Reviews: Minnesota State Fair New Foods, 2018 Edition

The foods to eat, consider, or just forget about

Photo by Darin Kamnetz

Here we go! The annual Jason DeRusha “try as many new foods as I can stomach” guide to the Great Minnesota Get-Together. Should you eat it? Should you consider it? Should you forget it? 


Birchwood Cafe Heirloom Tomato BLT: You won’t find this on the “official” list of new State Fair items, but this Heirloom Tomato BLT is an absolute knockout. Served on a ciabatta made from Bakers Field Flour in Northeast Minneapolis, two giant heirloom tomatoes are served with a crisp lettuce leaf and thick-cut pepper bacon. It’s the extras that make this special, though: a sweet corn/chipotle cream sauce and a pesto aioli. $12, and worth every penny. I could eat this every day. At Farmers Union Coffee Shop, located on the north side of Dan Patch Ave. between Cooper & Cosgrove streets

Grilled Peaches with herbed goat cheese: The Produce Exchange is legendary for their impossibly sweet and juicy Colorado Peaches. Hiring brilliant pastry chef Alexandra Motz to amp up the offerings by grilling those peaches was, well, brilliant. For $6 you can get a simple naked grilled peach—the fire caramelizes the sugars from the peach and makes it special. But for $9 you can get an herbed goat cheese that is simply magical. Freshly chopped rosemary, basil, and parsley sit on top of a melon ball-sized dollop of soft goat cheese. The earthiness of the cheese, sweetness of the peach, plus the char and a drizzle of honey. It tastes like summer on the farm. At Produce Exchange, located on the north side of Carnes Ave. between Nelson & Underwood streets 

Mangonada Shave Ice: What an upgrade to the snow cone. Freshly shaved ice almost melts in your mouth, and this is a flavor combo that absolutely delighted this food critic as well as my 10-year-old son. Spicy, sweet, cold, hot, a hint of salt, a hint of lime. Wow! Mango-flavored shaved ice, drizzled with Mexican chamoy sauce for some heat, and a dusting of Tajin chili/lime powder. Then there are mango tapioca bobas and a tamarind candy straw. All of this for $6. At Minnesnowii Shave Ice, located at West End Market, south section

Photo by Darin Kamnetz

Nordic Waffles: Thin, sweet, heart-shaped waffles that serve as almost a taco shell for sweet or savory wraps. Mine were hot, crispy, and ideal for walking around the fair and sharing with a friend. The $10 Norwegian smoked salmon with cream cheese and green onions is a perfect breakfast or lunch, while the $8 Berries & Cream was a perfect hot day dessert, with a mix of strawberries, raspberries, and vanilla cream. Also available in turkey chipotle club, vegetarian, s’mores, cinnamon/sugar/butter, and bacon/egg/cheddar. At Nordic Waffles, located at West End Market, southwest section

Photo by Darin Kamnetz

Irish Tater Kegs: All things I love: the Irish, potatoes, and kegs. O’Gara’s deep-fries tater tots for six minutes because they’re so large—inside, I found way more corned beef than I expected. The potato base is mixed with with sour cream, Swiss cheese, and a tiny hint of sauerkraut. Five big tots for $8, drizzled with O’Gara’s version of Thousand Island dressing and plopped on a bed of sauerkraut. At O’Gara’s at the Fair, located on the southwest corner of Dan Patch Ave. & Cosgrove St.

Photo by Darin Kamnetz

Messy Giuseppe: It’s the perfect ground beef and Italian sausage that makes this sandwich sing. Mancini’s sort of deconstructs its meatballs and its Windom, Minnesota pork sausage, bathes it in Pat Mancini’s mom’s marinara sauce (which is spicy and thick!), sprinkles with Parmesan and calls it a day. The bread is thick, Italian bread (same stuff they cut thinner and grill for the garlic toast) but isn’t really practical to pick this thing up. It’s a knife and fork situation, the only dig on a really great sandwich, at a very reasonable price of $7.75.  At Mancini’s al Fresco, located on the north side of Carnes Ave. between Nelson & Underwood streets


