The Minnesota State Fair 2023: Things We Ate (And Wish We Didn’t Eat)

The Minnesota State Fair is like my Halloween.

Halloween is like my 12 days of Christmas.

Christmas is like my Christmas?

I look forward to the fair all year, but now that we have young kids, we have to make the most of a short visit.

The best time to go to the fair is early in the morning on the very first day.

This year we could take the day off – I’m usually the most excited person at work for the fair -and  the only one who takes a day off to go on opening day. I’m like a Disney Adult but with the state fair.

I was determined to try a few new foods, even with the two little ones in tow. The new food list this year looked pretty exciting. I tried to make a list. But with little kids, you never know how the visit will actually go.

Sometimes you have to go with the flow – for example, I had brought them to the Mall of America the other day. Of course they had hangry meltdowns and we ended up at the restaurant with the shortest line instead of the best food which is how I spent $27 on a meal at A&W

Today we did try a few new foods, including one that was so disgusting I almost got sick, plus most of our favorite classics:

The Blue Ribbon Book ($5)
The Blue Ribbon Book is really only worth it if you actually want to get the foods in the book or have kids who want to ride a bunch of rides.

It’s also hard to navigate the book on the spot – look up the deals you want to buy via the MN State Fair’s spreadsheet and make your own list for easier reference.

It’s only $5, but if you are also deal-obsessed  you may find yourself chasing discounts instead of what you actually want.

The best way to start your morning is at the MN Farmers Union for coffee, because it’s open early and they serve good coffee.

I used the coupon for a $5.50 mocha freeze when I would normally would have gotten the maple cream cold brew – which is really amazing. The Mocha freeze was fine and less sickly sweet than I expected, but it wasn’t a maple cream cold brew (shrug).

The new Minnesota Sweet Corn danish tasted good. The pastry hugged little roasted cherry tomato, herbs, sweet corn, goat cheese, and what tasted like some cotija, goat cheese and a sprinkle of something spicy.

I enjoyed a few bites but kids ate most of it.

From The Food Building

A bucket of Mouth Trap cheese curds, of course. Best paired with a wine slushy from MN Wine Country.

I caught my daughter trying to offer her cousin the smallest curds in the bucket.

While we were in the Food building, I swung by Afro Deli for a couple of sambusas. I bought a vegetarian and beef sambusa – $6 each.

Unfortunately, their spicy dipping sauce wasn’t ready yet.

Sambusas are literally my favorite food.  Sambusas and Somali Tea is one of the best combinations in the whole world and it’s about damn time we can enjoy them at the state fair.

The vegetarian sambusa was my favorite and a tad spicier than the beef. Toddler loved it too.

Other favorite classics included a stick of Big Fat Bacon, Tom Thumb mini doughnuts, and “the good gyro.” 

We missed the Turkey to Go sandwich this year but you should definitely try one.

There are four vendors that serve gyros. Demetri’s is the good gyro. Even at inflated MN State Fair prices, it’s still a really good gyro. We look forward to it all year. Toasty, warm pita, thinly shaved gyro, bright tomato slices, shaved onion, and really good, really garlicky yogurt sauce (ask for extra). Oh my god it’s a really good gyro.

Demetri’s is located near the Corn Roast.

Of course you have to get some. Their roasted corn is the best corn on the cob you’ll ever have and whoever says it’s overrated is wrong.

Now for the WORST food I’ve ever eaten.

It is so frightful, it makes the dollar shrimp cocktail  cocktail look. . . fine (I’m not gonna say good).

Shanghai Henry’s (Located at the International Bazaar) promoted this monstrosity described as Crispy Lutefisk Steam Bun.


Now, we’ve actually had lutefisk before at a church basement supper.

It smelled and tasted less bad than pop culture makes it out to be. With butter and cream sauce, it simply tasted like fish with a weird, jello texture.

But crispy lutefisk in one of my favorite foods, a bao? I could possibly get down with it.

Shanghai Henri’s sells a trio (like you’d need a fucking trio) of these lutefisk buns for $14.25.

The sad thing is is that I could see the chefs putting a lot of care into assembling and garnishing these buns and you do get a lot of food.

Unfortunately, it’s terrible.

The smell will hit you first.

If you can get past the smell and actually put one of these things in your mouth, the fishiness will get you next.

Even with all of the distractingly Asian accoutrements, the fishy taste and gummy texture (NOT CRISPY) struck me as so vile that I started gagging.


Somehow Jake ate half a bun. He didn’t like it but complimented the slaw.

If this blog post does well enough, maybe I’ll make my $14.25 back next month!!! 

Shanghai Henri’s Moscow Mule slush ($10) is actually really good. And strong. Or was I dehydrated?

Also at the International Bazaar, a new food that is really good:

Union Hmong Kitchen’s Galabao.

Each bun does cost $12, but each was handmade by Chef Yia Vang’s family – and maybe even his mom.

CBS article on Union Hmong Kitchen’s state fair prep. 

Today the buns came with a spicy, fish-saucy tangy, garlicky green sauce. The inside contains ground pork and half a hardboiled egg.

And finally, not an OG and not a new food – I tried the Dill Pickle Pizza from Rick’s Pizza next to the MN DOT area (loved their Instagram sign prop that says “I zipper merge”).

I can’t get over the obscene price of the $9 pizza slices.

At least the employee gave us one of the bigger slices.

I’ve heard it’s overrated and I’ve heard it’s the best thing ever.

I’ll have to agree, it’s really really good. Sure, the pickles might not be your craft pickles, but somehow it all works and I’m already craving another slice gosh darn it.

So there you go – our whirlwind 2023 Minnesota State Fair visit.


  1. Jane Fleischhacker

    Thank you for all your leg work, not sure if I’m going this year yet, but I did take screenshots? of what you’re recommending! Always love your posts!

  2. William Laidlaw

    Lutefisk? What were you thinking?

  3. Joe Stoehr

    Jake seconded the necessity of the GOOD gyro, and thanks for the rest of the tips. I can’t believe you went for the lutefisk bao buns, but better you than me.

  4. Olivya T

    Thank you for tasting what I would not DARE!!

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