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Food & Drink

New 2024 MN State Fair Food: Predicting the Winners and Losers

Let's get all Mel Kiper on the fair's 33 new food concoctions.

Provided|

The Deep-Fried Ranch Dressing (left) actually looks… good?

For years, MinnPost aggregated critical reactions to new Minnesota State Fair food offerings. Before that public-service tradition's sad pandemic demise, the City Pages review chew crew was reliably the toughest to satisfy. CP's own pandemic demise and a global pandemic sidelined us for a couple years, but we came chompin' back in '22 and '23 with the only new fair food reviews you can trust.

To preemptively rev our wannabe Jonathan Gold-ian engines this go-'round, we decided to scout the 33 new fair food items for 2024, 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 li'l shit? And we’ll happily eat crow if⁠—when teeth finally meet Blazin' Greek Bites—the forecasted duds prove to be delightful surprises. (Fried crow-on-a stick when?) Or, in the language of our proprietary Scarf!, Shrug!, Skip! system, prove to be Scarfs! 

The fair runs from August 22 through September 2. Let’s get hungry. 

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

3 Piggy Pals On-A-Stick

Three smoked sausage slices wrapped in bacon, filled with a cream cheese mix, and drizzled with barbecue sauce. Topped with a jalapeño slice and served on-a-stick. (Gluten-friendly)

Prediction: "OMG, amazeballs, epic bacon FTW!" Can we just let that '00s-era internet sentiment die, like the incredibly smart pigs that were harvested for those strips of meat? We don't have to pretend like bacon is some naughty, winking, drool-emoji novelty—it's fucking bacon, grow up! In any case, these look tasty.

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

Afro Poppers

Bite-size pastries infused with an African blend of spices–ground vanilla, cardamom, ginger, cloves and nutmeg–deep-fried and coated with choice of coconut flakes, sugar or served plain. Topped with choice of drizzle–mango chutney, caramel, or chocolate.

Prediction: We're noted fans of Afro Deli, and their State Fair offerings have proven to a welcome addition as the fairground flavors grow increasingly wordly. That said: Will these toothsome toppings bring enough pop to elevate what could be rather bland dough orbs? Don't bet against this vendor.

At Afro Deli, located in the Food Building, east wall

Ba'bacon Sour Cream + Onion

Sour cream + onion hummus topped with beef bacon, sumac tater tots, caramelized onions, scallions, French onion creme fraiche, black cumin seeds and chive oil. Served with pita puffs dusted with sour cream + onion powder. (Gluten-free without pita puffs, vegetarian without bacon)

Prediction: Remember that bacon rant from a couple blurbs above? It's still rings true, but bacon is in trustworthy hands at Baba's, another spot of which we're quite fond. The parts summing this whole are as failproof as it gets, with Baba's delightful, pillowy pita puffs serving as an idealized delivery mechanism. There's zero chance this sucks.

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

Blazing Greek Bites

Deep-fried bites made from a blend of chickpeas, tomato, roasted red pepper, scallions, and cayenne pepper. Served with a side of roasted red pepper hummus. (Gluten-free, vegan)

Prediction: Man, the risk of these puppies running bone-dry is as high as the Giant Slide. The hummus has some heavy lifting to do, but here's the thing: Sometimes hummus can hit you with dry notes! We've got a low floor, low ceiling prospect here, to dip (not unlike a Blazing Greek Bite) into scouting parlance.

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

Buffalo Cheese Curd & Chicken Tacos

Fried buffalo-flavored cheese curds and chicken topped with blue cheese slaw, drizzled with buffalo sauce, and served in a fried flour shell.

Prediction: Last year, we raved of Richie's Dill Pickle Cheese Curd Taco, "What makes these tacos a must-eat? The light fry on the tortillas and the fresh and delicate fry of the cheese curds." The tortillas and curds remain with this varietal, so we don't anticipate an undeniable flavor combo like buffalo chicken dragging things down to a sub-Scarf! rating.

