Six Best Food Hacks at the Minnesota State Fair #MNStateFair


By Jason, Harriet & Gene Will and Lisa Niver

The Minnesota State Fair is the second largest State Fair in the United States! The Will family who were once fair booth owners themselves, shared their top food hacks with me. These six best food hacks are the iconic staples of the Fair. It is easy to get overwhelmed with hundreds of thousands of people in attendance every day and hundreds of booths with new ones appearing every year. Make sure to taste the best of the best, the must haves whether you have been at the fair year after year or you are a first timer.

Photo by Jason Will
Photo by Jason Will
lisa sweet marthaSweet Martha’s Cookie Jar:

In 1979, Martha Olson started her Sweet Martha chocolate chip cookie booth hoping to make $1000. She made $10,000 and now has two booths and 450 employees at the Fair. She is a former school teacher who now runs a cookie empire with 12 huge ovens that crank out 2,000 cookies a minute. Cookies are served by the cone full or the bucket full with over four dozen cookies.

Two locations: South side of Carnes Ave. between Nelson & Underwood streets and North side of West Dan Patch Ave. between Liggett St. & Chambers St.

Lisa CornThe Corn Roast

Stop here for fresh corn roasted in the husk. This is the perfect summer vegetable and possibly the healthiest thing we ate all day!

Location: Southeast corner of Dan Patch Ave. & Nelson St.

Photo by Jason Will
Photo by Jason Will
Wild Rice Specialties: Wild Rice Gourmet Cheeseburger:

Adding wild rice to a burger makes for an incredible texture and taste. One person in our group had been coming to the Fair for twenty years but today was his first time eating this fair specialty. We all give this a thumbs up! Definitely have the sautéed onions!

Location:  In the Food Building, northeast section

cheese curds
Photo by Jason Will
The Original Deep Fried Cheese Curds

Come to Minnesota, you have to eat deep fried cheese curds! Over 120,000 pounds of the cheese fritters are sold and people love them!

Location: In the Food Building, center section

Dairy Goodness Bar: Malt

In the Dairy building, do not worry if the line looks long, it moves rapidly and is worth any wait for the best malts on the planet. Test out chocolate or the new for 2015 Salted Caramel Puff malts. Scott Eddy and I proclaimed it fantastic!

Location: In the Dairy Building

Jason and Gene at Fresh French Fries
Jason & Gene, Fresh French Fries
Fresh French Fries

Make one thing and make it very very well. These fries are AMAZING! Since 1973 but only at the Fair, find these fries voted “Best French Fries in America” by Gourmet Magazine.

Seven semi-trailers of potatoes (about 400,000 pounds) need 3000 gallons of oil to create twelve days of tasty treats. They use approximately 25,000 pounds of ketchup.

Location: North side of Judson Ave. between Nelson & Underwood streets

VIDEO: Best Day at Minnesota State Fair 2015: Eat these six best food hacks! 

mn state fair mapDuring the twelve days, more than two million people are anticipated to enjoy food, drinks and entertainment from all around the state. This fair is so large they have to have their own police presence for this twelve day annual event. There are all types of food fried and on a stick as well as concerts, live music, arts, and shopping.

The first Fair was held in 1855 in Minneapolis. Statehood was granted in 1858, and the MINNESOTA STATE AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY held its first State Fair in 1859, also in Minneapolis.  The current location began in 1885 with 210 acres and is now on 320 acres which includes the Fine Arts Center, Progress Center, Grandstand, Warner Coliseum and Agriculture Horticulture Building


Remember the Minnesota State Fair is twelve days long and closes this year on Labor Day, September 7, 2105. Wear comfortable shoes, stay hydrated and enjoy!
Fair Recycling Facts:

• Grease from the fair is recycled and turned into biodiesel fuel.

• The fair’s recycled meat scraps go through a rendering process that separates the protein and fat. The protein is then used as an ingredient in animal feed. Fat later goes into cosmetics and soap.

• 60 tons of food waste were collected during the 2014 fair and recycled.

• More than 400 bottle-recycling receptacles were placed around the fairgrounds in 2014.

• 34 tons of glass, plastic and aluminum were collected and recycled during last year’s fair.

Fair Trivia:
  • At the 1859 Minnesota State Fair, what was the prize money awarded for “best horse”? ($4)
  • Which biggest boar was the biggest of them all? (In 2010, crossbred swine Reggie weighed in at 1,450 lbs.
  • How many tons of potatoes do the three largest French fry vendors [Fresh French Fries’ two locations and World’s Greatest French Fries] use each year? (about 145 tons of potatoes or the weight of 290 cows)
  • The first 12-day State Fair was held in what year? (1975. Prior to this, the fair lasted anywhere between three and 11 days.)
  • How many acres of corn are sold at the Corn Roast booth each year? (25 acres)
  • How many food concessions are located throughout the fairgrounds? (About 300 food concessions dish up nearly 500 different delectable delights.)
Where to Stay?

DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotel Minneapolis welcomed me with warm chocolate chip cookies and an all suite full service property. Located in downtown near the Convention Center, it was a perfect location to explore the twin cities. My spacious room had a separate sleeping and living area with comfortable seating, an ergonomic work desk and two flat-screen HDTVs. The hotel is located one block from Nicollet Mall, St. Thomas University campus and the Minneapolis skyway.

During my first visit to Minnesota, I enjoyed summer fun in the twin cities from kayaking near Boom Island with Above the Falls Sports, to Teppanyaki on Grand Avenue at Saji Ya and a day at the Minneapolis State Fair. Thank you to the Will family for welcoming me and sharing their knowledge about the Fair and Minnesota!

Lisa Ellen Niver

Lisa Niver is an award-winning travel expert who has explored 102 countries on six continents. This University of Pennsylvania graduate sailed across the seas for seven years with Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, and Renaissance Cruises and spent three years backpacking across Asia. Discover her articles in publications from AARP: The Magazine and AAA Explorer to WIRED and Wharton Magazine, as well as her site WeSaidGoTravel. On her award nominated global podcast, Make Your Own Map, Niver has interviewed Deepak Chopra, Olympic medalists, and numerous bestselling authors, and as a journalist has been invited to both the Oscars and the United Nations. For her print and digital stories as well as her television segments, she has been awarded three Southern California Journalism Awards and two National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards and been a finalist twenty-two times. Named a #3 travel influencer for 2023, Niver talks travel on broadcast television at KTLA TV Los Angeles, her YouTube channel with over 2 million views, and in her memoir, Brave-ish, One Breakup, Six Continents and Feeling Fearless After Fifty.

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