Minnesota State Fair Classic Foods Showdown


The following is a sneak peak from last Friday’s newsletter content from the Heavy Table’s Churn newsletter. To subscribe, back us on Patreon.

We live for the culinary brutality and ecstasy of The Minnesota State Fair, and this year the Heavy Table Wrecking Crew outdid itself with a massive 10-part newsletter review that went out to all our subscribers last Friday.

This year, instead of tackling all new foods with straight up reviews, our writers and photographers took Heavy Table subscribers on a journey through 10 themed “flights” of eating and drinking at the Fair. (We’ve previewed the Compare and Contrast: Classics Edition for you below.)

The culinary field trips include:

Flight #1: Stunt Foods | Amy Rea
Flight #2: State Fair Barbecue | Piercarlo Valdesolo
Flight #3: State Fair Sweets | Stacy Brooks [Posted on heavytable.com on August 26, 2022]
Flight #4: A Dairy Tale | Jeanne Lakso
Flight #5: Blue Ribbon Brew | Louis Livingston-Garcia
Flight #6: Classic State Fair Foods | Amy Rea
Flight #7: Tour de Vegan | Stacy Brooks
Flight #8: Compare and Contrast: Classics Edition | Amy Rea [Posted below]
Flight #9: Healthy Fair Fare | Jeanne Lakso
Flight #10: ‘That’s So Bad It’s Remarkable’ | James Norton

By Amy Rea

Sometimes the only way to assess the tastiness of classic state Fair foods is to put them head-to-head. Here we put everything from fried pickles to Greek gyros to the test.

Pronto Pup ($6) vs. Foot Long Hot Dog ($8)

Where you weigh in on this is likely going to depend on your feelings about heavily breaded meat. The general consensus from our crew is that pronto pups are better than corn dogs, but the decent quality of the foot long hot dog surprised us—it had a good flavor and a snappy casing that was miles away from Oscar Meyer. We’d return for the foot long.

Greek Gyros ($13, near Machinery Hill) vs. Demetri’s Gyros ($15, near the big slide)

Demetri’s is the clear winner, even though it’s slightly pricier. Greek Gyros wasn’t bad at all—a good, solid rendition—but Demetri’s gyro meat has more flavor and was more of a presence in the sandwich. Each purveyor offers tzatziki sauce, onions, and tomatoes.

The Perfect Pickle: Original Fried Pickles ($9) vs. Pickle Dog ($9)

Like the fried green tomato folks, the people at the Perfect Pickle know how to fry. These delightful pickles have it all: Tang, crunch and soft textures, cool ranch dressing—pretty much the perfect wander-around-the-fair-and-eat-fried-food item. But the pickle dog is its own delight. Pastrami, cream cheese, pickle—it may not have the range of textures of the fried pickles, but it certainly has a range of flavors that play very well together. As of this writing, I lean toward declaring the fried pickles the winner—but ask me in an hour, and I might change my mind. Best advice: Get both.

Fresh French Fries ($8) vs. Australian Battered Fries ($10.50)

No contest here. The fresh French fries are hot, crispy/tender, were salted all the way through the container, while the Australian batter seemed like a concept that was cool a few decades ago and has passed its prime. The batter didn’t have any particular flavor, and only the very top fry was salted. Points for presentation, but taste wins, so the fresh French fries own this category. 

Best Value in this Flight: Can’t Go Wrong with Fried

Fried pickles and fried green tomatoes—they’re both the real deal, with decent-sized portions, topnotch execution, and general deliciousness. A close runner-up is Demetri’s. While $15 is a lot for a gyro, theirs is excellent and hearty in size.

Hungry for more? Back us on Patreon and get the complete collection of State Fair flights plus food news, reviews, photographs, and more for Minneapolis-St. Paul and beyond, every Friday morning.