Taste of Minnesota's best eats and drinks: a critic's guide

This year's Taste should be the tastiest in recent memory.
This year's Taste should be the tastiest in recent memory.

The irony of the Taste of Minnesota celebration, coming up this weekend on Harriet Island, is that a festival that started out promoting Minnesota food ended up morphing into one of generic pronto pups and cotton candy. (The same charge could be levied at the Minnesota State Fair.) But new owners bought the festival last year and have made a big effort to recruit more Minnesota foodmakers, from large, slick operations like Famous Dave's to more low-key ones like Hickory Hut. Here are our recommendations on where to eat and drink while you're listening to Atmosphere, P.O.S., etc.:

  • The organizer's biggest foodie coup was to get Barrio's Taco Truck to make an appearance. We're fans of every taco they'll be serving: pork carnitas with serrano chile salsa, chicken al pastor with avocado and habanero-pickled onions, and especially the fried mahi-mahi with citrus-cucumber pico de gallo. They'll also have chips and salsa with guacamole, Mexican-style grilled corn with chipotle aioli, cotija cheese, and cilantro, and popsicles.
  • There are a lot of good-looking, meaty sandwiches, in the mix, including the 5-8's Juicy Lucy, the tenderloin steak sandwich from Bennett's Chop and Railhouse, Mayslack's roast beef sandwich, Seven's carved beef sandwiches, and Crave's pastrami sandwich. Crave will also be offering various sushi rolls, but if they're anything like what we've had at the restaurant, they're only okay--the pastrami's more noteworthy.
  • If you want to eat lower on the food chain, the Liffey's beer-battered cod should be a winner, as well as the vegetarian fare from Falafel King and Holy Land, including falafel and grape leaves--on sticks, of course!
  • In the beverage category, ToM will have a Tea Garden stall, with some of the favorites like kiwi mango bubble tea or spice chai. (FYI, did you realize Tea Garden now has five locations? They are Uptown, U of M, Grand Ave in St. Paul, downtown St. Paul, and Mall of America.)
  • And for dessert, there's something called the Minneapple Pie in the works, but we've never had much luck with the deep-fried candy bars and such, so we're a little leery about fried apple pie. We'd probably go with Minnesota's very own Tom Thumb mini donuts or a 1919 Root Beer float.
  • Also, Taste of Minnesota is hosting cooking segments throughout the weekend with chefs from places like the Red Stag and Hell's Kitchen, along with Star Tribune gossip columnist CJ (!), who's slated to take the stage on Friday, from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.

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Harriet Island

200 Drive Justus Ohage Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55101


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