown Global Market booth at the International Bazaar, east wall (Available Aug. 25-30 only)

Mov + Nqaij 

Description: Purple sticky rice with choice of sauce, including Krunchy Chili Oil (dried Thai chilis, garlic, shallots), Lemongrass Scallion Dressing (lemongrass, ginger, garlic, shallots), and Tiger Bite (Thai chilis, garlic, shallots, cilantro, fish sauce, oyster sauce, lime juice); plus, choice of skewered and grilled meat, including Hmong Sausage (house-made coarse-ground pork sausage link with Krunchy Chili Oil), Hilltribe Chicken Thigh (ginger, lemongrass), or Lemongrass Turmeric Tofu (marinated in a lemongrass and turmeric blend). (All items gluten-free; vegan options available)

Prediction: Mmmm. This sounds like delicious street food, and we’re here for it. 

 At Union Hmong Kitchen*, located at the International Bazaar, south wall, west corner *New Vendor

New Mexico Chile Dog Sliders Two Ways

Description: Green chile and red chile – made with roasted-on-site New Mexico Hatch chiles and a hint of chorizo pork, topped with queso-style cheese and red onion, served over all-beef hot dogs on slider buns. Comes with a prickly pear cactus slushie shooter on the side.

Prediction: Nothing wrong with any of that. The slushie shooter is a nice novelty.

 At Blue Moon Dine-In Theater, located on the northeast corner of Carnes Avenue and Chambers Street

Nordic Waffles–Belly Full Nordic Waffle and Vanilla Dream Nordic Waffle

Description: Two new fresh-made waffle sandwiches: Belly Full is a spring onion-infused Nordic Waffle filled with sous vide (pronounced sue-veed) seasoned pork belly with coleslaw and locally made jalapeño jam; Vanilla Dream is a Nordic Waffle coated with cinnamon and sugar and filled with Norwegian vanilla custard cream.

Prediction: Nordic Waffles has been a winner every year since it debuted, IMO, though the long lines can sometimes be a deterrent. These will be incredible, but may not be worth the wait.

At Nordic Waffles, located at West End Market, south section

Pickle Pizza

Description: Hand-tossed homemade pizza dough topped with homemade specialty dill ranch sauce, fresh mozzarella and crunchy dill pickles, and finished with dill weed seasoning.

Prediction: Crazy pizzas are a lot of fun, and pickle pizza has the potential to spur the new “pineapple pizza debate.” We like Rick’s pickle pizza outside of the Fair, and pickle beer has been a hit for years, so we bet this is gonna be tasty.

At Rick’s Pizza, located on the west side of Cosgrove Street between Wright and Dan Patch avenues

Pink Guava Slushie

Description: Frozen slushie drink made with juice squeezed from fresh pink guavas.

Prediction: Once again: Slushies and drinks are a welcome reprieve from the heat, but they usually occupy “meh” territory.

At Holy Land, located at the International Bazaar, southeast corner

Pork Schnitzel Sandwich

Description: Breaded and deep-fried Minnesota pork loin topped with pickled cabbage and served with mustard mayo on a toasted bun.

Prediction: This is some no-nonsense midwestern Fair fare. But the State Fair is a place for nonsense. Sounds ideal for thrifty dads who want to fill their guts up quick.  

At Minnesota Farmers Union Coffee Shop, located on the north side of Dan Patch Avenue between Cooper and Cosgrove streets

Reuben Rolls

Description: Corned beef, Swiss cheese and sauerkraut hand-rolled in an egg roll wrapper, deep-fried and served with a side of O’Gara’s homemade Thousand Island dressing.

Prediction: Every year, O’Gara’s rolls out some horrific new take on corned beef, and every year it is an affront to fairgoers, Minnesotans, and humanity itself. Fucking hate this already. 

At O’Gara’s at the Fair, located on the southwest corner of Dan Patch Avenue and Cosgrove Street

Soulsicle

Description: Fried chicken on-a-stick topped with candied yam sauce, cornbread crumble, mac-and-cheese seasoned cheddar cheese, hot sauce and green onions.

Prediction: We’re still on-a-stick-ing things, I guess? This sounds a little overloaded (and messy) but if the tastes all come together (and the toppings stay on top) should be a winner.

At Soul Bowl, located in the Food Building, east wall

Sundae Sammie 

Description: Grilled sandwich with cinnamon bread, Minnesota strawberry jam, vanilla cream, fresh strawberries, whipped cream, toasted peanuts, confetti sprinkles and flaked sea salt. (Gluten-free and vegan options available)

Prediction: Hell yeah, nothing wrong with that. Sounds like the Fair answer to a doughnut breakfast.

At Jammy Sammies by Brim, located at the North End, northwest section, across from the North End Event Center

Sweet Cheese Blintz

Description: Soft baked crepe filled with sweet vanilla-flavored cream cheese and sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Prediction: This is probably going to be delicious but overwhelming on a hot August day. It looks like too much cheese!

At iPierogi, located in the Food Building, south wall

Sweet Potato Poutine

Description: Sweet potato waffle fries topped with cheese curds, Beyond chorizo sausage, turmeric gravy, pico de gallo and fresh cilantro. (Vegetarian)

Prediction: As someone intrigued by poutine but unable to have it as a lifetime vegetarian, I am psyched. The choice of sweet potato as the fry does give us pause, though.

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

Tandoor-Fired Jerk Chicken Mini’zza 

Description: White chicken meat, bell pepper, onion medley, whole milk mozzarella cheese and West Indies Soul Food’s signature Jamaican Jerk Sauce on a buttermilk naan crust baked in a tandoor oven.

Prediction: Whole lotta tandoor going on at the Fair this year. This jerk-y variation sounds tasty but also maybe a little dry on a hot August day?

At West Indies Soul Food, located at the International Bazaar, south wall

Tirokroketes

Description: Mix of spicy feta, cream cheese and mozzarella blended with Dino’s Greek seasoning, then rolled in a gluten-free panko, deep-fried and sprinkled with lemon juice, Parmesan cheese and Dino’s seasoning. (Gluten-free, vegetarian)

Prediction: These guys have offered some really great surprises the past couple of years (fried ravioli? Scarf!), so this Greek fried ball thing has our attention. 

At Dino’s Gyros, located on the north side of Carnes Avenue between Nelson and Underwood streets

Tot Dog

Description: All-beef hot dog dipped in corn dog batter, rolled in a mixture of minced tater tots, cheddar cheese and onions, then deep-fried.

Prediction: Upscaling a State Fair staple like a corn dog is a risky business—the appeal of the original is its simplicity and predictability, after all. Will these bonus tastes enhance the experience, or just gild the weiner? 

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

Turmeric Ginger Lemon Surprise

Description: Fresh ginger, turmeric syrup and a dash of bitters mixed with West Indies Soul Food’s Original Caribbean Lemonade. (Gluten-free, vegan)

Prediction: The people who hit up the pricey juice cleanse section at Whole Foods or Kowalski’s are going to love this thing. It sounds refreshing, and the ginger will be a tummy soother after too much fried food.

At West Indies Soul Food, located at the International Bazaar, south wall

Vegan Corn Dog

Description: Plant-based vegan hot dog hand-dipped in plant-based vegan corn dog batter and deep-fried.

Prediction: Vegan hot dogs can come really close to the real thing, and as a vegetarian that has been wanting a corndog option at the Fair I am PUMPED.

At Daryl’s Dog House, located on the south side of Carnes Avenue between Nelson and Underwood streets.