At Richie's Cheese Curd Tacos, located on the north side of Judson Avenue between Liggett & Clough streets, outside the Sheep & Poultry Barn

Chile Mango Whip

Mango Dole Soft Serve in a cup rimmed and topped with chamoy and Tajín. Garnished with a tamarind candy straw. Alternate flavors of Dole Soft Serve include pineapple, strawberry, and lemon. (Gluten-free, vegan)

Prediction: There's a good reason Dole Whip is a staple of theme parks like Disney—the stuff is refreshing as hell! And in an oft-sweltering setting like the sun-baked State Fair? It can be a true lifesaver. Add chamoy, Tajin, and a tamarind candy straw? Take our money, Tasti Whip!

At Tasti Whip, located on the northwest corner of Dan Patch Avenue & Underwood Street

Cookie Butter Crunch Mini Donuts

Vanilla-flavored mini donuts coated with vanilla sugar, topped with Biscoff® cookie butter drizzle and cookie crumbles, and served in a bucket rimmed with cookie butter and cookie crumbles.

Prediction: The last thing in the world we want is to turn this fun annual exercise into a minefield of profanity-laden rants. With that in mind, roll the tape on our donut rant from last year... "Stop it! What are we even doing here? There's already a donut king at the State Fair, and his name is Tom fuckin' Thumb. You needn't look elsewhere; they're perfect." Beyond that, a hot, sticky, steaming mound of frosted dough just isn't conducive to happy fairgoing. We wish you well, Cookie Butter Crunch Mini Donuts, though our hopes are not high.

At Mini Donuts & Cheese Curds, located on the east side of Underwood Street between Murphy & Lee avenues

Cotton Candy Iced Tea

Brewed butterfly pea flower tea sweetened with natural flavor and cane sugar. Garnished with a swirl of edible glitter and a rock candy swizzle stick to stir for a color-changing effect. (Gluten-free, caffeine-free, vegan)

Prediction: Every year since society's brains melted into the Instagram algorithm, you get flashy and colorful social media gimmicks, and this color-changing concoction appears to fit that bill. Now, if the butterfly pea flower essence is even remotely apparent, we might be cookin' with gas here. However, the sugar-bomb risk is self-evident.

At Loon Lake Iced Tea* located on the west side of Underwood Street between Wright & Dan Patch avenues. (*New vendor.)

Crab Boil Wings

Chicken wings marinated in hot sauce, grilled and then fried with corn, chicken apple sausage, and potatoes. Tossed in a "crab boil" butter and finished with a lemon wedge and parsley. (Gluten-free)

Prediction: At Target Field and at the State Fair, our review crew has endured numerous whiffs from Soul Bowl. Points for creativity here, but two areas that jump out as potential pitfalls. Will the the "crab boil" butter really lend anything detectable, flavor-wise, and is a heaping platter of hot finger foods ideal for the walk-'n'-chomp setting? Prove us wrong!

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

Deep-Fried Halloumi Cheese

Halloumi cheese, crafted from a blend of sheep and goat milk, wrapped in pastry dough, and deep-fried. Served with a side of sweet chili sauce. (Vegetarian)

Prediction: A riff on the ol' cheese curd. Love it. And in Holy Land's reliable hands, this dish is poised to succeed. New fair food inventions tend to work best when they're built on the portable, dunkable shoulders of giants, rather than shoehorning a sit-down meal into the dusty, sweaty, horse-filled setting.

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

Deep-Fried Ranch Dressing

Ranch dressing filling made with ranch seasoning, buttermilk, and cream cheese in a panko shell, deep-fried and dusted with ranch powder. Served with a side of hot honey sauce crafted with Cry Baby Craig's hot sauce. (Vegetarian)

Prediction: Oh man... this has already stoked a whole lotta WTF reactions. But we gotta say: early low-key contender for best new fair food. LuLu's tends to strike gold each year, and it's hard to imagine these savory pockets falling short. The addition of Cry Baby Craig's-swirled hot honey suggests no details were overlooked in creating something early observers are accurately describing as heavenly.

