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Top 5 “Must Try” New Foods @MNStateFair

When asked, “What are your top 3 must try foods at the fair”, I realized how difficult that is to choose, or even recommend just 3.  So, I tried to expand my response to 5 “new” foods for 2015. And, you’ll see with my “honorable mention list”, that is still a struggle! There are the obvious (and not so obvious) classic foods that I highlighted in my previous post. And, there is the disclaimer that I still haven’t tried all the new foods, but definitely have hit some of the most notable, with still four days to go!

So…for now, here’s my “Top 5”:

Mancini’s Farm Fresh Grilled Pizza. The reason this tops my list is because, of course, it tastes really good, with a crispy, flavorful crust along with goat cheese and fresh veggies. But, I think it stands out to me because it’s a bit of a “non-conformist” in setting the bar for bringing high quality, delicious food to an event, like the State Fair. In fact, in a conversation I had with the President of the fair, Jim Sinclair, he mentioned that the fair prides themselves on not choosing food and vendors just because it’s “fried” and some version of “food-on-a-stick”. So good for Mancini’s for bringing this to the fair!IMG_2922

The Blue Barn’s Cowboy Daves Cluck and Moo. This was a little like a delicious “bowl of Thanksgiving”. Another a-typical fair food item done well. I recommend paring this with their Meatloaf-on-a-Stick and sharing with at least one other person (or a group)!

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Sriracha Balls from Alton’s Wings & BBQ (located in the Coliseum). I have to put these on my list, because of wonderful spicy paring of chicken, corn and tomatoes, and panko breading. They are reasonably priced (a portion of 2, decently sized for $4). And, because they are in the Coliseum building – and, if you haven’t been in the Coliseum for a show, then you are truly missing out! Plus, it’s air conditioned there!

Sriracha Balls

Salted Caramel Puff Malts and Sundaes from the Dairy Goodness Bar in the Dairy Building. Who would’ve thought to put salty, crunchy puff corn and caramel on ice cream? Of course, a state fair food vendor. A stop by the dairy building for an ice cream really needs to be a must-do for a MN State Fair-goer (in my opinion). So, this is a nice addition to their flavorful menu of ice cream treats!

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Korean BBQ Beef Taco’s from Shanghaied Henri’s International Taco’s. Another nice option for a fair food – that is easily shareable. There are a number of taco varieties to choose from.


Honorable Mentions:

Buffalo d’Bones from Famous Daves. Definitely the better option for ribs at the fair!


Prime Rib To-Go from Coasters. If you like Philly cheese steak sandwiches, then this may be for you (although no cheese on this one).

Prime Rib at Coasters

Prime Rib To-Go from Coasters

Chilled Bread Pudding from Blue Moon Dine-In Theater. I tried the classic vanilla with salted caramel and pecan topping. It was very good (if you like bread pudding). I heard the “Old Fashioned Challah” was very delicious, so may have to go back and try that one!


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The Top 5 Obvious (and Not So Obvious) Foods to Savor @MNStateFair

We are over half way through the 12 day adventure at The Minnesota State Fair and there is still SO much yet to see and do! But, I wanted to stop and reflect on what many of the visitors we hang out with at the fair proclaim as their MN state fair food favorites.

Although my quest has been to try as many of the 40 new foods featured this year, who can resist those “classic” favorite foods? You know, those foods that have been around forever, and have become known as the go-to for every fair-goers visit.

With over 500 foods and 300 different vendors, I’ve come to realize that there are those obvious “classic” favorites most people know about, but there are so many awesome “classics” that seem to go missed.

So, if you are headed out to the fair for one of the last remaining days, perhaps you too may discover a new “classic” favorite!

