Let us tell you a little story: years ago, while we were waiting for a flight out of Austin, TX, we stopped into the airport Dickey’s Barbecue Pit (yes, we know, what can we say?) for something to eat. As we were waiting for our food, a businessman-looking fellow walked up:
African-American kid taking orders: Can I help you?
Businessman (with that unmistakably cheerful uffda accent, pointing at a smoked sausage): Let me have one of those red weenies on a stick!
Kid (looking confused): Excuse me?
Businessman: Put one of those red weenies on a stick for me, willya?
Kid sheepishly looks left, right, behind him, then turns back to his customer with a helpless look on his face: I don’t understand what you’re saying.
The businessman eventually gave up on his stick quest and got his sausage on a plate, and we did our best to restrain our laughter, but we’ve repeated the line to each other many times over the years: Gimme one of those red weenies on a stick! Anyway, we tell you this just to demonstrate how ingrained in the Minnesota psyche it is to eat food on a stick. The best place to see that first-hand is at the Minnesota State Fair.
Here’s a list of foods available on a stick at the 2017 edition of the fair: Chicken Tikka on a Stikka, Cajun-seasoned alligator sausage on a stick, bacon-on-a-stick, chocolate-covered bananas on-a-stick, grilled pork chops on-a-stick, teriyaki chicken on-a-stick, cheese on-a-stick, fried Swiss cheese on-a-stick, fried jalapeno pepper cheese on-a-stick, nut rolls served on-a-stick, cotton candy on-a-stick, battered deep-fried candy bars on-a-stick, deep-fried baklava on-a-stick, espresso on-a-stick, grilled shrimp on-a-stick, lobster on-a-stick, salmon on-a-stick, scallops on-a-stick, deep-fried fruit on-a-stick, North Woods Salad on-a-stick, cheesecake on-a-stick, chocolate-covered cheesecake on-a-stick, chocolate-dipped strawberries on-a-stick, chocolate-dipped frozen bananas on-a-stick, chocolate-dipped strawberries and bananas on-a-stick, chocolate-dipped ice cream on-a-stick rolled in nuts, Bacon Up Pup: a Belgian waffle served on-a-stick with bacon in the batter, dipped in chocolate, drizzled with maple syrup, and topped with whipped cream and bacon, Fudge Puppies (Belgian waffle on-a-stick dipped in Swiss chocolate, with whipped topping or crunch coating), gyro on-a-stick, stuffed grape leaves on-a-stick, taffy pop on-a-stick, frozen fruit smoothie on-a-stick, slice of key lime pie on-a-stick dipped in chocolate, grilled lamb chop on-a-stick, hot dago on-a-stick, Italian sausage on-a-stick, hot dog wrap on-a-stick, Wonder Bars (hand-cut ice cream bars dipped in chocolate on-a-stick), bologna on-a-stick, Tater tot hot dish on-a-stick with cream of mushroom dipping sauce, spaghetti and meatballs on-a-stick, deep-fried s’mores on-a-stick, pickles on-a-stick, Poncho Dog on-a-stick (regular or jumbo cornmeal-battered deep-fried hot dog), chicken breast on-a-stick, pretzel dog on-a-stick (with bacon or chili), Pappa Pup on-a-stick (10″ flour-battered deep-fried hot dog), Giant egg roll on-a-stick, beef on-a-stick, Cajun steak on-a-stick, caramel apples on-a-stick, Puff Daddy on-a-stick (Thai sausage wrapped in a puff pastry), Twisted Sister on-a-stick (Italian sausage wrapped in breadstick dough), Scotch eggs on-a-stick (hard-boiled egg, wrapped in sausage, rolled in bread crumbs and deep-fried), Grilled shrimp on-a-stick with seasonings (butter garlic, Cajun), deep-fried cookie dough on-a-stick, Italian meatball on-a-stick, olives on-a-stick, steak dinner on-a-stick, chicken dinner on-a-stick, Minnesota Meatloaf on-a-stick, pepperoni pizza on-a-stick, chocolate-covered marshmallows on-a-stick, ice cream on-a-stick, walleye (foot long on-a-stick), catfish on-a-stick… and we’re sure we missed some!
It may seem, from that list, that anything edible at the fair comes on a stick, but really, that just scratches the surface of the vast fair menu. Minnesotans come to the fair to eat. Pretty much everyone we spoke with in Minneapolis somehow eventually turned the conversation towards the food at their beloved fair, always with specific recommendations, from the guy at the rental car counter to our waiters to the check-in clerks at our hotels.
The fair is huge and, on the day we were there, utterly packed with humanity like Times Square on New Year’s Eve. All the usual state fair activities are present: barns with farm animals, 4H displays, quilting competitions, canning competitions, concerts, a midway… and we love it all. But the food takes center stage in Minneapolis.
The most popular foods at the fair have to be the fried cheese curds, Sweet Martha’s chocolate chip cookies, and all-you-can-drink milk. Sweet Martha’s cookies come hot from the oven, and you see folks everywhere walking around with a big, overflowing bucket of them. If you don’t want to kill your appetite for the day on a bucket of cookies, but want to try them, do what we did (we should be ashamed to say): go up to a nice looking person (preferably male, with other people, preferably female, in tow) with a bucket still overflowing and ask them, ingenuously, “Are those cookies as good as people say?” You are sure to be offered one. And they ARE good. All-you-can-drink milk, plain and chocolate, will run you two bucks. Many fairgoers like to bring their bucket of cookies with them.
Each summer, a big deal is made in selecting and announcing the new fair foods for the year. Some of this year’s new foods included a ground pork belly burger topped with crisped belly, Jack cheese, slaw, and pickled onions, Memphis Totchos, which are Tater Tots topped with sliced bananas, bacon, and peanut sauce (?!), Triple Truffle Trotters: waffle fries topped with bacon, peppers, and truffle oil, and a cornflour eclair filled with sweet corn cream and glazed with blueberries. Each year it seems to get crazier.
You have to visit the Minnesota State Fair at least once in your life. The dates for 2018 are August 23rd through September 3rd.1265 Snelling Avenue North St. Paul MN 55108 651-288-4400 Minnesota State Fair’s Website Minnesota State Fair on Facebook