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

Dill Pickle Tots

Fried tater tots tossed in dill seasoning with a hint of vinegar flavor–like a dill pickle potato chip. (Vegan)

Prediction: Last year was the Year of the Pickle, so this one feels a little late to the game. But if you’re a midwesterner there’s no wrong time for a tater tot and dill is ranch dressing adjacent, so these are probably going to be tasty. Honestly, you had us at “like a dill pickle potato chip.”

At Tot Boss, located on the east side of Underwood Street between Wright & Dan Patch avenues, south of Kidway

Fried Bee-Nana Pie

Handmade pie filled with Minnesota honey, fresh banana and Biscoff® cookie butter; battered and deep-fried. (Vegetarian)

Prediction: Shout out to bees, the dessert makers of the bug world! Honey might be one of the most underrated sweeteners out there, but at the fair many honey treats shine. This thing looks like a deep fried Uncrustable, which means it’s probably gonna be a winner, though the lack of ice cream on the side could be a critical factor in whether this thing buzzes or bombs.

At Sabino's Pizza Pies, located in the Lee & Rose Warner Coliseum, north side

Grilled Purple Sticky Rice

Purple sticky rice grilled over an open flame until crunchy, then topped with choice of shredded Hmong beef jerky or pickled mushrooms. Garnished with fresh herbs and finished with Union Hmong Kitchen's Krunchy Chili Aioli. (Gluten-free, vegetarian option)

Prediction: Is Union Hmong Kitchen even capable of fucking this up? Doubtful. Chef Yia Vang has been serving up bangers since he debuted at the fair two years ago. Last year’s Galabao steamed bun was delish, and 2022’s Mov + Nqaij (purple sticky rice with hot sauce and protein) and Dej Qab Zib (a coconut lychee colada) were soooo good.

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

Ham and Pickle Roll Up on a Potato Skin

Three fried potato skins filled with a blend of sour cream, cream cheese, chopped pickles and ham. Topped with potato chip crumbles. (Gluten-friendly)

Prediction: This one is gonna be all about the timing. Freshly fried potato skins? A delicious conveyance for melty cheese, bits o’ meat, and condiments. Slightly cooled potato skins? The most depressing thing ever, like eating the sad hourglass sand of lost time. We’ll have to see if the moment is right for us this year.

At Route 66 Roadhouse Chicken, located in the Food Building, northwest corner

Lady's Slipper Marble Sundae

Bridgeman's strawberry ice cream, lemon marshmallow cream and ladyfinger cookies layered in a cup and topped with whipped cream and a cherry.

Prediction: Is Bridgeman’s doing OK? Should someone check in on them? After last year’s (pretty OK!) Bee Sting Sundae and the previous year’s (kinda gross) Black Licorice Sundae, this Lady Slipper thing is downright subdued. Can they like, fry the lady fingers or something? Maybe add a pickle spear to the side? No no, I’m just kidding. Sort of.

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

Marco's Garden

Local rhubarb jam, thyme-marinated locally sourced tomatoes, farmer cheese, jalapeño and honey served with a side of grilled gluten-free flatbread. (Gluten-free, vegan option uses thyme tofu dip and maple syrup instead of cheese and honey.)

Prediction: Nice! This looks like summertime in a dish, and Jammy Sammies by BRIM is always been a treat. Last year’s Jam’nades surprised us—who knew you could add jam to lemonade and it would be good? This year they're going more savory and this new bowl looks like an easy A.

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

Mocha Madness Shave Ice

Fluffy shave ice with caffeine-free coffee flavoring and an overflowing caramel macchiato cold foam center. Drizzled with chocolate syrup and garnished with dark chocolate espresso beans. (Gluten-free)

Prediction: But can we get it with caffeine? Iced coffee is one of the best things ever and caramel- and/or mocha-laced coffee is basically the official drink of millennials, so turning this into a shaved ice treat seems like a no-brainer. (No but really: Can we get it with caffeine?)

