But for us, it all comes down to the food.
(And about eating so much of it that you wonder how you’ll ever squeeze onto the park-and-ride bus on your way home.)
Only one problem… With nearly 300 vendors churning out brand new foods every year, your food choices at the fair get overwhelming in a hurry.
Thankfully, our team of writers are fresh off multiple visits to the fair. And if a few days of gorging ourselves wasn’t enough, we can also pull from years and years of countless past visits to our favorite Minnesota tradition.
So, behold… our definitive guide to the best, must-eat foods at the Minnesota State Fair. Happy Get-Together!
*Note that we mostly listed these in the order that we ate them out on our most recent visit. Trying to name a #1 overall would result in far too many brawls inside the DTC headquarters. And besides, there’s no reason! Nobody ever stops at just one food at the State Fair… Try them all!
**Double note that despite our best efforts over the years, we still haven’t made it through all ~300 vendors. So we’ve certainly left out some delicious options… don’t be afraid to explore and find your own gems!
Our 15 Classic “Must Eat” Foods at the Minnesota State Fair
These are the tried and true staples. The foods that, once our tickets are scanned and we’re through those metal detectors, we find ourselves straight lining directly towards.
If you’re brand-new to the fair, this is where to start. And if you’re a long time visitor and haven’t ever tried any of these, then just what, exactly, have you been doing with your life?
1. Pronto Pup
Ah, the Pronto Pup. (<– We love it so much that we wrote an entire article about it.)
“The Grown Up’s” corn dog mixes some extra flours into the batter. The result? A less sweet, more sausage-forward snack. It’s a State Fair classic, and almost always the first food we grab to reign in a new season of the MN State Fair.
It’s fried. It’s a food on a stick. And it’s been running strong since 1947. Welcome to the Fair!
- Where to find it: Any one of the eight Pronto Pup stands
2. Mouth Trap Cheese Curds
Don’t get intimidated by the Mouth Trap’s long line inside the Food Building. It moves quickly as these folks rip through over 60,000 pounds of curds in just 12 days.
And that popularity just might be the Mouth Trap’s secret weapon. Thanks to the never-ending orders, Mouth Trap’s well-oiled assembly line is able to pull those curds out of the fryer and onto your lips, within seconds.
Put simply, these are the best cheese curds at the Minnesota State Fair and probably the best cheese curds in all of the Twin Cities.
- Where to find it: Mouth Trap Cheese Curds (In the Food Building, center section)
3. Corn Roast
We. Love. Corn.
And there’s no corn like Minnesota State Fair Corn.
Supposedly, this enormous vendor runs through an acre of corn a day, as hordes of fair-goers grab the sweetest and juiciest corn of their lives. Slather it up with some butter and salt, and you’re closer to hog-heaven than those lucky pigs that help compost the truckloads of finished corn cobs.
- Where to Find It: Corn Roast (Southeast corner of Dan Patch Ave. & Nelson St.)
4. First Kiss Apple
I couldn’t believe how many of our friends didn’t know about the Minnesota Apples inside the Agriculture Horticulture building.
Like them, you might think it’s silly to grab a “plain-old” apple in a fair that’s filled with endlessly complex fried treats. But like them, you’d be oh-so-wrong.
Remind yourself where you are. It’s the State Fair. In Minnesota! We’re the crazy folks who dedicate an entire wing of the University to engineering new breeds of apples specifically to be extra juicy and extra sweet. (Honeycrisp, anyone?)
The latest of those genius creations is the First Kiss. And it just might be the best yet!
We always grab one every single fair, and after the rush of the first bite, we usually convince ourselves to get an entire bag for the trip home.
- Where to Find It: Minnesota Apples (In the Agriculture Horticulture Building, south side)
5. Turkey To Go
Much like our silly friends and their attitudes towards apples, for decades we skipped on the long lines at the Turkey To Go stand thinking it’s probably just a dry sandwich loosely inspired by Thanksgiving.
Oh, how wrong we were. And how much we wish we could turn back the clock and make up for all those years of missed sandwiches.
Forget everything you thought you knew about turkey sandwiches. Turkey To Go has the most tender, deliciously simple turkey you’ve ever experienced.
They offer it with various dressings, but don’t even bother. It’s perfect plain.
Fun fact: Minnesota is the number one producer of turkeys in the nation. Which suddenly makes this amazing stand at our State Fair that much more of a classic.
- Where to Find It: Turkey To Go (East side of Clough St. between Carnes & Judson avenues)
6. Ice Cream from the Dairy Building
Every year, we think there’s no way the Dairy Building’s ice cream can be as good as we remember. And every year, we’re blown away yet again.