Photo by Darin Kamnetz

Wood-Grilled Elote : On the one hand, this Tejas Express “elote” is brilliant. Instead of a super-messy and gloppy elote corn, this tries to be more managable. It’s nicely grilled and charred corn, brushed with a bright orange chile-spiced mayo and then lightly sprinkled with Cotija cheese. It’s also just $5, which is an absolute steal. On the other hand, I’m not sure if you love elote-style corn that you’ll love this, so I’m not sure who the audience is for it. At Tejas Express, located in The Garden, north wall

Photo by Darin Kamnetz

Turducken Sausage Sandwich: Nice snap on this very tasty sausage at Giggles’ Campfire Grill. It’s a blend of turkey, duck, and chicken, although you can’t really pick out those flavors. It just tastes like a good sausage on a really high-quality fennel bun. If you have this plain, I think you’ll be disappointed. If you have it with the yellow-green sweet and saucy relish, I think you’ll dig it. Why you’d go to Giggles’ and spend $7 on a hot dog instead of the duck bacon wontons, or the walleye cakes, or the walleye fries I’m not sure, but I like almost everything Giggles’ does, and so I like this too. At Giggles’ Campfire Grill, located on the southeast corner of Lee Ave. & Cooper St. at The North Woods


Photo by Darin Kamnetz

Pepperoni Chips with Roasted Red Pepper Queso: With the caveat that the nice man I shared a table with outside LuLu’s Public House told me he loved them, I’ll say that this is a ridiculous item. Thin, fried pepperoni chips that tasted extremely salty (it’s pepperoni) and almost burned, even though they clearly were not. The warm roasted red pepper cheese sauce had what you’d expect on a cheese sauce: a thin, gelatinous layer on top. Not appetizing. My kids liked their first couple chips and quickly grew tired of them, which is problematic because there are at least 50 of them in a serving. Best eaten with one of the many excellent beers at LuLu’s, to mask the salt explosion. At LuLu’s Public House, located at West End Market, south of Schilling Amphitheater

Sweet Greek Cheese Puffs: At first I kind of liked this amped-up baklava—a crispy, deep-fried triangle of phyllo dough filled with feta and ricotta cheese—but three bites was enough for me. It’s drizzled with honey and topped with powdered sugar, and I absolutely hate powdered sugar because there’s about a 100 percent chance that I’m going to spill it on my shirt. If you’re in a group of six, everyone can take a couple bites. It’s only $5, and Dino’s is one of the most fun hangs at the fair. At Dino’s Gyros, located on the north side of Carnes Ave. between Nelson & Underwood streets

Photo by Darin Kamnetz

Bacon Stuffed Tots: A rare Blue Barn dish that wasn’t working for me: The tots were crispy on the outside and super-creamy on the inside, but if you’re going to sell them as bacon-stuffed, I want them to be stuffed with bacon. Our order barely had any pieces of bacon, and we checked some other folks nearby, and they were in the same situation. The bacon-infused sour cream was nice and had a bit of a zip to it, but this is a skip. At Blue Barn, located at the West End Market


Ahi Tuna Poke Bowl: Ahi tuna, avocado, mango, and pico de gallo tossed in a Hawaiian ginger-soy sauce served cold over rice with a fried wonton. At CafeÌ Caribe, located on the south side of Carnes Ave. between Chambers & Nelson streets

Bananas Foster French Toast: Cinnamon swirl French toast topped with slices of fresh bananas in an orange-rum-flavored caramel sauce and finished with a dollop of whipped cream. At Hamline Church Dining Hall, located on the north side of Dan Patch Ave. between Underwood & Cooper streets

Earth Wings®: Fresh cauliflower pieces dipped in a seasoned batter, deep-fried, and smothered in organic sesame BBQ sauce. Vegan and gluten-free. At French Meadow Bakery & Cafe, located on the north side of Carnes Ave. between Nelson & Underwood streets

Moroccan Sausage Bowl: Coarse ground beef and lamb sausage seasoned with herbs, sweet spices, and a hint of red pepper, cooked with carrots, turnips, and chick peas, and topped with sauteÌed onions and a green olive. At Sausage by Cynthia, located on the north side of Judson Ave. between Nelson & Underwood streets

General Tso Chicken Taco: Battered and deep-fried chicken tossed in a sauce of ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and Asian spices, with seasoned cream cheese and topped with wonton crisps and green onion, served on a flour tortilla. At Midtown Global Market’s Taco Cat, located in the Taste of the Midtown Global Market booth at the International Bazaar, east wall (Available Aug. 23–28 only)

Smoked Soft Serve Ice Cream: Cold-smoked cream available in two flavors, all made on-site. At Blue Moon Dine-In Theater, located on the northeast corner of Carnes Ave. & Chambers St.