At Minnesnowii Shave Ice, located on the west side of Nelson Street between Dan Patch & Carnes avenues

Nixtamal & Wild Rice Bowl with Wóžapi & Bison Meatballs or Sweet Potato Dumplings 

Choice of bison meatballs or sweet potato dumplings, topped with mixed berry wóžapi sauce, and served on a bed of nixtamal (white corn, blue corn and yellow corn) mixed with wild rice and seasoned with maple and spices. Cricket & seed mix topping optional. (Gluten-free, vegan option)

Prediction: This looks like a hearty treat. Maybe this is the year you skip the meatloaf dinner and go for bison, corn, and grains. And, since you’re being so adventurous, you might as well go all in and try that cricket topping (according to this U of M prof, they're nutritious and delicious and the future of food). The cheese curds are always going to be there, you can only try this during the last week of the fair, when the Food Lab will be a guest vendor at the Midtown Global Market booth.

At Midtown Global Market's Indigenous Food Lab* located in the Taste of the Midtown Global Market booth at the International Bazaar, east wall (Aug. 28 to Sept. 2 only) (*New vendor)

Patata Frita Focacciawich 

"Patata Frita" kettle chip-flavored ice cream created by Minnesota Dairy Lab, sandwiched between focaccia bread from Wrecktangle Pizza. Topped with a blend of honey butter, kettle chips, and herbs.

Prediction: Whoa, what is going on here? Adding focaccia to an ice cream treat seems risky—there's no way this thing can be eaten like a sandwich like the name implies. But Wrecktangle does good work with crust and bread, and honey butter is the stuff of miracles, so this looks promising, even if topping it with potato chips and (pizza?) spices is a bold move.

At West End Creamery, located at West End Market, northwest section

PB Bacon Cakes

Thick-cut bacon dipped in pancake batter, griddled and topped with peanut butter whipped cream, grape jelly, and banana chips.

Prediction: Elvis would have eaten the shit out of this. Deep fried bacon kinda sounds redundant, but maybe Elvis was onto something?

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

Raging Ball

Deep-fried sesame mochi dough ball with vegan cheeseburger filling. Made with house-made vegan burger mix, vegan cheddar cheese, grilled onions, and pickles. Topped with bacon-flavored powdered sugar. (Gluten-friendly, vegan)

Prediction: This sounds crazy! Mochi sesame balls are generally mini-donut adjacent, but this guy is all savory and dark secret stuffing. How are they going to get a whole cheeseburger in there?! You've got my attention, Raging Ball, but I’m also dubious you can deliver all the things you're promising me.

At The Herbivorous Butcher, located in the Food Building, south wall

Savory Éclairs in Two Varieties

Choux pastry éclair shell with choice of filling: Bánh Mì or Lobster.

Prediction: Eating a sub at the fair? Kinda lame! Eating a savory eclair at the fair? Sounds pretty good! Bánh Mì is a summery sammie while lobster rolls are an East Coast staple. So all of that sounds good. The big question here will be the choux pastry. Will it be a light and airy conveyance or a soggy bummer?

At Scenic 61 by New Scenic Café, located on the east side of Underwood Street between Lee & Randall avenues, just south of Little Farm Hands

Shroomy "Calamari"

Oyster mushrooms hand-breaded and deep-fried. Served with a side of chipotle sauce.(Gluten-free, vegan)

Prediction: Cauliflower is not a replacement for the chicken in buffalo wings. And mushrooms, meaty veggies borne of dirt, will never be calamari, beast meat from the sea. And that’s OK! But don’t try to sell us on a lie. Deep fried mushrooms are great, and these could be a good. But they ain’t calamari.

