If you are as obsessed with the Great Minnesota Get-Together as we are, folks tend to seek your advice on all things Minnesota State Fair, especially food. "What should we eat first?" "What’s your favorite food on a stick/savory/sweet/alcoholic/non-alcoholic drink?" "If you could only have three things to eat, what would they be?"
As we count down to kick off day (this Thursday, if you're wondering), we gladly dispense our advice like Dear Abby, without the good manners.
Chef Jack Riebel of the upcoming Lexington
"I grew up spending a lot time there. I worked at the fair, but never for pay. I usually have two trips planned: an early morning trip and a visit from afternoon until closing. For the morning trip, I start with Swedish egg coffee [at Salem Lutheran Church restaurant] if we enter through Machinery Hill, or if we come in through the Main gate, I get a cold press at the Farmers Union. I’m not much of sweets guy at the fair, but my first grab with the coffee is Tom Thumb donuts or a funnel cake in the food building with powder sugar only. I’m old school, so ideally, my day would consist of classics like onion rings at Danielson & Daughter’s, original cheese curds, corn on the cob, a foot long with onions, Fresh French Fries from the red and yellow stand next to midway, a turkey sandwich at Turkey to Go, a burger and a beer at the Midway Men's Club (coldest beer at the fair!). I also love getting a roti at Harry Singh’s (that hot sauce!) a "loaded" Spamburger, a Spring Grove soda, and a 1919 root beer. I would end any day with a frozen cider pop at Minnesota Apples or a scoop of honey and sunflower ice cream, both in the Agriculture Horticulture Building."
"If I had to choose just three, they would be onion rings, funnel cake and that beer at Midway Men’s Club."
Stephanie March, Senior Food and Dining Editor, Mpls./St.Paul Magazine
"I am one of those humans who shows up at 8 a.m. on opening day and eats every single new fair food and drink, like it's a sport. It's a gift and a curse of my job. On the days after, when I'm there for radio shows or chillin’ with the kids, my first hit is usually a pretzel from the Pretzel Haus with a shake from the Dairy Barn, as together they make a simple dipping marriage made in heaven.
"If I could only have three things, it would be: cheese curds, Manny's Tortas’ pina colada served in a hollowed out fresh pineapple, and foot long corn dog."
The Cluck & Moo from the Blue Barn. Photo courtesy Minnesota State Fair
Thomas Kim and Kat Melgaard, Rabbit Hole
"The things we enjoyed eating last year [Rabbit Hole’s first year as vendors] were Manny's Tortas’ pina colada and their Three Little Pigs Torta, Produce Exchange’s giant fresh peach, Blue Barn’s Cluck & Moo, Hot Indian’s butter chicken samosa, pork chop on a stick, roasted corn, a Summit Beer and Salty Tart’s coconut macaroons."
"This year we are looking forward to trying the Sheep Dog from Lamb Shoppe. It sounds interesting. Could be great or a complete mess, we will have to see! The Spicy Pork Bowl from Blue Barn sounds good. They usually do a great job so this seems like a no brainer. Maybe the Cajun Peel 'n' Eat Shrimp from Café Caribe, though it may not be ideal for most fairgoers with the messy fingers and stationary eating, but that isn't an issue for [us]. And Burnt Butt Ends from RC's BBQ. [We] love pork and BBQ so I'm looking forward to this one."
Nick Rancone and Thomas Boemer inside Revival. Photo by Katie Cannon.
Nick Rancone, Revival and Corner Table
"I used to work at the fair, in the French fries booth, so I’ve had my share of fries. I’m a classics kind of guy. I go for the pork chop on a stick, the cheese curds from Mouth Trap in the food building. And of course, beer. Really cold beer. For the fair, I go for Grain Belt."
Erik Eastman, Easy and Oskey Bitters
"I like making-a-day-of-it, not just ducking into the Fair for a quick bite. Take a Tuesday off work, accept that there will be traffic and lots of people, and immerse yourself in the yearly (or every-other-yearly if you're like me) get together. Three foodstuffs I don't want to miss: pork chop on a stick (always and without exception my favorite bite,) whatever Thomas Kim is serving at the Midtown Global Market situation this year (Thomas makes delicious things, and I heard about his kimchi curry poutine from last year) and an ice cold Summit Extra Pale Ale in a seated position. There can be a lot of walking at the Fair."
Alex Lodner, Writer at Eater Minneapolis, Crazed Fair Fan
"Ok, my turn. Since we go to the fair most week days, we can spread our eating out nicely. We have so many old favorites, and I try to hit as many of the new foods as possible. I always start the day with a mocha frappé at the J&S Coffee stand in the Farmer's Union. Must-haves include cream filled zeppoles at Spaghetti Eddie's, a strawberry rhubarb sundae at the Dairy Goodness Bar (although this year's new treat, the Call It Breakfast sundae sounds amazing), key lime pie on a stick at the Key Lime Pie Bar, Nutella crepe at French Creperie, walleye cakes at Giggle's Campfire Grill, Salty Tart coconut macaroons,sharing deep fried pickles at Preferred Pickle with my bestie and the Grain Belt Blu beer with the frozen blueberry froth from the Schell's stand."
"I can't choose just three. It would be like asking me to choose my three favorite kids, if I had 1200 kids."
Looking for more pro favorites? Our friends at the Star Tribune talked to more chefs about where they like to stop.