We have no idea how they make their ice cream so perfectly creamy. Our current theory is that those diary farmers somehow channel the magic of their dearest cows, mixed with some sort of special energy emanating the nearby butter sculptures.
Or maybe that’s just our ice cream high talking. Either way, embrace the crowds and grab the best ice cream at the Minnesota State Fair.
- Where to Find It: Dairy Goodness (In the Dairy Building, south wall)
7. Nitro Ice Cream
In true State Fair fashion, follow up some ice cream at the Dairy Building with more ice cream at the Food Building!
There’s a ton of ice cream vendors with their sights set on challenging the most popular dairy building, but for our money, the best and most interesting offering is Nitro Ice Cream.
It’s exactly what it sounds like – they literally inject nitrogen into the ice cream – and the result is some of the smoothest, and almost… chewy?… ice cream around. And at a place as packed as the fair, that’s saying something!
- Where to Find It: Nitro Ice Cream (In the Food Building, northeast corner)
8. Fresh French Fries
How do they get them so crunchy? How!?
In 12 days, these folks go through 400,000 pounds of potatoes and 25,000 pounds of ketchup. The crowds are not wrong about this one.
- Where to Find It: Fresh French Fries (East side of Liggett St. between West Dan Patch & Carnes avenues OR North side of Judson Ave. between Nelson & Underwood streets )
9. Jamaican Beef Patty
The only good thing to ever come out of the pandemic is Jamaican Beef Patties at West Indies Soul Food.
You see, when the fair was cancelled in 2020 because of the pandemic, the fair announced a “food parade” with a limited selection of vendors. One of those was West Indies Soul Food, and we grabbed a Jamaican Patty on a whim.
OMG WHAT HAD WE BEEN MISSING.
These things are like the best cross between a calzone, a filled croissant, and a hot pocket. (A crude comparison, but we do mean the hot pocket part as a compliment!)
For us, it’s all about the beef flavor, but Minnesota palates beware. They’re not pulling any punches on their spicy option!
It’s legitimately hot, and definitely one of the best foods at the fair.
- Where to Find It: West Indies Soul Food (At the International Bazaar, south wall)
9. Grilled Peaches & Cream
In a world of fried food, the peaches at The Produce Exchange are a refreshing breath of fresh air.
Get it the staff’s favorite way – grilled and with cream.
So simple, but so perfect.
- Where to Find It: The Produce Exchange (Northwest corner of Carnes Ave. & Underwood St.)
What the heck is a gizmo?
Imagine a soft hoagie bun, plenty of ground Italian sausage, a tiny amount of red sauce for seasoning, and a heaping gob of gooey melted cheese on top.
Andrew Zimmern says it might be his favorite overall fair food. While we wouldn’t go quite that far, it’s still a good choice when we’ve already downed a Turkey To Go but are still in the mood for a unique, savory sandwich .
- Where to Find It: Carl’s Gizmo (West side of Cooper St. between Murphy & Lee avenues)
11. Poncho Dog
After much urging from our friends, us Pronto Pup fanboys and girls decided to give the Minnesota State Fair corn dog a second chance.
To get the full experience, they said, you gotta go with the Poncho Dog.
Poncho diehards claim its the best corn dog at the Minnesota State Fair. They say it’s sweeter, thicker, and crunchier than the Pronto Pup and even other corn dogs.
We did a side-by-side comparison, and low and behold… they’re right!
Most of our crew was split on whether it was preferable to the legendary Pronto, which is enough to elevate it to “must eat” among the many best fair foods. Give it a try and decide for yourself!
- Where to Find It: Poncho Dog (Four Locations)
12. Fried Pickles
The fried pickles at the giant green Perfect Pickle stand are so good they’ve been known to convert even the staunchest pickle haters.
This is another one of the state fair’s highest earning food vendors, and this is another instance where the crowds get it right.
- Where to Find It: The Perfect Pickle (Southwest corner of West Dan Patch Ave. & Liggett St.)
13. Tom Thumb Mini Donuts
Fun story: When Sean first moved to Minnesota so many years ago, one bite of the mini donuts were all it took for him to become a Minnesota State Fair lover for life.
Piping hot donuts, loaded with cinnamon and sugar, in a perfectly shareable size? What’s not to love?
There’s a few different options for mini donuts at the Fair, but Tom Thumb’s are our clear winners.
- Where to Find It: Tom Thumb Donuts (Southwest corner of Carnes Ave. & Underwood St. OR West side of Cooper St. between Wright & Dan Patch avenues, south of the Kidway)
14. Sweet Martha’s Cookies
You almost thought we were going to leave out the most popular food at the Minnesota State Fair, didn’t you?
In just 12 days, Sweet Martha’s regularly rakes in over $4 million bucks – more than the next four highest earning vendors combined.