  • Cold Brew Coffee is infused with cold-smoked Arabica beans and topped with chocolate espresso dust, a toasted marshmallow, and a chocolate cookie on the side
  • Muscovado Sugar Vanilla combines vanilla bean and cold-smoked molasses-rich cane sugar served with a toasted marshmallow and bacon candy round on the side. Optional sauces available: bourbon-soaked cherries or hot chocolate.

Swedish Meatball Smörgås: Meatball sandwich with three traditional Swedish pork and beef meatballs topped with white gravy, lingonberry sauce, and dill pickles. At The Blue Barn, located at West End Market, south of the History & Heritage Center

UpNorth Puff Pasty: Porketta sausage, cheese curds, coarse grain mustard, and chopped dill pickle baked in a puffy crust sprinkled with pepper and sea salt. At Sausage Sister & Me, located in the Food Building, east wall

Za-Waffle Sticks: Waffles blended with pepperoni and mozzarella, topped with a Parmesan herb blend and served with pepperoni- infused maple syrup or marinara sauce. At Green Mill, located on the east side of Cooper St. between Randall & Wright avenues, at Family Fair at Baldwin Park

Zesty PB&J Sausage: Peanut butter, cherry jelly, and a hint of cayenne pepper and cilantro blended into a quarter-pound sausage. At Gass Station Grill, located on the west side of Cooper St. between Dan Patch & Judson avenues, outside southeast corner of the Food Building

BBQ Split: Scoops of BBQ pulled pork, mac & cheese, and coleslaw served side-by-side with a pickle spear. At Midtown Global Market’s Mama D’s, located in the Taste of Midtown Global Market booth at the International Bazaar, east wall(Available Aug. 29–Sept. 3 only)

Blueberry Rhubarb Cobbler: A blend of organic blueberries and rhubarb topped with a cornmeal biscuit and whipped cream. At Farmers Union Coffee Shop, located on the north side of Dan Patch Ave. between Cooper & Cosgrove streets

Firecracker Shrimp Stuffed Avocado: Gulf white shrimp tossed with lime, onion, black beans, tomato, and fire-roasted corn in a garlic aioli, drizzled with cilantro-infused olive oil, stuffed in avocado halves, and served open-face with flatbread. At The Hideaway Speakeasy, located in the Veranda, Grandstand upper level, northwest section

Honey Cream Soda Float: Honey cream soda (made without sugar) poured over Minnesota Grown honey ice cream. At Minnesota Honey Producers Association, located in the Agriculture Horticulture Building, north side

Rainbow Cloud Roll: Three scoops of ice cream sprinkled with fruity cereal and wrapped in a pillow of cotton candy. Hand-rolled on-site. Ice cream choices include Superman, vanilla, strawberry and chocolate. At Rainbow Ice Cream, located in the Grandstand, upper level, east section near the elevator

Shrimp Ceviche: Fresh shrimp, cucumbers, jalapeños, onions, tomatoes and cilantro tossed with a citrus lime juice and served cold with tortilla chips. At Shrimp Shack, located on the southwest corner of Carnes Ave. & Underwood St.

Slider Flights: Flights of three slider sandwiches, each with a variety of toppings, available in three varieties. At The Hangar, located on the northeast corner of Murphy Ave. & Underwood St.

  • Brisket Flight: One slider topped with coleslaw, one with pickles and onions, and one with crispy fried onions
  • Burger Flight: One slider topped with thick-cut candied bacon and cheddar cheese, one with smoked gouda, and one with BBQ sauce, pepper jack cheese and crispy fried onions
  • Pulled Pork Flight: One slider topped with coleslaw, one with pickles and onions, and one with crispy fried onions.

    Sweetie Cakes: Choice of black forest cake, birthday cake or chocolate peanut butter cake, baked in a cup packed with Sassy Pecan toffee bits and served warm, topped with real whipping cream and more toffee bits. At Sweetie Cakes, located in the Food Building, south wall

    Triple Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake: Dense chocolate cake with chocolate chips and fudge icing smothered with strawberries and whipped cream. At The Strawberry Patch, located on the west side of Liggett St. between Carnes & Judson avenues

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