Phatphood 2016 Minnesota State Fair Food Review: Well, it’s Summer ’16 and I’m back at the great Minnesota foodie get together to bring you a review of the new edible items they have to offer this year. I took a different strategy this year by not reading any descriptions or list of the new foods before going on the first day of the State Fair. Yea, I heard people mention items and I had seen a few pictures here and there on social media, but I stayed clear of the hype and went in blind to give an unbiased review. With that typed; I’m giving you the description that was available on the Minnesota State Fair website first, followed by my review with a 1/5 scale, so I may have some similar descriptions as I was posting live via my Instagram account while I was eating each item in my 12-hours at the fair. Here they are in the order that I ate them:
Rustic Beef Pastry: Moroccan-spiced, grass-fed beef and baby spinach topped with creamy goat cheese and nestled in a flakey butter crust.
Located at: French Meadow Bakery & Café on the north side of Carnes Avenue between Nelson and Underwood streets.
Dry, dry, dry. Pre-cooked and under heat lamps waiting for what I guess was an eternity. The dry crumbles of beef reminded me of Tontio’s party pizzas when I was a kid. This would probably work at a gas station next to the Taquitos. 1/5
Spicy Pork Bowl: A mix of adobo pulled pork, rice, black beans, spinach, charred salsa and fried onion strings.
Located at: The Blue Barn at West End Market, south of the History & Heritage Center.
It’s a lovely portion, and basically a burrito bowl. I’m a fan. The pork could be much spicier for me, it was missing that heat I expected. 3/5
Candied Bacon BLT: Crispy, thick candied bacon, rancher’s slaw and green tomato spread on a sweet egg bun.
Located at: The Blue Barn at West End Market, south of the History & Heritage Center.
My favorite new item thus far! Perfection. I want this BLT daily. Blue Barn nailed the candied bacon and it has just the right amount of sweetness. Sooooo good! Bun and quality of every ingredient is top notch. 5/5
Candied Bacon Donut Sliders: Sliced glazed donut holes with thick candied bacon and a chocolate red wine ganache.
Located at: Minnesota Wine Country on the west side of Underwood Street between Carnes and Judson avenues.
Cold. Not as fresh as I’d imagine. Bacon had a mild spice to it, yet cold as well. This is the one that was brought up the most in the last few weeks leading up to opening day here at the fair so I was actually excited about trying it, not anymore. It just could have been executed better, bummer. 1/5
Minnesota Corn Dog: Custom ground sausage on-a-stick made with blueberries, apples, wild rice, maple syrup and cayenne dipped in a homemade corn dog batter and deep-fried.
Located at: Gass Station Grill on the west side of Cooper Street between Dan Patch and Judson avenues, outside the southeast corner of the Food Building.
Actually, a pretty good tasting breakfast corn dog with a decent hint of spice. Small, but covered an excellent tasting batter. Biggest complaint is that the sausage will come right out of the casing when biting, so you pretty much have to bite hard down onto the stick or eat it from the side and hope for the best. For taste and the reasonable fair price of $5 it gets a 3/5.
Saucy Shrimp & Slaw: Breaded shrimp tossed in your choice of parmesan garlic, sweet chili or buffalo sauce on a bed of fresh coleslaw.
Located at: Fish & Chips Seafood Shoppe at two locations: In the Food Building, northwest section, and on the west side of Liggett Street just south of Mighty Midway.
Good ol typical battered shrimp tossed in buffalo sauce. Another item that has a decent amount of heat to it, duh, buffalo sauce, and the slaw is better than at most restaurants. Basic, but good. Was never given the option for the Parmesan Garlic, ugh I hate that here and it happens every year at most vendors. 3/5
Beer Brat Buddies: Oktoberfest beer brat in a German pretzel bun with sauerkraut, chopped onions and a choice of mustards — a serving for two!
Located at: Sausage Sister & Me in the Food Building, east wall.
Good little buddies here, sister! Fresh, and made to order, unlike a few other items here at the fair just sitting around waiting to be bought. I put the special sister Sriracha sauce on one and their spicy brown mustard along with raspberry jam on the other. The pretzel buns were very fresh. No complaints here. 3.5/5
Macaroni & Cheese Curds: Rich macaroni & cheese blended with fresh cheese curds.
Located at: Oodles of Noodles in the Food Building, east wall.
This a hefty dish! Excellent curds (not breaded), tons of thick melted cheese, and mixed with the macaroni noodles. Carbs on carbs! The breadstick is blah, but who in the hell cares? Comes in a to go box, kudos on that! 4.5/5
Sheep Dog: Lamb dog served hot in a bun with garlic sautéed kale, raw fermented sauerkraut, quinoa and honey mustard drizzle. (Gluten-free option without the bun.)
Located at: Lamb Shoppe in the Food Building, east wall.
This is a good solid dog. The honey mustard goes great with the fermented kraut. Messy, so make sure to lick your entire hand when finished. All the ingredients worked in harmony. 4/5
Carpe Diem: A Taiyaki (fish-shaped) buttermilk miso waffle cone filled with balsamic-roasted strawberry compote and topped with vanilla ice cream, graham cracker crumble and a fresh strawberry.
Located at: The Rabbit Hole at the Midtown Global Market booth at the International Bazaar, east wall. Available Aug. 25-30 only!