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

Strawberries and Cream Waffle Stick

Belgian waffle filled with strawberry shortcake cookie dough, topped with whipped cream and strawberry sauce, and served on-a-stick.

Prediction: Hm. Yeah. This thing gets a "shrug."

At Waffle Chix, located on Judson Avenue between Liggett & Clough streets

Strawberry Lemonade Donut

Hand-cut yeast-raised donut frosted with lemon buttercream, rolled in strawberry lemonade crunch, and garnished with lemon gummy candy and freeze-dried strawberry slice. Served with a strawberry lemonade-filled pipette to squeeze in more flavor. (Vegetarian)

Prediction: It looks like astronaut food, or an oddly shaped ring of Dippin' Dots. We definitely don't need the flavor pipette. But we do love strawberry lemonade... This will hinge on the "crunch"—is it refreshing or does it taste like plastic?

At Fluffy's Hand Cut Donuts, located between West Dan Patch & Carnes avenues and Liggett & Chambers streets, south section

Swedish Ice Cream Sundae

Vanilla ice cream covered in lingonberry jam, sprinkled with Swedish ginger cookie crumble, and garnished with a ginger cookie heart. (Vegetarian)

Prediction: No, taken in its individual parts, it doesn’t sound terribly exciting. But after a few hours of walking in the heat? Bet this hits. (As an aside, if you’ve never had the lingonberry drink at IKEA, GET IT.)

At Salem Lutheran Church Dining Hall, located on the north side of Randall Avenue, just south of the Progress Center

Swedish 'Sota Sliders

Hamline Church Dining Hall's Cranberry-Wild Rice Meatball formed into patties, paired with dill Havarti cheese and a red relish of beets, red onions, red peppers, lingonberries, and cranberries, served on two brioche buns.

Prediction: A shrug if we’ve ever heard one—smushed down meatballs with relish and cheese? But we’re ready to be surprised. Love ya Hamline Church Dining Hall.

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

Sweet Corn Cola Float

Minnesota-made sweet corn cola and sweet corn ice cream in a cup, finished with whipped cream, popping candy and house-made frozen caramel.

Prediction: Double points for innovation, triple points for describing something so refreshing we'd like to be sucking it down on this very humid day. Perhaps Big Corn ain't all bad.

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

Sweet Heat Bacon Crunch

Double-smoked slab bacon tossed in RC's red barbecue sauce and topped with hot honey & chili crunch, served over a bed of white rice, and garnished with green onions.

Prediction: Slab bacon’s gotta refer to the thick-cut stuff, and sorry—we’re a thin and crispy bacon aligned publication. Plus, of all the things to dredge through barbecue sauce, this would not be in our top 10.

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

Turkey Kristo

Minnesota-made Texas toast from Pan-O-Gold Bakery, sliced Ferndale Market turkey, CannonBelles white cheddar cheese, apple butter made from locally sourced Westcott Orchard apples, and house-made spicy brown mustard mayo, dusted with powdered sugar. (White Cheddar Kristo vegetarian option uses extra cheese instead of turkey.)

Prediction:  Love the local ingredients, but a turkey sandwich on Texas toast? Yawn. Call us next year.

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

Walking Shepherd's Pie

Two handmade hot pastries filled with braised ground beef, mashed potatoes and a blend of onions, carrots and peas tossed in herb gravy.

Prediction: O'Gara's is perhaps the single most consistent letdown at the Minnesota State Fair, and it seems highly unlikely that they’ll pull it off this time around. That said… if there’s one thing they could hypothetically pull off, this pasty-adjacent creation could be it.

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

Wrangler Waffle Burger

Fresh all-beef patty and signature Whataburger® Patty Melt Sauce layered with American cheese and served in a caramelized onion-infused Nordic Waffle.

Prediction: There’s not a one Whataburger in the state of Minnesota, which makes this Nordic Waffles newbie extra intriguing. Can the southern sauce make us love a patty melt-style waffle? We’re betting yes.

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

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