Top 5 Obvious “Classic” Fair Foods

  1. Sweet Corn-on-the-Cob from the Corn Roast
  2. Sweet Martha’s Cookies
  3. Ice cream, Malt or Sundae from the Dairy Barn
  4. Cheese Curds
  5. Fresh Fries
MN fair food corn

Sweet corn-on-the-cob from the Corn Roast

Top 5 Not-so-obvious “Classic” Fair Foods

  1. Carl’s Gizmo Sandwich; Located on the West side of Cooper St. between Murphy & Lee avenues
  2. Carousel BBQ Pork Chop-on-a-Stick; Tip: you can buy the seasoning for your own state fair pork chops for the rest of the year! Located on the South side of West Dan Patch Ave. between Liggett & Chambers streets
  3. Turkey-to-Go; Located on the East side of Clough St. between Carnes & Judson avenues
  4. O’ Gara’s Reuben Sandwich; At the Southwest corner of Dan Patch Ave. & Cosgrove St.
  5. Island Noodles; At the International Bazaar, south wall
Carl's Gizmo

Carl’s Gizmo Sandwich shop – located north of Machinery Hill on the west side of Cooper street

Island Noodles

Island Noodles located in the International Bazaar packed with fresh veggies!

Well, and then there is the Pronto Pup…or Corn Dog, what’s your favorite?

Pronto pup

Corn Dog or Pronto Pup…which is your favorite?

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Catching Up on Food and Fun @MNStateFair!

Last year, the Minnesota State Fair reached an all time attendance record over 1.8 million. So far this year, attendance is well on it’s way to a new high and if you had the chance to get out to the fair over the past few days, you know that first hand!


So, let’s catch up with the past few days of fair adventures.

First, a quick tour of the Eco Experience located on the East side of the fairgrounds. Great exhibit to walk through with friends or family. Every year they do a fabulous job educating on important environmental issues. This year featuring a “tornado” of plastic bags to encourage recycling.

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Next, one of the top classic food items at the fair: the Gizmo. If you haven’t tried this amazing Italian sandwich, it’s a hit and highly recommended by regular fair-goers. Located a little north of Machinery Hill on Cooper Street.

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And…maybe my surprising favorite new food at the fair so far this year: Mancini’s Farm Fresh Pizza. I would typically not get pizza at the fair because you can get great flat breads any time of year. But, this one was special! A grilled, crispy and delicate crust topped with flavorful fresh veggies and goat cheese. The Margherita pizza was also delicious, but the owner recommended the Farm Fresh pizza and we were not disappointed!


More fun watching the State Fair parade:

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And more food:

Deep fried ribs at Ball Park Cafe – lots of meat, not a lot of flavor (and the line and wait makes this worth passing up)


Gluten-free BEE Nice Blueberry Minnesota muffin at Farmer’s Union Coffee Shop – very yummy! I had it late in the day and it would even better warm with a coffee first thing in the morning!


Korean BBQ Tacos at Shanghaied Henri’s – Worth the wait and great to share!


A little more fun… people watching, shopping, and catching the free entertainment. “Rockin’ Woody” shown below at Mancini’s.

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And, lastly, one food I would not recommend was the Steak Apizzaiola from Spaghetti Eddie’s. There are just too many other terrific choices with food at the fair that I wouldn’t spend my money on this one (Oh, I did! But, recommend  you don’t!)


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What We Discovered on Day Two @MNStateFair

So, my plan was to write about all the wonderful food at the Minnesota State Fair – both old and new. But, what I discovered in our outing yesterday (day 2 of 12) was that when there are so many fun, belly laughing, distractions, you forget about food.

No worries! We definitely ate enough and I will discuss those later.

And, not that my other days at the fair aren’t fun, but I’ve come to realize that the fair is really like a small city that comes alive for only 12 days of the year. It is full of interesting people (aka tourists) who seem to be setting all their cares aside to just be in the moment, and that is what I truly love about The Great Minnesota Get-Together!

My top recommendation for day two is – it’s not about the food (but maybe the beverage). If you enjoy craft beer, then you don’t want to miss stopping by the Craft Brewer’s Guild in the Agriculture/Horticulture building. This is a wonderful exhibit highlighting ALL the Minnesota breweries. Along with being surrounded by some interesting history and education, there is an opportunity to try a “flight” of beers and educate your palate a bit too.

