This planned trip to the fair was a date with three of my closest friends, Dan, Ryan, and Derek — of course, we planned this Wednesday day trip before we knew it was going to be one of the hottest days of August made worse by the immense humidity. I’m guessing because of the weather, the big crowds usually present midday were not in attendance. This was probably the lowest midday fair turnout I’ve seen in years. Humidity can destroy the will of a person in this state.
Well, at least we could sweat the pounds off we were adding on by eating. As most of you know, my main objective while attending the fair is to try new food, devour old favorites, and walk around to enjoy the atmosphere with friends and family.
The day started off with us stopping at the water vendors outside the fair selling bottles for only one buck, a huge deal considering the water is more than double that within the fairgrounds. I knew I’d be drinking lots of water, so I planned ahead.
After walking around for a bit, eating a few things here and there, and of course, stopping in the shade whenever possible, I decided to try a deep fried Snickers with my brother Ryan. I’ve tasted the Reese’s variety before, but this was my first foray with a Snickers. I’m glad we split this, because I could not have possibly ate this on my own.
It was a sugar rush unlike any other — the goodness started with the powdered sugar and worked into to the batter surrounding the candy bar, all the way to the melted chocolate, caramel, and peanuts inside. I’m sure many of you, like me, have had reservations about a deep fried candy bar. Of course it’s unhealthy, but so is everything else at the fair. Don’t knock it until you try it, because you might be surprised when you absolutely love what this treat has to offer.
The next thing I had to check out was the Mini-Donut Beer — I tried to get my hands on it on my previous trips, but the beer only comes in limited supply and was sold out already during my evening fair trips. I was told the beer sold out fast, but at 1:30 I didn’t believe it was possible for none to be left when the Mini-Donut Beer kegs were tapped at noon. Well, turns out the beer is gone in about an hour each day. The brewing company, Lift Bridge, only made a certain amount of the beer specifically for the fair. The shortage alone has caused so much buzz around the beer, whether it is good or not, people want it. I was pretty disappointed to read this sign and not get my hands on some Mini-Donut Beer.
As we walked away from the Ball Park Cafe disappointed, our path was hindered by the daily parade running down Underwood Street. Among the procession were floats, a fire truck dousing wanting fair goers with a water cannon, Vulcans, and of course, school marching bands. I was fired up to hear the group pictured below collaborating on the epic score of Les Misérables.
To give these fair posts a bit of variation, and not just me talking about eating food, the four of us decided to give the Space Tower a try. The tickets were cheap, only $3, and if you aren’t afraid of heights or have a bad case of claustrophobia, this investment is definitely worthwhile. Not only do riders get a chance to look over the fairgrounds, but off in the distance in one direction is the Minneapolis skyline, and the other is a view of St. Paul. The scenery was gorgeous, and it sure was a unique experience to overlook the surrounding area this way. The biggest negative for the Space Tower was how hot and stuffy it was in there — especially on said humid day. The air in the viewing compartment was so thick, even with the dollar store fans “circulating” air, by the end of the ride you’re dying for a breath of fresh air.
After baking in the Space Tower, we quickly went over to one of the many mist stations set up around the fair to take care of the overheated fairgoers. We spent a good moment sitting in the cool mist.
One of the things I always wanted to try was the Bull Bites and the deep fried slider from Axel’s. The famous restaurant’s booth at the fair has been tempting me for years, but the high price tag of the revered Bull Bites has always thwarted me — $8 is a lot to pay for fair food. But today, the four of us decided to give Axel’s a shot. The deep fried slider was definitely the better of the two — like the deep fried Snickers, this slider is a lot to handle conceptually. A slider covered in batter? But this was a good buy at $3 — there was a bit too much batter surrounding the slider, but the bites with hamburger and cheese were memorable. The famous Bull Bites were served, a touch cold. I wanted to use lukewarm, but they weren’t even that hot. The meat was tender, the seasoning added to the great beef taste, but the dish was not served fresh. The smaller crowds are partly to blame, but surely Axel’s should have a higher standard to serve hot and fresh food — especially when customers pay $8 bucks for their signature menu item.
Another must for many beer connoisseurs is Summit-on-a-Stick, another fair staple I had never tried before. I was delighted to give the three Summit brews a try — some of them were much more “hoppy” than others. It was fun to relax and enjoy a variety of different, refreshing Summit beers. Derek and I liked the heavier type beers, so we were feeling at home drinking their excellent beer options. I’m glad I was able to finally enjoy Summit-on-a-Stick on a hot fair day.
Walking around the Bazaar, ready for another snack, I decided my next food stop would be at the Holy Land booth. I had always heard good things about their food, so this was my chance to try it out. The group of us decided to try falafel-on-a-stick and lamb-on-a-stick. The former was much less appetizing than the latter — the lamb was definitely the best thing we ate all day, juicy, perfectly seasoned, and the absolutely mouth-watering. Mixing the two flavors of falafel and lamb worked well, but the falafel alone was dry and almost tasteless. I would highly recommend one these food options, and not even recommend the other.
After eating the best snack of the day, all of us were craving something sweet. Dan heard a lot of good things about the malts in the Dairy Barn, so that was our next stop. I personally do not like malts, so I didn’t get my own ice cream. I tried the flavors in our group, chocolate and strawberry, and was shocked to taste delicious cool treats. The overpowering malt powder that makes me not enjoy malts was not present — the chocolate flavor tasted almost like the Frosty’s at Wendy’s. The Dairy Barn makes a mean malt, and I advise you make this a stop on your next fair trip.
Going into the Dairy Barn also gives those interested a chance to look at the butter sculptures encased there. You haven’t lived life until you have seen someone’s head sculpted in butter. Note: There was just a touch of biting sarcasm in that last sentence.
Upon finding out that Dan had never tried Turkey-to-Go, we had to change his life by making the introduction. With this delicious sandwich being one of the greatest things I’ve ever eaten, we ventured that way to blow Dan’s mind. Mission accomplished. Yet another won over by the juicy taste of Turkey-to-Go.
Feeling a bit adventurous, the four of us sought up to try something else new. We found our way to The Shrimp Shack to try bacon wrapped shrimp on-a-stick. I’m not a huge fan of seafood (bit of an understatement), but I still wanted to give this a shot. This again is one of those food items that is extremely pricey, even for a food addict like me at the fair.
$8 bucks for three pieces of shrimp and one piece of bacon was more than overkill — not only that, but the piece of bacon was wrapped all the way around the three pieces of shrimp on the stick making sharing a bit more difficult. I cannot recommend this food item, mostly for the price. But like Axel’s at $8 a pop, making sure the food is top quality is a must. Our bacon was criminally undercooked and didn’t add the crunchy texture to compliment the shrimp. I’ve had bacon wrapped shrimp in the past, and this was by far the worst rendition I have ever had.
The last thing on our list to try was ostrich. We had it on our minds all day, but at this point made it our mission to find the odd meat. We made our way to the Food Building where we found what we were looking for: Ostrich-on-a-stick from the China Town booth. As odd as this food choice sounds, it really was not much different from any sausage I’ve tried before. The meat was cooked to perfection and the sesame sauce really helped to make this food item that much more delicious.
Hot, exhausted, sweaty, and full, the four of us made our way back to the shuttle chalking this up as another successful day at the Minnesota State Fair.