Skip to main content

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

They don't get the headlines, but maybe they should.
  • Author:
  • Updated:

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

police lights

Carver man charged after standoff with police in Prior Lake

The man had been fleeing from police when he allegedly broke into a home and the standoff ensued.


41-year-old Sherburne County man killed after crashing car into ditch

The crash occurred Sunday night in Palmer Township.


Around 200 rescued after ice breaks free on Upper Red Lake

Red Lake — both Upper and Lower — is the largest freshwater lake in the state.

Screen Shot 2022-11-28 at 9.38.30 AM

St. Paul featured on Hallmark Channel's 'Christmas Cam' livestream

Downtown's dazzling display can be viewed from anywhere in the world.


Charges: Drunk driver almost struck Bemidji parade spectators

The man told police he was trying to attend the parade himself.


The SCHEELS Experience

Whether looking for reliable hunting and fishing gear or new clothing and shoes, Eden Prairie SCHEELS is a one-stop shopping experience for the whole family.


Charges: Man fatally shot ex's new partner as he dined at Bloomington restaurant

Criminal charges filed Monday detail an alleged motive in the shooting.


Metallica to perform 2 nights in Minneapolis on 2023-24 World Tour

The heavy metal rock band returns to the state for the first time since 2018.

snow, plow

Tuesday storm to dump plowable snow in Minnesota

Snow should reach the Twin Cities Tuesday morning and fall throughout the day.

Screen Shot 2022-11-28 at 6.57.31 AM

Police: Drunk-driver almost struck people watching parade in Bemidji

The man was arrested for DWI charges following the incident.


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.


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

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

5 hidden-gem foods at the Minnesota State Fair

Here are some surprisingly tasty options you might have missed.

State Fair

Minnesota State Fair 2021: The best new foods

Our food writer Haley Nelson picks out her favorite new dishes at the State Fair.

Screen Shot 2021-08-28 at 10.57.53 AM

Minnesota State Fair 2021: The best food options that avoid the crowds

Food writer Haley Nelson has been looking for foods off the beaten track.