I love the Fair in the morning: the streets are cool, the crowd is thin, and breakfast options abound. Sweet or savory; on-a-stick or on a plate; decadent or simple, the choice is yours. We’ve rounded up some some highlights for you to consider.
There are 79 booths that sell foods on sticks according to Fairborne’s Fabulous Fair Food Finder. Not many are breakfast items, but if you’re committed to eating only food on a stick, you won’t have to eat a Pronto Pup for breakfast (Though there’s no reason you can’t. In fact, many do).
The Farmers Union Coffee Shop is a lovely place to start your day, for coffee or, for $4.50, Mocha-on-a-Stick, espresso ice cream bars made by Grand Ole Creamery especially for the Fair. They are smooth and not cloyingly sweet: a fudgesicle for grown-ups.
For $3, Big Fat Bacon, a one-third pound maple-glazed slice of bacon, is a favorite, especially among kids. A small child, whose parents graciously permitted me to photograph their son’s Big Fat Bacon, was dancing with his.
If it’s not breakfast without eggs, a Scotch Egg — a hard-boiled egg, wrapped in sausage, rolled in bread crumbs, deep fried, and served (if you wish) with a dollop of homemade horseradish– might be your thing ($6), though they aren’t for everyone. They are scorching hot with a crispy exterior and a custard-smooth egg at the center. The Heavy Table’s Maja Ingeman found hers dry and flavorless and threw half of hers out; I found mine curious, and a good delivery vehicle for the horseradish, though half was also enough for me.
Fudge Puppies, Belgian waffles dipped in Swiss chocolate (or not) and topped with your choice of whipped cream, crunch coating, and, for $0.75, sliced strawberries, are a perennial favorite. The fudge puppy is a sugar bomb, but the malted flavor is appealing. If you like your breakfast sweet and outrageous, this may be the way to start your day ($3.75, but you can get $1.25 off with a coupon from the Blue Ribbon Book. The book also contains several “buy two get a dollar off” coupons, valid on certain days of the Fair.)
While the original point of food on a stick was to enable you to dine while wandering, foods-on-sticks have become increasingly unwieldy, with the stick often an afterthought or a marketing ploy. If you truly want a breakfast on the go, you can’t go wrong with a juicy, fragrant piece of fruit, $2, from the Produce Exchange. Options vary, but typically include apples, plums, oranges, and nectarines. This is also one of your healthiest options.
If you’re a fan of Grandma’s Bakery, but don’t get out to White Bear Lake often, swing by Mac’s Grill in the Food Building for a donut, $1.25.
French Meadow Bakery‘s breakfast pretzel ($5), stuffed with eggs, Swiss cheese, and chopped bacon, isn’t flashy or gooey-decadent, but instead is understated, soft, bready, and exceedingly portable. Their espresso bar features organic coffee.
The Peg, outside of the Ag-Hort Building, bills itself as “The Fair’s Only Full-Service Restaurant,”and possibly offers the Fair’s most civilized and peaceful dining. Open at 6:30am, it may also be among the Fair’s earliest dining options. The menu is standard diner fare: thick slices of French toast, eggs-to-order, steak, and hash browns — breakfast combo prices range from $4.25 to $7.50. The service is congenial and unrushed, which makes the Peg a peaceful haven amid the color and clamor that is the Fair.
Salem Lutheran Church is among the Fair’s most popular church dining halls; the line-up starts early. Most people opt for pancakes or Swedish Egg Coffee ($1), but I like the meatball sundae (mashed potatoes, meatball, and gravy) for $4.50. Okay, I guess that’s not breakfast, but that’s what I recommend. Watching the earnest volunteers and rubbing elbows with your fellow Minnesotans and the occasional bewildered reporter from the New York Times is the attraction here.
Epiphany Diner has revamped its menu to remove the beloved pancake-on-a-stick, but they’ve also remodeled their dining hall to include giant roll-up garage doors to allow the outside in beautiful mornings. Epiphany Diner offers a family breakfast special (for 4, $20): scrambled eggs, hash browns, and ham, sausage, or bacon, and eight pancakes or four slices of Texas toast with jam. (They also have coupons in the Blue Ribbon Coupon Book, though not for the family breakfast.)
