5 hidden-gem foods at the Minnesota State Fair

Here are some surprisingly tasty options you might have missed.

This story is part of our 2017 Minnesota State Fair Music, Food & Beer Guide.

With hundreds of State Fair foods to choose from, even the diehard food enthusiasts overlook some incredible stuff. It's not humanly possible to consume everything noteworthy, but finding a few new regular year-to-year items? Heck yeah.

These five edible hidden gems could have you plotting a new route on your next fair visit.

Lingonberry Ice Cream (Southeast corner of Carnes Ave. & Underwood St.)

The Lingonberry Ice Cream stand is a sweet, old-fashioned booth selling simple ice cream treats imbued with Scandahoovia’s state berry. Pictured above, the ice cream tastes more of a rich vanilla than anything else, but pops of the astringent berry keep things interesting. I can’t help but wish I had this shade in a tube of lipstick.

Steichen’s Complete Food Market (Commisary Building)

Need diapers, cigs, or a bottle of Pepto, and you're already inside the confines of the fair? Steichen’s Complete Food Market to the rescue. In the alley behind the sheep barn, an entire convenience store awaits. (And you know we love convenience stores.) Along with pop, chips, and candy, Steichen’s also builds made-to-order simple cold cut and breakfast sandwiches. 

Open since 1933, the place feels designed to service 4H-ers and other staffers who practically live on the grounds for the fair's duration. Why live on Cheese On a Stick alone? Head to Steichen’s for a ham, egg, and cheese on a bagel for $4 – a simple, affordable way to power through livestock competitions. 

Charcoal Hut's Stuffed Tomatoes (East side of Judson Ave. between Underwood & Cooper streets, next to the International Bazaar)

Quick: Have you ever seen a salad at the fair? A tomato stuffed with chicken salad offers a... close approximation. The sight of a raw vegetable can be like an oasis. 

For vegetable matter that hasn’t been dipped in batter and fried, head to the grass-thatched Charcoal Hut, for a ripe, red tomato that’s been scored and heave-ho’d with a scoop of thick chicken salad. Though the salad in question is somewhat overly sweet, the total package offers a refreshing balance from the hot-and-fat catalogue. 

Shanghaied Henri’s Smoked Gouda Nachos (International Bazaar, north wall)

Smoked Gouda Nachos in a tray beg the question: Where have smoked Gouda nachos in a tray been all my life? Way better than ordinary cheese goo (which is saying a lot), these are also a State Fair bargain at just $5 if you take care to load them up with the gratis pickled jalapeños, plus green and red salsas. 

Pretzel Haus' Handmade Soft Pretzels (West side of Liggett St. between Carnes & Judson avenues)

Pretzel Haus' giant soft pretzels are hand-spun, slathered in butter (and naturally you will request it slathered in butter) and then served your way, alongside either cheese sauce, garlic butter, sugar and butter, or mustards. Butter and cheese sauce are the obvious choices here. They're worth the perpetually long wait in line – because they're over-the-top in size and quality.

This story is part of our 2017 Minnesota State Fair Music, Food & Beer Guide.

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