It only launched in 2014, but the Blue Barn quickly became one of the Minnesota State Fair’s most iconic food vendors. Its bold cobalt building just inside the West End Gate is almost as recognizable as some of its zany menu items that take classic fair food to the next level.
For Stephanie Shimp and her Blue Plate Restaurant Co., which operates the Blue Barn as well as eight Twin Cities restaurants, it wouldn’t be summer without chicken in a waffle cone. Or Pop Rocks French toast. Or bacon-stuffed Tater Tots.
So, the barn is back. Even without a state fair in 2020, Blue Barn isn’t sitting this summer out.
A July 4 weekend pop-up at Blue Plate restaurants, such as Groveland Tap in St. Paul and Freehouse in Minneapolis, will have Blue Barn’s greatest hits on the menu.
That waffle cone, filled with fried chicken and sausage gravy (with a surprise at the bottom). Cornflake-crusted Nashville hot chicken on-a-stick. That French toast and those tots, plus Grandma Deb’s Snicker Salad, and Blueberry Basil Lemonade.
And that’s not all. In mid-July, Blue Barn will hit the road in a new food truck that will also feature some of Blue Plate’s restaurant menu items.
“There’s been so much interest and intrigue and excitement over how we can get state fair food without the state fair this year,” Shimp said. “Our step-one response has been getting our food out there.”
The truck will be available for private parties and corporate events, as well as some neighborhood nights for people who aren’t coming out to the newly reopened Blue Plate restaurants.
Still, it’s no replacement for those last two weeks in August.
Last year’s fair “was a record year and it was a substantial part of our bottom line,” Shimp said. “It will be a big miss this year for us.”
But even a taste of the fair could just what people need right now, Shimp said.
“We need something to celebrate. We need a small victory, just a small win,” she said. “There’s something about the state fair, and food in particular, that creates community. If we can bring the state fair out to you, perhaps we can have just a little bit of that community again.”
Follow Blue Barn on Instagram for more details, @bluebarnmn.