Wraps and Roll-ups, Savory and Sweet:
Tejas Express, in the Crossroads Building (which I always think of as the back half of the Food Building) offers its Famous Big Breakfast Burrito, with a free coffee, until 11am ($2.50). Generously stuffed with eggs, sauteed red onions, and red and green peppers, and rolled up in a flour tortilla, salsa available on the side, this might be the Fair’s best breakfast deal. The coffee is just passable, but it’s good enough for the price.
Lynn’s Lefse offers lefse, made to order, with butter, white or brown sugar, cinnamon sugar, peanut butter, lingonberries, or whipped cream ($3). Adorably adorned with a Norwegian flag, the lefse appeals even to Swedes: the customer — Swedish — who allowed me to snap a photo of her breakfast before she hurried off said, “I love it. I grew up on it.” The Heavy Table’s Maja Ingeman says: “Lefse delight in the food building has a nice twist: tart lingonberries & crunchy almonds, topped w/ whipped cream — Tasty!”
Savory and sweet, the French Creperie has it all, except, maybe, for speed. As every crepe is made to order, the line snakes up Carnes, especially mid-morning when the crowds start to arrive. Ranging from $4 to $6, offerings include strawberry and whipped cream, banana and chocolate, bacon and cheese (Swiss or Cheddar), and asparagus and cheese. Look for the Blue Ribbon Coupon “$2 off any crepe.”
Bring on the Carbs:
I didn’t try one myself, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the wildly popular Oklahoma Cinnamon Rolls ($4), baked on site in the Food Building. The line is long, even early in the morning. The morning we stopped in, a half dozen police officers headed the line [insert your own cop-doughnut joke here]. The couple from Bloomington who let me snap their breakfast’s photos said: “We get them every year. They are fresh and good and hot.”
French Meadow Bakery’s buttermilk scones are delightfully crumbly, not cloyingly sweet, and are loaded with fresh, sliced strawberries or peaches, and topped with a dollop of cream cheese frosting. Mini-scones are $3.75, and you can consult the Blue Ribbon Coupon Book for $1 off one scone, no topping, or for a free coffee with a fruit-filled scone.
Golden’s Guiltless Bagels offers their familiar (to St. Paulites and fans of the St. Paul Farmers’ Market) bagel sandwiches, $6 for an egg and cheese Fair special, $7 fully loaded, and $9 with salmon lox.
SPAM Burgers offers a SPAM breakfast sandwich of eggs, cheese, and fried Spam ($5) on an ordinary white, sesame seed bun. It’s not the prettiest or the best-pedigreed sandwich I’ve ever had, but I was surprised to find that I liked it. It was juicy and yeah, salty, and somehow, the white bun and American cheese and SPAM all seemed to belong together. Don’t forget to investigate the condiments options as you’ll definitely want a pineapple ring on your SPAM-wich. Also, as the Heavy Table’s Eric Faust noted, “SPAM across from Education building has SPAM only sold internationally, such as Black Pepper Spam normally only available in Australia.” The Blue Ribbon Book has a coupon for $5 off one commemorative T-shirt.
Moe and Joe’s Coffee offers a toasted chocolate sandwich, which includes a thin layer of raspberry jam and is sprinkled with powdered sugar for $3.50. It’s great with coffee. Also on the menu is an enticing Elvis-style peanut butter and banana sandwich that calls to me. Now, perhaps you might say I’m stretching the limits of breakfast and tiptoeing into dessert, but this is the State Fair!
Which brings me to one of my favorite State Fair treats, breakfast or otherwise, Cream Puffs. I dare you to eat one without splatting whipped cream onto the pavement and covering yourself with powdered sugar. Again, they’re great with coffee. Check the Blue Ribbon Coupon book for all kinds of offers, including four cream puffs for $10 (bring friends!)
Also read The Heavy Table Plans Your State Fair Day.