State Fair Fare: Checking Out the Competition in Minnesota

Big Tex, State Fair mascot who turns 59 this year, wears a 75 gallon hat and size 70 boots.
As soon as you walk through the gates of a state fair, whatever "diet" you may be on becomes null and void. If you're watching your carbs, trying to stay away from fried foods or cutting back on sweets, you may as well just stay home. Golden-battered goodies and chocolate-covered everything can be found around every corner, and most are served on sticks for your convenience. Forks? Psshhhttt. But a state fair is like the Louvre. Try as you might, you just can't see (or eat) everything in one day.

The State Fair of Texas, the largest in the country, kicks off in Dallas on the 30th of this month. Each year, food vendors compete for the Big Tex Choice Award, an honor bestowed upon only the tastiest and most creative edible inventions. With past winners like fried beer and fried butter, the bar is set pretty high. On Labor Day, the votes were tallied and the winners announced.

Taking home the "most creative" prize was Justin Martinez with his fried bubblegum; bubblegum-flavored marshmallows, battered and fried, adorned with icing and powdered sugar. Creative? Yes, but you may want to keep a pack of Wet Ones handy.

The recipient of the "best tasting" award was Allan Weiss with his Buffalo Chicken in a Flapjack; a deep-fried buffalo chicken strip dipped in pancake batter, coated in jalapeño bread crumbs and (obviously) served on a stick. Two, please. Finalists for the Big Tex Choice Awards included deep-fried pineapple upside down cake, deep-fried salsa and something called a walking taco (so curious...).

Over the long weekend, I was able to get my fried-food-on-a-stick fix at the second largest state fair in the country, the Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul. There are typically two types of state fair snackers: traditional and adventurous. We had both in our group, so we sampled the good ol' standbys, like corn dogs, along with the bizarre. We laughed, we cried (all right, I cried...) and we denied ourselves nothing. Since you have to wait a few weeks to feast at the State Fair of Texas, here are 10 foods we sampled this past weekend at the Minnesota State Fair.

10. Hotdish-on-a-stick: Stereotypically Minnesotan, it's usually served in casserole form and contains a starch, a meat and/or a veggie. Lucky for me, there was a diagram.

Thumbnail image for hotdish.jpg
Served with mushroom-hamburger dipping sauce, of course.

Whew! Diagram saved this guy from disection.

9. Fried cheese curds: I had to find a photo of cheese curds online because the cheese curds weren't around long enough for me to take a photo. Move over, mozzarella sticks. They were crisp on the outside, gooey perfection on the inside, and I may or may not have gone to Spec's yesterday to purchase a bag. Hey, there are worse addictions.

Beauty is in the eye of the curd-holder.


8. Scotch egg: Sausage and egg breakfast on a stick for your active lifestyle!



7. Hot waffle ice cream sandwich: Who says you can't have breakfast and dessert at the same time? At first I was appalled. "This just isn't right", I thought. But then after a few bites I found myself saying, muffled by a mouthful of waffle, "Could use a little syrup."

You should totally try this at home.


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Katrina Pigusch
Katrina Pigusch

When I lived in Minneapolis I made a point of going to the fair every year. My favorite thing is to buy a bucket of Sweet Martha's cookies and take it over to all you can drink milk. You could stand there for an hour watching people, drinking milk, and enjoying delicious wee cookies!!!

Ryan Bivens
Ryan Bivens

I agree with Trisch, there's something about that teeth squeak that gets me.  Fried or not, I'm stuffing my face with cheese curds whenever the opportunity arises.


Mmmmm...anything on a stick. My favorite would have to be the Cheese Curds (or as I call it MOLTEN LAVA)


OMG fried cheese curds! Central Market carries cheddar cheese curds. They're delightful pops of toothsome yet buttery goodness that are satisfyingly salty and make a curious squeak against the teeth. I can't eat just one. I almost always have to eat the whole carton. I can only imagine how beautiful they must be battered and fried. (drool)

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Veggie fries look good, hotdish on a stick looks mega-awesome. Specifically because of how excited its own signage is: TATER TOT HOTDISH!!


I generally stick to the classics, like corny dogs, but I'd toss toddlers aside to get some fried guacamole.

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