My wife Cadi and I are huge fans of the Minnesota State Fair — each year we make sure to visit the fairgrounds as much as possible. Even though the fair only opened on Thursday, both of us were a bit anxious to be sitting at home that evening as the first day of the fair wrapped up — waiting until the following day seemed like torture, the dinner we had at home paled in comparison to delicious food at the fair. We are both fans of eating everything the fair has to offer. With that in mind, I’m going to visit the fair as much as possible in 2013 and try new foods each visit. Well, and some of the same ones — I don’t think I can visit the fair without getting a footlong hot dog.
The two of us always shuttle to the fair from Roseville High School — it’s so much easier to park there than drive around looking for a spot around the fairgrounds. The shuttle takes off about every 15 minutes during peak hours, making the wait to the fair a little less painful than sitting through the congestion surrounding the fairgrounds. Oh, and the best part about the shuttle, it’s FREE. The bus drops passengers off right across from the Snelling Avenue main gate.
Just inside the gate was our first stop at the corn dog stand, Poncho Dog — this is kind of a tradition of ours, stopping by this spot first for our first bite of fair food. Personally, this corn dog stand is my favorite at the entire fair. I’m definitely more of a corn dog guy as opposed to a pronto pup one, and the Poncho Dog offers the best corn dogs at the fair.
Our next food stop, is also one of my favorites at the fair, The Italian Junction over by the Grand Stand. This eatery has a whole lot of Italian snacks to offer, but I cannot help myself each time I get there — I always order and scarf down their Pepperoni Bread. For just over five bucks you get two delicious cuts of bread covered in melted cheese and pepperonis. The taste isn’t authentic Italian necessarily, but more a “State Fair twist” — greasy, covered in tons of cheese, and made fresh to order.
Doubling back up the road we made a stop at the famous cheese curd stand — neither of us were sure we wanted to get started on the curds that early, they are so filling, but within sniffing distance of the stand, we had to get our fingers coated in the grease filled cheese balls. The combination of the crunchy battered covering the melted mozzarella cheese is almost too much to describe in words. Simply put, they are like little fattening drops of heaven. One of my summer softball teammates works at this curd stand and informed me the batter changed this year, for the first time in decades. Why this change was implemented we are only left to speculate on. But even despite that, the curds here are still to die for.
After the pair of use tag teamed the basket of cheese curds, we walked around for awhile to try to let some of the food digest. I personally just ate a whole lot of cheese, so some light exercise walking around was needed. The best thing about the fair is that you can just simply walk around and enjoy yourself. You don’t always need a destination or an objective — sometimes it’s just best to walk around and see what you find (even though I know the fairgrounds like the back of my hand). There are always new things going on, and of course, plenty of people to see — people watching at the fair is a favorite past time of Cadi and I.
As the two of us wandered, we found ourselves around the Agriculture Building. We decided to make a food stop in the building to grab some apple cider freezees. Not only are these freezees amongst the best I have ever tasted, they are most likely the healthiest treat the fair has to offer. They aren’t like conventional freezees, made exclusively with artificial ingredients. If you like apples, apple cider, or freezees, you have to give these things a try. These iced treats are perfect for parents with kids — children are not smart enough to know these pleasant snacks are good for them. Oh, best part about these frozen wonders? They’re only $1, probably the best bargain at the fair.
Our next food stop was to the more “adult side” of the Food Building. This area has a lot more alcoholic options, like ‘Beergaritas’ — but the real reason Cadi and I decided to stop over there was for a pork chop on a stick from the Ragin’ Cajun. The pork chop was seasoned to perfection and cooked to a bit of crispiness, but not so much to take out the tenderness of the meat. Cadi liked to dip her bites in the seasoning that came along with the pork chop, I just liked the meat to be the hero. The two of us did not waste too much time devouring this mamba. Definitely recommended you try this food option on for size.
After the pork chop on a stick, we really had to walk around for awhile to make ourselves hungry for more. After making a visit to the KFAN booth by the Grandstand and listening to the last bits of Dan Barrerio’s ‘Bumper to Bumper’ program, we walked around the Grandstand a bit. After that, we wandered ourselves back over by the food building to the Ball Park Cafe.
The first thing that grabbed our attention was the smell of garlic in the air — we remember a year ago when our friends raved about the garlic french fries served at the Ball Park Cafe and decided this was the next stop on our food excursion. Upon receiving our basket of fries, there clearly was no shortage of fries, or garlic on them.
The fries were plenty crispy for my liking (I love crispy french fries) and needed no extra sauces to make them mouth-watering (I love to dip my fries in ranch). The garlic pieces on the fries could be a bit excessive if you aren’t a huge fan, but the good part is that the garlic taste soaks into the fries, and for the most part, without making the fries mushy. If you ever want to try these fries on for size (yes, I went there), head towards the Ball Park Cafe until you start to smell the garlic wafting through the air. But let’s just say that these fries will not leave you with the freshest smelling breath.
To finish our night off, the pair of us wanted something sweet. The options are endless at the fair, but we settled on mini donuts. Again, like garlic fries, mini donuts have a huge advantage of grabbing potential buyers with their overpowering smell. About every time I walk by Tom Thumb Mini Donuts I’m tempted to stop and grab a bag of those soft, doughy, sugar-coated delights — the smell is intoxicating. I don’t know how the workers manage to not eat all their product. Friday night was a great night for donuts, as this bag was as delicious as it smelled.
Cadi and I left the fair full of food, happy, and of course, wiped out. We couldn’t ask for a better day, not too hot, the crowds weren’t too big in the early afternoon, and plenty of great foods to check out. The two of us simply cannot wait to go again, on Saturday. Oh, and a bit of advice: If you ever want a bunch of strangers to walk up to you and tell you how awesome your shirt is, wear a “Heisenberg” shirt and flocks of Breaking Bad fans will come and tell you as much. Seriously, if you don’t watch Breaking Bad, you’re doing yourself a disservice.