Then, there was this…

Adults tapping into their “inner child” and engaging in a game of Beer Carton Jenga! It was hilarious. Not to mention, a ton of fun interacting with people I’ve never met before.

Craft Brewer's Guild

“Beer Carton” Jenga

Oh, and if you slow down and look around, you won’t miss the fact that this is truly a beautiful building.

Building State Fair

Inside the Agriculture/Horticulture building near the Craft Brewer’s Guild exhibit

For updates on flights and brewer presentations, check out their website at: http://www.mncraftbrew.org/statefair

We did enjoy the new food offered at Coasters, located right outside the Mighty Midway. Featured here is Prime Rib To-Go. A delicious combination of sliced prime rib with lightly sauteed peppers and onions. Very tasty – and good to share if you want to save room to eat anything else at the fair!

Prime Rib at Coasters

Prime Rib To-Go from Coasters

A little more food… One of our favorite destinations is O’Gara’s located by the Fair main entrance on Snelling. We enjoyed the pretzel curds (new last year); still crunchy and delicious. We also sampled the Reuben Bites and tried a new food on O’Gara’s menu – the Limerick Stix, a corn meal battered, fried, pimento cheese and cayenne pepper concoction. My recommendation is to stick with the Pretzel curds; and, if you like a classic Reuben sandwich, then be sure to get one from here. One of my favorite fair foods of all time!

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And, more fun… We landed at Mancini’s and had a blast in a sing-along with “Rockin Woody”! (We’ll be going back for more of this!) – and enjoyed their wonderful Steak Sandwich along with a Schell’s Firebrick!

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Then, back to Coaster’s because it was time to put on our dancing shoes and enjoy some of the best free entertainment at the fair – well that is if you like cover band music – such as with Uncle Chunk.

Coasters band

Uncle Chunk with special guest singer, Taylor Swift! Okay, not TS, but much more entertaining (at least we thought so)

So, it’s not all about the food. There really is so much more to the fair. Hopefully, you won’t miss it!

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Opening Day at MN State Fair!

It’s time for The Great Minnesota Get Together! Lots of food – of course. But, the fair is much, much more than just food on a stick. Whether it’s checking out the animal barns, catching a horse show in the Coliseum, watching the lively parade, or finding a place to plop and enjoy great music, the Minnesota State Fair is packed with high quality activities, events and exhibits. One day is truly not enough to savor everything the fair has to offer!

While I could dedicate the remaining days of the fair (11 to be exact) to writing about all the entertainment and exhibits (that many fair-goers unfortunately miss out on); the most common question I get from folks is “What food have you tried?” and “What’s good to eat?” So, we’ll focus on that for now.

Looking for a nice summary of 2015 New Foods? This is a good one: Fair 15_new_foods_list

Looking for a good app for finding foods at the fair? Check out the Minnesota State Fair App! http://www.mnstatefair.org/general_info/mobile.html

Looking for some honest advice about food at the fair (with pictures of what the food really looks like)? Then, follow me here or on Facebook to get updates and reviews.

So, here we go…

My favorite “new” foods from day one worth checking out include:

Buffalo ‘d Bones at Famous Daves – good sized ribs and wonderfully flavored sauce – smoky with a different “kick”.

Buffalo d' Bones

Wine-fried Kalettes at MN Wine Country – these topped my list because I’m not a huge fan of kale but thought this was a creative option with the popular veggie. A favorite among my group too. Also pictured here is the fried brie on a stick.

Wine-fried Kalettes

Sriracha Balls at Alton’s BBQ and Wings in the Coliseum – good-sized portions either with chicken or cream cheese (we tried both). Good, spicy flavor and easy to share!

Sriracha Balls

Other’s we tried that are also very good include:
Mac and Cheese Cupcake at Lulu’s – first, take the “cheese whiz” off the top. For mac and cheese – a nice effort.

Mac and Cheese at Lulu's

Chilled Bread Pudding at Blue Moon Diner Theater – I love traditional bread pudding, and wasn’t disappointed by this version. Lots of options for making your own. I chose vanilla bread pudding with salted caramel topping and pecans. There is also a gluten-free version with berries. May have to try that one too!

