When you’re driving in or near the east metro this time of the year, you’re likely to find signs announcing “booya,” a term used for both a festival and a food that have become a real tradition in parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin. Booya the food has been described as a stew-like concoction of beef bones, chicken and various locally-grown root vegetables simmered for hours. The fall festival at which this regional dish is served is also called booya, and church groups, firefighters, and VFW members have found that it’s a dish they don’t have any trouble selling – by the bowlful or the bucketful. Perhaps this is why they cook it in Paul Bunyan-sized pots.

Booya Origins

When Walter Books told the story of how the South St. Paul Booya Cook-off got started, he recalled a day some 30-odd years ago when he and a friend were talking about starting an event in their town. They settled on booya, and he said, “Let’s have a South Saint Paul booya cook-off.”

His friend said, “Let’s make it a competition for the whole county.” But that got Books thinking, why not go all the way and host the world championship cook-off? And that’s how the South Saint Paul World Championship Booya Cook-Off title originated back in 1982, though the name does seem a bit grandiose since the cooks are still all local. Books said that Green Bay did take issue with their use of the term “world championship” and challenged them to a cooking duel one day when the Vikings played the Packers. The duel never did take place, Books admitted.

What is Booya Anyway?

He also admitted that he has never learned how to make booya himself. But he’s expecting ten or eleven booya cooks to compete in this year’s cookoff, which makes it sound like there’d be no shortage of booya in South Saint Paul come Booya Sunday. But not everyone who came last year got the booya they were waiting for. North Saint Paul firefighters prepared a total of 510 gallons of booya in 2015 but sold out in less than an hour.

“Do you know the difference between booya and a bowl of soup or stew?” Books asked. “With booya, you’ve got meat hanging over the side.” The meat is simmered in large pots with dried beans – simmered long and slow until the meat falls off the bone. Then a variety of vegetables are added to those 40- to 80-gallon pots and the cooking continues for a few hours more. Recipes vary but typically include potatoes, onions, carrots, tomatoes and rutabagas. The spices used vary by cook as well, and the exact combination tends to be a well-kept secret.

Places to Booya

If you’ve never had booya, maybe this is the year to give it a try. Below is a list of some of the places where booya is for sale this fall in the Twin Cities. You’ve got more than a month of Sundays – and a couple of Saturdays – to get you some booya. Bring along a gallon-sized container if you’d like to take some home to freeze and enjoy later.

The times listed below are when selling begins; ending time can be unpredictable. Some places may run out within an hour or two, so if you’ve got your heart set on booya, don’t dilly dally.


September 18 Saint Jerome Catholic Church

380 East Roselawn Avenue, Maplewood, MN 55117

6 a.m. take out; 11:30 a.m. dine in


September 25 B-Dale Club

2100 North Dale Street, Roseville, MN 55113

10 a.m., dine in or take out


October 1 South Saint Paul’s World Championship Booya Contest

8th Avenue and Southview Boulevard, South Saint Paul, MN 55075 Noon, dine in or take out


October 2 North Saint Paul Fire Department

Casey Lake Park, 2045 County Road C, North Saint Paul, MN 55109 11 a.m., dine in or take out


October 2 Obb’s Sports Bar Annual Booya

1347 Burns Ave., St. Paul, MN 55106

Noon, dine in or take out


October 2 Roseville Firefighters Annual Booya Fundraiser

1145 Woodhill Drive, Roseville, MN 55113 (Roseville VFW building)

11 a.m., dine in or take out


October 9 Church of Saint Mary

261 East 8th Street, St Paul, MN 55101

8 a.m. take out; 11:30 dine in


October 15 American Legion Post 577

1129 Arcade St., Saint Paul, MN 55106

11 a.m., dine in or take out    


By Anita Dualeh