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We tried 10 tacos at the State Fair – which is the best?

This is what happens when the State Fair happens to tacos.
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This story is part of our 2017 Minnesota State Fair Music, Food & Beer Guide.

Like most things at the Minnesota State Fair, context matters. Would you go to the Minnesota State Fair specifically for a taco? 

When the sweet, the drippy, and treacle gets the better of us, it’s possible that a bit of chile and normalcy could get us through the final stretches. There are at least 10 different taco experiences available at the fair. Some are worth it, some are not. Some just make you say: “What the... ?” 

Here's a tour of 10 tacos, 10 furrowed brows, lots and lots of sour cream.

OOF-da Tacos' Frybread Taco (NE corner of Dan Patch Ave. & Cooper St.)

A properly fried, crisp-tender frisbee of Indian fry bread provides the base for the otherwise standard gringo taco (ground beef, shredded lettuce, cheddar). It’s still one of the better tacos at the fair, with just-enough novelty, generous size, and a free packet of Daisy sour cream. Every taco is fried to order and arrives hot and fresh. 

Mexican Hat's Gringo Taco (East of Chambers St. & south of the Grandstand)

This booth has been at the fair over 50 years and their take on the “gringo” taco is pretty much prototypical. This $5 taco can be devoured in roughly three big bites. It's a hard shell with ground beef, shredded iceberg, and cheddar. Spring for a packet of sour cream to make the experience complete. Bonus: the shells are served warm.

San Felipe Tacos' Beef & Naan Tacos (Food Building, east wall)

Better known for their breaded and fried-fish tacos, San Felipe's new item this year features steak marinated in Modist Deviation 004-Mexican Dark Chocolate Stout beer. It's grilled and topped with shredded lettuce, pico de gallo, queso fresco, cilantro, lime, and jalapeño ranch sauces, and wrapped in warm Indian naan flatbread. While the fillings work well, the naan overwhelms them somewhat and winds up with a bit of too much wrapper to filling ratio. 

LuLu’s Public House's Walleye Taco (West End Market, south of the Schilling Ampitheater)

Last year’s chicken tenders were a big hit at LuLu’s, proving that chicken tenders can not only be delicious, but different. Their walleye taco is also in that spirit of “Hey! That’s pretty good!” The exterior is super-crisp, and the fish is tender and fresh within, and a creamy coleslaw is a nice foil to the heat. The portion could be bigger, though. 

Tejas Express' Barbecue Shrimp Taco (The Garden, north wall)

Edina’s classic Tex-Mex mainstay's booth not only sells tacos, but the restaurant’s giant-portion, made-to-order guacamole. The barbecue shrimp taco was one of the better tacos we tasted, with doubled-up warm corn tortillas, and properly cooked plump shrimp. Do apply some handmade, smoky Chipotle salsa. The $11 price tag is somewhat justified by the fact that you get two tacos, making this item easier to share. 

El Sol Mexican Foods' Carnitas Taco (East side of Underwood St. between Dan Patch & Carnes avenues, outside SW corner of the Food Building)

Another old-school fair fave, the somewhat dry carnitas are salvaged by the unique, crunchy fried flour tortilla shell. It toes the line between a flour tortilla and a hard shell. Since novelty matters at the fair, we appreciate the effort. 

Potato Man and Sweety's Sweet Potato Taco (West side of Liggett St. between Carnes & Judson avenues)

Like sweet potato fries, you’re either a lover or a hater of the orange tuber getting in the mix of your classic snacks. But these three-biters are surprisingly graceful with a smooth puree of potato, black beans, and very nicely done pickled cabbage. If you have a vegetarian in your group, or an individual with a fair-hating streak, this taco is a stop for a slice of super tasty sanity. 

Taco King's Regulator (North side of Judson Ave. between Clough & Nelson streets)

Our pick for the State Fair gold standard taco, Taco King’s flour tortilla-wrapped taco comes in beef, chicken, combo, or veggie. We went with the “regulator,” as they call it back in the kitchen, with standard seasoned ground beef. Taco King gets an extra nod for lightly frying their flour tortilla, and not doing much else to bastardize the plain-but-good soft taco experience. 

Shanghaied Henri's Oslo Taco (International Bazaar, north wall)

Because somebody had to do it, Shanghaied Henri's has Scandinavian’d-up their Oslo Taco, with Norwegian Jarlsberg Cheese, Lingonberry sour cream, pork, and bacon. While not altogether unpleasant – the sweetness in the sour cream plays nicely against the smoke in the pork – this taco is ultimately a joke in a tortilla. One amused bite and you’ll be on to other things.

Hansen’s Amusement Foods' Taco in a Bag (North side of Judson Ave. outside the Horse Barn)

A twist on the “walking taco,” a Doritos bag dressed in taco flavored kisses, Hansen’s uses the more straightforwardly Midwestern phrase “taco in a bag.” I strangely spent most of my taco time at the fair loving this particular taco, as it fits the environment nicely. There’s no shame in eating Dorito crumbs with a fork at the fair. Hansen’s also served the hottest sauce we had during this entire State Fair taco tour.

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

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