What can we say? Grabbing a bucket of the legendary chocolate chip cookies is a total nostalgia bomb. And even as semi-pro adult food bloggers, their ooey-gooey greatness holds up after all those years.
Be warned that these cookies don’t hold up the next day… you’ll be much happier if you finish that huge bucket on the spot. (Or at least that’s excuse we use…)
- Where to Find It: Sweet Martha’s Cookie Jar (Three locations, just look for the biggest line at the fair!)
15. Caramel Apple Sundae
This spot next to the Grandstand is a little overlooked, but we love to finish every visit at the state fair with a bowl of their sliced apples covered in caramel sauce.
It’s the perfect dessert to close out the end of the fair, which for us, represents the symbolic end of summer and unofficial beginning of fall.
Bittersweet? Most definitely. But thankfully, there’s plenty of fall-fresh apples and decadent caramel sauce to help us focus on the sweet.
- Where to Find It: Caramel Apple Sundae (Between Chambers and Nelson streets, just south of the Grandstand)
Bonus: The 3 Best New Foods at the Fair (2022 Edition)
Like most long time fair goers, we love to mix up the classics with the wild and creative new foods the vendors introduce each year.
We always ask around and seek out the most popular additions. This year, after trying nearly a dozen new options, a few new challengers stood tall above the rest.
Here’s to hoping they stick around!
16. Pickle Pizza (Rick’s Pizza)
On opening day of the 2022 Minnesota State Fair, we heard tons of buzz about a brand new and oddly fascinating pizza option near the Kidway. Rick’s Pickle Pizza promised the unusual combination of dill, white ranch sauce, fresh mozeralla, and of course, tons of crunchy pickles.
One bite in, and we were total believers.
We already knew pickle pizza could be awesome, as the “Big Dill” at Q.C. Pizza made our list of best pizza in St. Paul years ago, but we were ecstatic to find that Rick’s fair version included addictive, tangy sauce mixed with the most perfectly chewable crust.
A few days into the fair, the secret was out, and the new vendor had a line around the block. Don’t worry though, this one is worth the wait!
- Where to Find It: Rick’s Pizza (West side of Cosgrove Street between Wright and Dan Patch avenues)
17. Beauty and the Buffalo Hummus (Baba’s)
“Who orders hummus at the fair?” We thought.
After trying the buffalo flavor at Baba’s, we are now the people who order hummus at the fair.
(And we’re praying this menu item becomes permanent.)
Besides, this is no ordinary hummus. It’s ranch flavored hummus topped with blue cheese crumbles and mixed with the most perfectly buffalo chicken. It also comes with some of Baba’s warm, soft, and absolutely unreal pita bites for dipping… which was enough for Sean to proclaim this the overall best thing he ate at the 2022 fair.
- Where to Find It: Baba’s (East side of Underwood Street between Lee & Randall avenues, just south of Little Farm Hands)
18. Hmong Sausage with Tiger Bite sauce (Union Hmong Kitchen)
No surprises here. Celebrity chef and James Beard nominee Yia Vang has been blowing people away at UHK’s Minneapolis location for years, and we raved all about the guy in our glowing review of Vinai, his newest restaurant concept.
When he got added as a new vendor to the 2022 state fair, we were even more excited to see him share his awesome food with the crowds.
And that’s exactly what he did. Halfway through day one, his food was boasting one of the longest lines at the fair!
We went with the Hmong Sausage (on a stick, of course) and got the Tiger Bite sauce at the urging of a seriously enthusiastic grill employee.
Both were everything we’ve come to know and love from Vang. Bold and unique flavor combinations, perfectly cooked food, and of course… that awesome purple stick rice.
- Where to Find It: Union Hmong Kitchen (At the International Bazaar, south wall, west corner)
The Best Drinks at the Minnesota State Fair
To be fair, we’re not the best experts on this category. (We’re so into the food that we try to save up as much room for it as we can.)
That said, there’s a few can’t miss drinks that we’ve been known to grab when the weather gets hot.
1. Blu Beer
You can actually buy Grain Belt’s “Blu” blueberry beer in stores, but only at the Minnesota State Fair can you get it topped with that unbelievable frozen foam.
It turns the whole thing into a beer-slushy hybrid, and on a warm summer day, nothing is better.
- Where to Find It: Lulu’s Public House (At West End Market, south of Schilling Amphitheater)
2. Mini Donut Beer
Arguable the ultimate State Fair beer.
You’re combining Lift Bridge Beer with mini donuts, and then you’re gonna line the rim with cinnamon sugar? Just take our hearts already.
- Where to Find It: The Ball Park Cafe (East side of Underwood St. between Dan Patch & Carnes avenues)