5 Minnesota State Fair foods that don't come on a stick

If you haven't tasted this salami already, try Red Table Meats at the State Fair.

If you haven't tasted this salami already, try Red Table Meats at the State Fair.

We’re gearing up (and probably so are you) for our annual, epic tear through the new State Fair foods, which is only two weeks away. But if your culinary leanings are slightly subtler and more restrained than fitting every single new food into your gullet in a few short hours, here are some more nuanced offerings for you:

  • The State Fair was originally (and still is, fundamentally) about farming and ag, remember? With that in mind, Minnesota Cooks brings together the two most important aspects of the fair: farmers and great food. On Sunday, August 28 beginning at 10 a.m., local chefs will highlight and present ingredients from local farmers, and maybe you’ll learn to cook something new. And hey— you even get to taste. Highlights include Red Table Meats, Gandhi Mahal, and L’Etoile Du Nord. Find them on the big outdoor stage in Carousel Park, just south of the Grandstand. More information here.
  • Cheese curd lovers are usually staunchly, immovably in one camp or another. There are those who dream of waiting in long sweaty lines for big sweaty buckets of the things, and there are those who find them squeaky, greasy, and off-putting. But Red Head Creamery farmstead cheese maker will handily bump you out of the second camp. Their curds are creamy, oozy, and gooey without a hint of squeak. Get them at the Dairy Goodness Bar, too.

  • A relative newcomer to the State Fair is the Blue Barn by Blue Plate. That restaurant group does truly decent, easy-to-approach food for just about anyone (The Lowry, Highland Grill, Freehouse, more) and their State Fair booth does some slightly elevated things that you can go-to when you can't face another hunk of batter. Things like pierogies with horseradish sauce and meatloaf hash (as well as some more over the top stuff like chicken-in-a-waffle and French toast with Pop Rocks -- hey, it is the fair). This year’s additions include a spicy pork bowl with charred salsa, and a candied bacon BLT with salsa verde.

  • The Famous Dave’s booth at the fair had pretty much devolved into an utter fail (we’re still traumatized from last year’s abomination, Buffalo’d Bones). But there’s cause for hope: The new BBQ brand is RC’s BBQ, with a more sane signature item of burnt butt ends served with onions and jalapenos. But they’ll retain the Famous Dave’s chocolate covered bacon Pig Lickers because, you know, the fair. 

  • Remember that the all-you-can drink milk is still the only unlimited food item at the fair. It’s now at $2 a glass (up from the 25 cents of my childhood) but still a great deal if you’re a moo juice sort. Of course, the only way to go is to wheelbarrow your bucket of Sweet Martha’s on over and go cray. Not everything at the fair should be subtle.

The Minnesota State Fair begins on Thursday, August 25.