Stop for These Unique Eats On Your Next Minnesota Road Trip

Three are sweet, one is savory—and they’re all off the grid in their own way
The Moorhead DQ went rogue a long time ago
The Moorhead DQ went rogue a long time ago

Photo by Jon Forness

The Dilly Bar’s Birthplace

There are 225 Dairy Queens in Minnesota, but none like the Moorhead DQ. In operation since 1949, the retro red-and-white walk-up shop has eschewed corporate franchise rules and still operates under its original contract. The store is best known for inventing the Dilly Bar in the 1950s, which is commemorated with a giant statue version on the patio. Unlike at the corporate locations, Moorhead’s Dilly Bars are made fresh on-site and hand dipped in chocolate, cherry, or butterscotch.

While you can still get a Blizzard and other headquarters-approved menu items, many patrons opt for a taste of nostalgia off the “local menu.” The Chipper Sandwich (a chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich dipped in chocolate), Monkey Tail (chocolate-covered frozen banana), and Mr. Maltie (chocolate malt on a stick) are some Moorhead exclusives. Diehards line up on March 1 when the shop opens for the season. The big day has been known to attract more than 1,000 people, even in—you guessed it—a blizzard.

Canelake's Candies in Virginia, Minnesota
Canelake’s Candies in Virginia, Minnesota

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Classic Candies

Few things make a small town sing like an old-fashioned candy shop. Opened in 1905 as Virginia Candy Kitchen, Canelake’s Candies in downtown Virginia is believed to be Minnesota’s oldest candy store. The Canelake family still makes chocolates, caramels, toffee, turtles, and fudge the old-fashioned way: by hand, in small batches cooked in copper kettles—with lots of cream and butter.

Canelake's Candies is maybe Minnesota's oldest candy store, selling handmade confections
Canelake’s Candies is maybe Minnesota’s oldest candy store, selling handmade confections

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The store also sells ice cream, souvenirs, and has a soda fountain outfitted with some original red stools. The third-generation owners also run the 102-years-younger Great! Lakes Candy Kitchen in Knife River.

For a little savory with your sweet, Widman’s Candy Shop in Crookston is best known for its Chippers: potato chips covered in milk chocolate, dark chocolate, or white almond that are deliciously addictive. The Crookston shop has been open since 1911, but its famed treat didn’t come around until the 1980s. The shop’s vintage glass cases also hold handmade caramels, taffy, turtles, fudge, peanut brittle, and almond bark.

Like a chunk of Old World Germany, Schmidt's Meat Market is a discrete highway detour
Like a chunk of Old World Germany, Schmidt’s Meat Market makes for a discreet highway detour

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Meat Me Here

Pulling up to Schmidt’s Meat Market in Nicollet is like entering a portal to Old World Germany right off Highway 169. The building’s Bavarian-style facade, with triangular brown shingled panels and “Willkommen” above the door, is a more recent addition to what began as a one-man custom butcher shop in 1947.

Schmidt's has award-winning sausage, bratwurst, and off-the-beaten-path offerings like head cheese
Schmidt’s has award-winning sausage, bratwurst, and off-the-beaten-path offerings like head cheese

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Founders Gerhardt and Esther Schmidt lived in the apartment above the shop, and worked there into their 90s. Their grandson Ryan owns the 50-employee business now, and still works directly with local farmers and hunters. In 2019 alone, the shop won 11 state, four national, seven international, and three Minnesota State Fair titles. Schmidt’s inventory includes award-winning sausage, bratwurst, and more acquired tastes, such as head cheese (traditionally made with pig snouts and tongues) and cannibal burgers (ground inside round typically eaten raw on crackers).

Need road trip ideas? Check out these destinations that explore the state’s cultural fabric, or head to places where nature meets art.

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