Oh my damn this is gooooood. The waffle cone is crisp and amazing, especially when the balsamic compote bleeds into the cone it tastes like PB&J. Great dessert here; Don’t take a long photo session with it, this here melts FAST! Don’t just go biting into it either, scoop it out and enjoy it or the cone will explode at the seams…I know this! Grab the wet wipes they offer. Thomas is a stand-up dude, so make sure you say hi to him. 5/5
Cheesy French Onion Monkey Bread: Savory, pull-apart artisan bread loaf filled with caramelized onions, cheese and beef broth, then baked in a wood-fired oven.
Located at: Blue Moon Dine-In Theater on the northeast corner of Carnes Avenue and Chambers Street.
French Onion Soup pored over some dinner rolls, literally. Simple, savory, deliciousness. 3/5
Bang Bang Fresh Chicken Tenders: Lightly breaded, fresh, never-frozen fried chicken tenderloins served with Bang Bang sweet and tangy chili sauce.
Located at: LuLu’s Public House at West End Market, south of Schilling Amphitheater.
Definitely crisp and fresh. Great with or without the sauce since the breading is seasoned well, a little on the salty side. The sauce is a wonderful addition, so dip away. Pair it with a beer. 4/5
Minnesnowii Shave Ice: Maple flavor with bacon crumbles. A new flavor this year at the fair. These guys are at every carnival, fair and event here in Minnesota. Definitely at the top in their category. The maple works of the shave ice, the bacon gets a bit soggy and chewy, but it all works together.
Located at entrance of the West End Market. 4/5
Burnt Butt Ends: Premium cuts of pork, seasoned with a BBQ rub, then smoked over oak and served with onions and jalapeños.
Located at: RC’s BBQ on the north side of West Dan Patch Avenue between Liggett and Chambers streets (former site of Famous Dave’s).
Dry, burnt ends is right. I’ve had much better. Bring Famous Dave’s back! Mmmm jalapeños. Good flavor in the sauce, on the salty side, but pretty basic. 1/5
SPAM® Curds: Cheese-flavored SPAM® that has been cubed, battered and deep-fried, served with a side of ranch dressing.
Located at: SPAM® east of Chambers Street, just south of the Grandstand.
Now you already know these are salty, but it’s a Minnesota food staple, and some us of grew up eating SPAM® and still love it. Better with the ranch! Not a single hint of cheese at all and not worth the $7 price tag. Decent bar snack with a beer. 2/5
Gumbo Frites: A bed of crispy french fries topped with Ragin’s traditional New Orleans gumbo made with andouille sausage, chicken, bell peppers, onions, celery and a rich roux-based sauce, then finished off with cheese and green onions.
Located at: Ragin Cajun in The Garden, west wall.
I’m turned-off when it comes to pale looking fries, but they are going to be soggy regardless and the gumbo is a wonderful reminiscence of Popeye’s gravy with nice chunks of sausage and chicken, hell yeah! Good job on this! 3.5/5
Barbecued Shrimp Taco: Sweet, smoky, slightly spicy barbecued shrimp and cool, fresh jicama slaw in a warm flour tortilla.
Located at: Tejas Express in The Garden, north wall.
Not impressed, at all. You would expect this at Taco Bell for $2.50, but $10 for two here with the most basic ingredients, or lack thereof. Maybe try the macho taco if you come here. 0/5
Italian Taco: A flour tortilla baked with butter and shredded parmesan, filled with Italian sausage and mozzarella, topped with roasted bruschetta, romaine lettuce, Caesar dressing, pesto, pizza sauce and parmesan cheese, and then drizzled with a balsamic glaze.
Located at: Green Mill on the east side of Cooper Street, between Randall and Wright avenues, at Family Fair at Baldwin Park.
I didn’t expect much when I read about this one prior to locating it, but after two bites I was amazed on how good it is. For $5 this a decent sized meal, and a tasty one at that! 4/5
Reuben Pickle Dog: A dill pickle spear with sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing wrapped in a slice of pastrami.
Located at: Pickle Dog on the south side of Carnes Avenue between Liggett and Chambers streets.
Good little street food snack. Perfect amount of cream cheese to kraut ratio. Can’t go wrong with this one. 4/5
Deep Fried Nachos Supreme: Pepper jack cheese cubes coated with a mixture of crushed seasoned tortilla chips and nacho cheese, then deep-fried, covered with taco meat, guacamole, more nacho cheese and sour cream, and served with jalapeños on the side. Also available traditional-style without the supreme toppings.
Located at: Texas Steak Out on the west side of Underwood Street between Lee and Randall avenues.
Wow!! I am blown away by this one. I haven’t been very fond of the items sold in the last few years from Texas Steak Out, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Damn, I can’t get over how impressed I am, wonderful. Tastes like a mozzarella cheese stick wrapped in a ball of crushed Doritos deep-fried. Love. 5/5
Unfortunately I had a few bad items that I heard later in the day had improved, that is just the way it goes here at the fair. They always have a new, young staff helping them each year and executing a new item at the same time. So although these are my opinions of the items I had, they may be different for you when you try them. It can be a hit or miss situation, and that is just how it is. Had a great fulfilling time, thanks for following along and I hope you enjoyed! Til next year.