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Rick Nelson

Restaurant critic

Fortunately, the fair takes place when Washington state's orchards ship their just-picked peaches eastward. Biting into a ripe, prodigiously juicy peach at the Produce Exchange has become, for me, a peak fairgrounds experience. This ultimate palate cleanser only improved in 2018, when the PX made the brilliant move of grilling those glorious stone fruits. Morning is my favorite time to walk the fairgrounds, and I invariably start the day with a scrambled eggs-grilled peppers breakfast taco at Tejas Express. Part of its appeal is that it's not a deep-fried, on-a-stick delicacy. It's delicious — love that wood-grilled tomato salsa — and my not-so-inner cheapskate enjoys what is a rare State Fair bargain. Yes, the price includes a cup of coffee.

Can't wait to try: The Naughty Biscuit (RC's BBQ often offers an intriguing newcomer) and the Blue Raspberry Blitz, because I'm a huge fan of Sara's Tipsy Pies.

Sharyn Jackson

Food and drink writer

When 2020 served us a simplified drive-through State Fair, the stand I most wanted to pull over for was the Dairy Goodness Bar for their iconically creamy chocolate malt. It's one of those must-have fair treats I'd typically stand in line far too long for, considering it's just a glorified Wendy's Frosty in a State Fair cup. But something about cooling off with it on the sweltering fairgrounds after an agonizing snake through the Dairy Building makes it an experience all its own. Hot tip: Find the same-ish thing with almost no line at Kiwanis Malts a few blocks north. And swing by Que Viet on the way for one of their gargantuan egg rolls on a stick, one of my crispy-crunchy fair faves.

Can't wait to try: The Island Hopper (I'm a sucker for hollowed out fruit bowls), Dual Berry Shortcake (Betty & Earl's biscuits are divine with anything on top) and Cucumber Jalapeño Limeade (the frenetic State Fair could use a bit of a spa vibe).

Nicole Hvidsten

Taste editor

It's not exactly original, but the Corn Roast stand is the one to beat. Like all Minnesotans, I know the value of the too-short sweet-corn season, and eat it every chance I get. Here, roasting just amplifies the sweetness of the fresh-picked corn. (I even forgo the butter — salt and pepper is all I need.) Clearly I'm not alone: The stand, which has been at the fair since 1985, goes through about 200,000 cobs each year. Plus, it's healthy eating on a built-in stick, which leaves room for other splurges. Like the Walleye Cakes at Giggles' Campfire Grill, my other must-have. Two Minnesota standards, walleye and wild rice, are accompanied by smoked salmon, crispy breadcrumbs and fresh herbs and served with a zesty dipping sauce. No surprise, it's their top State Fair seller.

Can't wait to try: The Kerala Fried Chicken Kati Roll (yay, full-time Hot Indian!), Sashimi Tuna Tacos (a New Scenic Cafe presence!) and the Pizza Lucy (what's not to love?).