Even if you’ve been going to the fair your whole life, there’s always something new to be discovered.
This is especially true when it comes to food, given so many new foods and vendors are launched every year and there are inevitably ones you haven’t tried yet.
So while Sweet Martha's, cheese curds and the hot, new dish from upstart vendors get the headlines, I've identified some of the food delights that fly under the radar each year.
Fried green tomatoes
My favorite food at the fair is an often-overlooked gem: fried green tomatoes. They’re perfectly seasoned and crisp: A distant cousin to the fried pickles, but milder, larger and less like something you’d find at any local burger joint.
In the same booth is another delicious find – corn fritters, served with honey butter.
You can’t go wrong with either, so be sure to check this booth out.
Where to find it: Original Corn Fritters, south side of Dan Patch Avenue, between Underwood and Cooper.
Hot apple dumplings
The fair is the place to eat foods you’d never make for yourself at home. Hot apple dumplings are one of those foods for me.
At Rutana's Hot Apple Dumplings, they do dumplings right. It’s an apple, encased in warm flaky pastry, served with ice cream. Yum.
Where to find it: Rutana's, north side of Randall Avenue, southwest of Progress Center.
Sweet potato churros
Another food in the “I would never make this at home” category is sweet potato churros.
The sugar coating gives them the sweetness, and they're finished off with just a hint of that sweet potato flavor. They come with a side of either chocolate or maple-brown sugar sauce.
The Potato Man and Sweetie is also known for its sweet potato tacos and its mashed potato on a stick.
Where to find it: The Potato Man and Sweetie, west side of Liggett Street, between Carnes and Judson.
Salem Lutheran Church Dining Hall
If you didn’t know better, you would think you’ve stumbled into a small-town diner circa 1960 – or maybe even a rural Minnesota Lutheran church basement.
But you’ve actually just entered the Salem Lutheran Church Dining Hall, which has been in operation for more than 65 years.
It’s tucked away by the Progress Center, in a cozy little building that looks more like an Up North lakeside cabin than a fair food booth.
This is the perfect place to sit down, rest your feet, and stay for a while. Order some Swedish meatballs or a breakfast sandwich, or just try a cup of their egg coffee. (No, it doesn’t taste like eggs, and yes, it’s good.)
Where to find it: North side of Randall Avenue, south of the Progress Center
The Hideaway Speakeasy
The Hideaway Speakeasy is the ultimate Minnesota State Fair hidden gem because, well, it’s hidden.
Secreted away on the Veranda in the Grandstand, The Hideaway is a great place to sit down and relax, enjoy some libations (try the cotton candy bubble trouble) and food (the mobster’s caviar crab dip) and sink into the 1920s St. Paul speakeasy atmosphere.
Given it only opened in 2017 and isn't yet firmly in the consciousness of the average State Fair-goer, this is the spot if you need to get away while you’re at the fair.
Where to find it: Veranda area of the Grandstand, upper level, northwest section.
You can read more of Haley Nelson's food writing at her website, Cheap Recipe Blog.
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