Chilled Bread Pudding at Blue Moon Diner Theater

Up North Shoreman’s Lunch at the Blue Barn – good but still prefer the Meatloaf on a Stick pictured below!

Meatloaf on a Stick at the Blue Barn.

My favorite “new food” from 2014. Even my hubby (who doesn’t like meatloaf) liked it!

Gluten-free Island Coleslaw with Teriyaki Chicken at Island Noodles – I love everything from this vendor, and this a very tasty addition to their menu. The chicken was very tender and full of flavor. My friend who sampled this with me doesn’t like mayo-based sauces (typical of a coleslaw) and commented that she really liked this sauce.

Gluten-free Island Coleslaw

Nice gluten-free option, but still prefer the Island Noodles from here!

Deep fried brie on a stick at Minnesota Wine Country – warm cheese and delicate batter. Very yummy if you like Brie.

I don’t recommend: Salted Caramel Apple pie at Sara’s Tipsy Pies (served cold and nothing special about the pie and $10 EXTRA for the toppings – yikes!)

Sara's Tipsy Pies

But, always good…and worth sharing with a group at $5 a serving, Cheese curds in the food building

Cheese Curds MN Fair Food

Plus…Gluten-free Beer battered Brat (a new food favorite from a couple years ago), and Grain Belt Blue Beer and Bloody Beer (new this year)!

Grain Belt Blue beer

Grain Belt Blue Beer only available at the Schell’s bar in the West End Market.

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Dietitian at the Fair #MNFairFood

MN fair food ed and val

So, I happen be a dietitian who loves food and I love Minnesota State Fair FOOD! Yup, I really do! In fact, my hubby and I love it so much, we are aiming to go all 12 days this year!

I know, to some this may seem unusual. But, I truly have come to look forward to exploring many aspects of “The Great Minnesota Get Together” – but especially have fun discovering the best new foods while savoring some of the old favorites.

Remember “It’s an event, not a lifestyle!”

The truth is that since my hubby happens to be very involved in an aspect of the fair, we have the opportunity to spend the majority of days and/or evenings at the largest state fair in the country with a record attendance of over 1.8 million in just 12 days last year! We enjoy concerts, visit the animals, check out new exhibits, hang out at the pubs, and savor some of the craziest concoctions of food you can find on the planet.

So, here’s the reason for my upcoming blog series. 

A few years ago, after “investing” in one of the featured new foods, we were hugely disappointed. It was expensive, looked nothing like the picture, and tasted horrible. On the flip side, I also discovered a flavorful and delicious food (while actually a healthy option as well) that was my daughter’s favorite. That’s when I decided the fair should hire me to help promote food in a different light. I know, it does sound a little crazy now. But, they denied my suggestion for some consulting assuming my nutrition “credentials” meant I would be providing something similar to a “weight watchers guidebook” which is not what they want. Clearly, I didn’t explain my objective very well because with a background working in eating disorders, that would be very unlikely to come from me.

Since then, every year I have more and more people asking me “What have you tried at the fair?” “What do you recommend?” “What’s a good deal?” “What’s something that’s not on a stick?” “Is there anything even somewhat healthy to eat at the fair?” or my favorite, “What’s better, a pronto pup or corn dog, and what’s the difference anyway?” Since most folks are likely to visit the fair only one or two times (or not going at all because it seems there’s only fried food on a stick), some direction with navigating 42 new foods; and, over 500 foods at 300 stands might be helpful! Right??

So, coming up this month on August 27 is day one! Myself, aMN fair food girlslong with a group of friends – many of whom are also dietitians (prerequisite: need to love food and aren’t afraid to eat) will be traveling around the fair aiming to test out as many of the new foods as we can. Then, I will joyfully pass along our thoughts and recommendations to any of my followers. Days 2 through 12 will continue with updates including answers to all those questions on fair-goers minds.

I would love to hear your comments about your experience at the MN State Fair (or your favorite fair). What would you like to ask a dietitian about fair food and eating? Now’s your chance!!

Cheers! ~ Val

MN fair food corn