Food & Drink

Valleyfair grows up with new food aimed at adults

Valleyfair is growing up.

At least, some of its clientele is.

That's why the amusement park in Shakopee, Minn., debuted a new menu on opening day aimed at adults.

It's part of an effort to lure back the people who loved the place in their childhood, when they had no qualms about eating cotton candy and pizza all day. As adults, they might be looking for something more.

"Adults don't think there's enough for them," said Valleyfair executive chef Dave Whitmer. "We want to give adults a reason to come to the park and get an adult beverage, or get a meal instead of just a hot dog. We're really trying to get those kids-at-heart back."

While roasted corn elote, romaine salad with shaved cheese and pepperoni, and pork carnitas tacos are a step up from funnel cake, don't expect oysters and martinis. The menu still veers into fair-food territory.

You can get chicken fingers and mashed potatoes in a waffle cone, mostaccioli pasta, a pizza slathered with Nutella and Oreo cookies, and a pickle on a stick that's been deep-fried in Flamin' Hot Cheetos batter.

And, yes, a hot dog – but topped with lobster mac and cheese.

A bacon cheeseburger dropping with hollandaise is served between two hash brown patties instead of a bun; it's marketed as gluten-free. Whitmer could barely suppress a giggle when he described it.

"That's our joke," he said. "It's a gluten-free option, but it's a lot of calories. But we're an amusement park, so things are fun."

While "adult" beverages for years meant beers that were relegated to only a couple of out-of-the-way bars, the amusement park has slowly reintroduced alcohol on a wider scale. Now, you can get cocktails from Tattersall Distilling and craft beer from Surly, Summit and Badger Hill Brewing Co.

In addition to the new foods, the park's Depot refreshment stand is partnering with local restaurants each month to feature items from their menus. First up is St. Paul's Handsome Hog. Chef Justin Sutherland's shrimp po'boy, brisket sandwich, wings, Carolina pulled pork, and side dishes will be available for the month of June. After that, the menu switches to St. Paul's Groveland Tap in July, St. Paul's Pajarito in August, and Smalley's Caribbean Barbeque, formerly of Stillwater, in September and October.

"The idea is to really up our food game," Whitmer said. "We want to make some offerings that are a little more chef-driven. A lot of ballparks are going that avenue and we want to get with the times."