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Food & Drink

Upset By the State Fair’s Pickle Pizza? Check Out Cardigan Donuts’ Fried Pickle Fritter.

Are you willing to brave the brine?

left: fried pickle fritter. right: pickle pizza at the fair
Em Cassel

Here's an uncontroversial statement to start us off: Pickles rock. Spears or chips, spicy or sour, dilly or sweet, the snappy, fermented little guys are just the best. Hot girls like pickles. Hell, everybody likes pickles.

The Minnesota State Fair has always been home to some of the best interpretations of the briny treat. The Perfect Pickle slings truly perfect deep-fried pickles from the corner of Dan Patch & Liggett; Pickle Dog coats cured cukes in cream cheese and pastrami or simply serves you a whole pickle on a stick. Dill Pickle Ale became a surprise hit when it debuted in 2017, tasting of horseradish and dill and adorned with a speared cornichon and havarti dill cheese.

This year, one of the more divisive (and, per Racket's review, genuinely tasty) new fair food items is the pickle pizza from Rick's. And ol' Rick actually follows a storied list of local pickle pizzas; QC Pizza in Mahtomedi went viral with its pickle pizza, "The Big Dill," in 2019, and later that summer Surly debuted a limited-edition pickle pizza of its own. Good Times Pizza in south Minneapolis makes a mean pickle pie with Mike's Hot Honey and pepperoni.

And yet... I don't know if anyone is prepared for the new fried pickle fritter from Cardigan Donuts.

Cardigan's classic bismarcks and crullers have been joined this month by a bunch of new Minnesota State Fair-themed donuts: a cotton candy cake donut, a caramel apple bismarck. Among those sweet State Fair confections, there's one much brinier guy: the fried pickle fritter.

My partner plucked one out of a box at work earlier this week, thinking it was lemon flavored—the dill pickle juice glaze coating the donut does have a yellowy hue, and no sane person is reaching into a box of donuts thinking, "Ah yes, that one must be made with pickles, that classic donut ingredient we know and love."

Here's the thing: He said it was really good. So of course I wanted one too.

The fried pickle fritter in questionEm Cassel

In addition to the dill pickle juice glaze, Cardigan flavors this little savory-sweet treat with dill and flecks its dough with chopped-up bread and butter pickles. The aroma that hits you first is, I'll level with you here, pretty unsettling. The pickle's vinegar-y sharpness is a welcome hit to your olfactory when you crack into a jar, but rising from a waxed, white donut bag, it feels somehow wrong. You're gonna start to wonder if this is actually a good idea.

Fight through the doubt! Because biting into the fluffy fried pickle fritter is one of the stranger and more interesting flavor sensations I've ever experienced. It's a true mishmash of sweet and tart, salty and zesty. The bites of bread and butter pickle—not my favorite pickle varietal by a long shot—are the perfect choice here. Their less assertive, candied taste melts right into the sweetened, yeasty dough. The first few seconds are kind of confusing to your senses, but I found myself going back for bite after bite, intrigued by this unusual and perhaps ungodly addition to Cardigan's pastry canon.

It's a heck of a dilly donut. You can see the green herb dotting the dough throughout, and you will taste the pickles—so if that's not your thing, maybe go ahead and grab one of those cotton candy cake donuts.

If you're still intrigued? Brave the brine soon—the fried pickle fritter debuted on Monday, and per Cardigan's donut schedule, "inspired donut flavors" are made fresh for less than a week.

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