Minnesota State Fair Food Guide: Don't miss these hidden gems

They don't get the headlines, but maybe they should.

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

There's a hot apple dumpling under there, somewhere.

There's a hot apple dumpling under there, somewhere.

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.

More from our State Fair Food Guide 2018: The classics you need to try.

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.

Read all of BMTN's State Fair stories by clicking on our Flipboard magazine below.

Next Up

covid-19, vaccine

Minnesota changes vaccine appointment process, here's what to know

Walz also announced plans for a mass vaccination event at Xcel Energy Center.

covid-19, coronavirus

Here is Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Monday, Jan. 25

The latest figures from MDH have been released.

covid-19, vaccine

Minnesota health leaders say state's vaccine progress better than figures suggest

Minnesota is lagging behind national vaccination rates, but MDH leaders say this is because it's holding 2nd doses in reserve.

target store

Target announces bonuses ranging from $500-$2,000 for 375,000 workers

The bonuses are being provided following a booming holiday sales season.

dale olsen go fund me

Curling community rallies behind man who was shot in Minneapolis

Dale Olsen was shot in an apparent attempted robbery.


Willmar man's coworkers fundraise to help family after he was fatally shot

David Delfosse was working in his garage when he was killed by an errant bullet.

Governor Tim Walz

Governor Walz to announce 'sweeping' education plan Monday

The governor will address Minnesota at 2 p.m. Monday.

sun country

Sun Country adds 9 more flights out of MSP Airport

The new additions include large cities and popular outdoor destinations.

Zach Parise

Ghosts of Wild's past force split with Sharks

Brent Burns and Ryan Donato thwarted a comeback attempt by the Wild.


Hidden gems

Minnesota State Fair 2019: This year's hidden food gems

They don't get the headlines, but maybe they should.

State Fair Food Guide 2018: The best new foods, and one to miss

Food writer Haley Nelson sampled some of the new dishes on offer this year.

State Fair Food Guide: The classics you have to try

Haley Nelson picks out the must-try classics.

State Fair Food Guide: The best food and drink bargains

A day at the fair can be expensive, but there are bargains to be had.

5 hidden-gem foods at the Minnesota State Fair

Here are some surprisingly tasty options you might have missed.


Minnesota State Fair 2019: Who has the best malt at the fair?

We picked three contenders, and found it near-impossible to separate them.

State fair new foods

State Fair 2019: New foods you have to try, and some you shouldn't

Guest food writer Haley Nelson reveals her pick of the bunch.