Whether you’re a Minnesota resident, planning a trip to the Land of 10,000 Lakes, or just a fair food aficionado, you’ll absolutely want to add the 2016 Minnesota State Fair to your summer to-do list after reading their recently-released menu.
Including items ranging from imaginative to daring to downright dastardly, the fair’s fare is sure to appeal to lovers of fried foods and meats, as well as those who like pairing together foods that have no business being seen together.
As someone who is floored by the friendliness of Minnesotans on each visit to the region, I know that the state's residents likely put a lot of love (for junk food, for lighthearted fun, and for their home state) into this eclectic lineup of treats — but after viewing the list, I also can’t help picturing a gang of deranged carnies drinking whisky from a jug labeled “XXX” and plotting to create the next “Juicy Lucy.”
Regardless, this is what’s on tap for the 2016 Minnesota State Fair, even though the ratio of deliciousness to healthiness is decidedly unfair.
The event runs from August 25 to September 5, 2016 in St. Paul.
Bang Bang Fresh Chicken Tenders
Lightly breaded, fresh, never-frozen fried chicken tenderloins served with Bang Bang sweet and tangy chili sauce. Probably the least imaginative dish on the menu. Not that that will stop us from ordering it.
Barbecued Shrimp Taco
Sweet, smoky, slightly spicy barbecued shrimp and cool, fresh jicama slaw in a warm flour tortilla. Can we get some extra spice? And extra sweet and smoky? Maybe extra shrimp too? You know what, just give us three tacos.
Beer Brat Buddies
Oktoberfest beer brat in a German pretzel bun with sauerkraut, chopped onions, and a choice of mustards — a serving for two! Pairs well with an enormous stein of German brew.
Burnt Butt Ends
Premium cuts of pork, seasoned with a BBQ rub, then smoked over oak and served with onions and jalapeños. The only time “burnt butt” is a positive term.
Cajun Peel-N-Eat Shrimp
A half-pound of shrimp seasoned in a blend of Caribbean spices and served cold with a side of cocktail sauce. Okay, scratch that — this is the least imaginative dish. But who cares, because shrimp!
Candied Bacon BLT
Crispy, thick candied bacon, rancher’s slaw and green tomato spread on a sweet egg bun. You know it’s a good BLT when the bacon is mentioned twice in the title.
Candied Bacon Donut Sliders
Sliced glazed donut holes with thick candied bacon and a chocolate red wine ganache. Donuts, bacon, chocolate, and alcohol? Sounds like Homer Simpson’s idea of heaven.
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. Does this count as seafood?
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. If only the term “cheese-eating surrender monkey” weren’t already taken.
Deep-Fried Grilled Cheese Bites
White cheddar cheese blended with beer batter, cubed, and deep-fried for a taste reminiscent of a grilled cheese sandwich. Served with a Bloody Mary mix marinara. “Beer” and “Bloody Mary” in the same dish? Count us in.
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. But what fun is that?
Includes dish names like La La Palooza Sundae, Cracker Jack Caramel Sundae, Call It Breakfast, Chocolate Agate Crunch, The Elvis, Minnesnowii Shave Ice, and Banana Cinnamon & Cream Dipped in Dark Chocolate. The only hard part is eating all seven items before they melt. We probably shouldn’t have ordered them all at once.
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. The fanciest way to eat fries while also making a gigantic mess.
Iron Range Meat & Potatoes
A hearty portion of seasoned beef with a layer of cheddar cheese, topped with mashed potatoes, baked, and drizzled with a wild rice gravy. Wild rice is the official state grain of Minnesota, donchaknow.
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. I can’t believe I’ve wasted my whole life thinking I needed to choose between Italian and Mexican food like a sucker.
Macaroni & Cheese Curds
If you need an explanation for this one, please kindly leave Minnesota.
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. Forget everything you know about corn dogs; this is your messiah now.
Paneer On A Spear
Deep-fried Indian-seasoned paneer cheese coated with a local craft beer batter and served with tomato garlic chutney. (Gluten-free) You didn’t think there’d only be two deep-fried cheese dishes here, did you?
Reuben Pickle Dog
A dill pickle spear with sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing wrapped in a slice of pastrami. Where were we when it was decided that pastrami could be used as bread? We would’ve liked to have attended that meeting.
Rustic Beef Pastry
Moroccan-spiced, grass-fed beef and baby spinach topped with creamy goat cheese and nestled in a flakey butter crust. What makes this rustic? Does it even matter? We’ll take three.
Saucy Shrimp & Slaw
Breaded shrimp tossed in your choice of parmesan garlic, sweet chili, or buffalo sauce on a bed of fresh coleslaw. Like the Barbecued Shrimp Taco, except, you know, without the taco.
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.) (Meat-free option without the hot dog.)
Cheese-flavored SPAM® that has been cubed, battered, and deep-fried. Served with a side of ranch dressing. Cheese-flavored SPAM? Hospital, please.
Grilled SPAM, sushi rice, fried egg, and wasabi rolled in nori (dried seaweed). What would probably happen if Hawaii and Japan had a food-baby.
Spicy Pork Bowl
A mix of adobo pulled pork, rice, black beans, spinach, charred salsa, and fried onion strings. The best way to eat spinach is when it’s nestled between pulled pork and fried onions. It’s science.
Strawberry Donut Delight
A fresh glazed donut sliced in half and filled with strawberries and whipped cream – like a shortcake sandwich! This meal contains half your daily fruit requirements, and 17 times your daily sugar allowance.