Taste testing: Classic foods at fair are better than ever

Published 3:51 pm Friday, August 4, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Ole and Lena’s
Onion Rings, $8
Cheese curds, $8
Combo order with half onion rings and half cheese curds, $9

Cheese curds from Ole and Lena’s

The best testament that I can offer to Ole and Lena’s onion rings and cheese curds is that I loved them, and generally speaking, I’m not really a huge fan of onion rings or cheese curds.

Based in Owatonna, Ole and Lena’s food truck has been around for over 20 years, serving southern Minnesota and at the Minnesota State Fair. The truck began and has remained a family business, passing down secrets of the trade. The secrets in question? How to make dangerously delicious fried food?

Email newsletter signup

Both the cheese curds and the onion rings had an excellent batter to filling ratio, a factor I find to be absolutely essential to my own personal enjoyment. I don’t want to bite into a massive onion ring just to find out that it’s 90% fried batter and 10% onion. There has to be a balance, and Ole and Lena’s business has demonstrated mastery over that ingredient marriage. The outer layer of the onion ring was crunchy and provided a different texture from the cooked onion inside, while the cheese curd was crisp on the outside with soft cheese on the inside. The batter paired smoothly with the inner ingredients, creating a well-rounded texture and flavor experience.

While there are certainly fair foods that send eaters flocking to the napkin dispensers, Ole and Lena’s food required me only one napkin. It was refreshing to enjoy delicious onion rings and cheese curds without paying an excessively greasy price.

— Review by Abigail Chalmers

Bruno’s Corn Dogs

Corn Dogs

“I am a man of constant sorrow” is a wonderful song, but I am a man of constant joy when I’m at the Freeborn County Fair. The Fair knows what food I want before I know I want it.

When I was a boy, my goal at the Fair was to avoid eating new foods. Old food was good food. New food wasn’t to be trusted. “Try it, you might like it.” I might not, too. I still have no hankering for a tuna casserole smoothie, but I have little hesitancy in trying new foods and will mill about in a long line to get to them.

That said, I have my habits. When I hit the fairgrounds, I plan on enjoying Merrill’s Popcorn, a malt, a maple nut ice cream cone and a Bruno’s Corn Dog. Having a Bruno’s Corn Dog (in business since 1977) has been a tubular meal-on-a-stick tradition in my life since before I could spell “tradition.”

You might ask yourself or the stranger ahead of you in line, “What’s the difference between a corn dog and a Pronto Pup?” The recipes for the batter enclosing the hot dogs are similar and both include cornmeal. The chief difference is the sweetness. Corn dogs have it and Pronto Pups don’t. I’m a man in need of sweetening. I crave a Bruno’s Corn Dog.

If you’ve never had a Bruno’s Corn Dog, what are you waiting for? The bigger question is, ketchup or mustard? I paint mustard on my corn dog and all you mustard folks out there, you know

I’m right, but be nice to the ketchup crowd. They know not what they do.

— Review by Al Batt

Auntie L’s

Auntie L’s Deep Friend Snickers

Deep-fried snickers, $8

If you like anything deep-fried, Auntie L’s is the place to go at the fair.
The food stand, based in Owatonna, offers a variety of deep-fried snacks and chicken wings and this week is also offering some Mexican food offerings, including flour chips with lime and salsa.
This week we tried the deep-fried Snickers, which will hit the spot for those of you who like sweets.
It tasted like all the good things I’ve always loved of Snickers but softened and put in the middle of a cake-like coating and topped with sugar. It reminded me of a cake donut, so if you like those, then this is perfect for you. .
I was probably the last to take my bite in our group, and by the time I did, the center was ooey and gooey, but still warm and yummy.

— Review by Sarah Stultz