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What's the strangest, or best, food you have eaten at a State Fair, stadium, or other outdoor venue?

I want to pull together a list of the best, strangest and most delectable foods from state fairs, county fairs, outdoor events, and sporting venues.

Any "must have" items that are perhaps regional specialties?

I'd love to know more. All "food on a stick" welcome.

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  1. Great question. I've seen many "strange" ones, but I'll only respond with the one I've actually tried... In the "most unusual" category, Key Lime Pie on a stick (MN state fair.)

    ~TDQ

    1. At the Minnesota State Fair, these are my must haves:

      Corn dog (NOT Pronto Pup! I'm not a fan of the sweeter batter)
      Deep fried cheese on a stick (*salivating*)
      Cheese curds (from the food building only)

      Everything else is incidental for me, really. I haven't had anything too wild. Alligator bites one year but they just tasted like chicken. Ostrich on a stick another year but, again, tasted like chicken.

      Other items I've tried and enjoyed:
      Deep fried green pepper rings
      Sweet Martha's cookies (oh so good!)
      Egg roll from the Bazaar
      Deep fried corn

      I'll get my boyfriend in here to comment further. He's more of an expert in this area as he's been going for years :)

      7 Replies
      1. re: MaggieB

        Oh no! You've triggered the pronto pup vs. corn dog debate! :)

        Oh, and I really liked the toasted chocolate sandwich at the MN State Fair last year.

        ~TDQ

        1. re: The Dairy Queen

          The debate??? There's NO debate...corn dogs rule!!

          And do you know the difference?? Corn dog is a cornmeal based batter, the Pronto pup is a flour base. No contest....Corn dogs rule!

          I love seeing so many die hard MN State Fair people here. It's such an amazing display of food hounding anywhere. What about the deep fried Snicker bars? Alligator on a stick?? The lemonade stands? Those are wonderful on a hot day. All you can drink milk for $.50? Get the Sweet Martha cookie bucket and go sit on the curb by the milk stand and eat warm cookies and cold, delicious milk until you are swooning with delight. The salt water taffy booth, with the mechanical man who turns and pulls the taffy is always one of my favorite stops. Cheeese curds, yum....so greasy! The mini donuts!!!! Ahhhhhh....stop!!! I won't be able to go this year and I am kinda sad. I haven't gone in a while and was thinking it would be this year, but turns out it won't.

          1. re: cooknKate

            Affirmative on the corn dogs. Is the MN SF anywhere near Carlton College? My nephew goes there. Maybe time for a visit.

            1. re: chocolatetartguy

              http://www.mnstatefair.org/

              Its totally worth the trip - the best people watching ever. Lots of livestock, daily parades, vegie contests, seed art.... really a slice of america

              1. re: chocolatetartguy

                The Minnesota State Fair is in St. Paul (technically, Falcon Heights), which is about (guessing) an hour an half drive from Carlton.

                ~TDQ

              2. re: cooknKate

                Well, at least if you miss it, you know it will be back next year. Don't forget: Reuben on a stick, spaghetti and meatballs on a stick, macaroni and cheese on a stick, walleye on a stick, pork chop on a stick, eggroll on a stick...

                ~TDQ

            2. re: MaggieB

              MaggieB- what are chees curds? I saw them at a fair I went to this weekend. I'd never heard of them before.

            3. Minnesota State Fair: Roasted corn at the stand outside the grandstand. For $1.50 (or is it $2?) that has always been the best deal at the fair. It takes all kinds of willpower not to get right back in line for a second ear while I'm still enjoying the first.

              Now, don't even start with the chatter about the "all the milk you can drink" booth. That wasn't a deal, it was a health necessity to wash down those thick, thick, thick iced brownies that they used to sell across the way. I can feel my shirt getting tighter across the belly, just writing about them.

              The deep-fried celery of a couple years ago was more satire than snack. It poked fun at the entire fair food genre, but that didn't make it any less stringy.

              The smell of fried dough still carries me back to county 4-H fairs in New England. One for dinner, with tomato sauce and cheese from the green can, and one for dessert with a layer of powdered sugar.

              In any other setting the food itself would stand no chance, but there is something very special about breakfasts at the church dining halls on the fairgrounds. Early morning, paper cartons of milk and urns full of weak coffee, a holy mix of sausage grease & pancake syrup. Everyone in the tent is in it for the long haul, readying themselves to wrassle garbage cans all morning or judge shelves & shelves of junior craft projects or time their milkings just right to show off their cow's udder in the breed classes. The other breed, the fairgoers themselves, come later well after the first wave have cleared their paper plates & turned again to barn chores.

              4 Replies
              1. re: KTFoley

                LOL!!! Your Celery Story reminded me of one my favorite Simpson's Quote:

                Homer Simpson: See Marge, I told you they could deep-fry my shirt.

                Marge: I didn't say they couldn't, I said you shouldn't.

                I haven't been to a fair in ages (probably a good thing). But I remember last year's big thing at the OC fair was Avocados, stuffed with carne asada and then battered and fried.

                This year they are doing that Krispy Kreme Hamburger thing, but with a Chicken Cutlet.

                --Dommy!

                1. re: KTFoley

                  The roasted corn is $2.50 this year, but if you're patient, you can usually get a two-for-one deal on small or mis-shapen ears of corn. We did, today!

                  I love that roasted corn. It's the one food I cannot miss at the MN State Fair! (And after that, I need a wild-rice corn dog, some garlicky Blazing Salad, a skewer of Walleye-on-a-Stick, and a cone from the Dairy Building - to be eaten while you look at the Dairy Princesses' Butter Heads.) Ah, there's nothing like state fair food!

                  Anne

                  1. re: AnneInMpls

                    I am *so* jealous reading through the wonder of the MN State Fair. It makes ours here in Arizona sound like absolute childs' play. But then, the butter heads you mention would melt almost instantly around here, so I suppose some concessions would have to be made.

                    1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                      Actually, Princess Kay of the Milky Way and her attendants each sit in a cooler in a winter coat for the better part of a hot summer day trying to smile and not to shiver too obviously, while their likenesses are carved in a gigantic block of butter. Could be done anywhere.

                2. Deep fried Mars Bar at the Canadian National Exhibition
                  www.mishsplayground.com

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: mtampoya

                    Tiny Tom donuts also at the CNE. A baker's dozen right off the little assembly line, shaken in the bag with powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar. Yum!

                  2. Last few years the Decatur Celebration has had the best shrimp on the stick...the entertainment is good also... alway held the early part of August, but we go for the shrimp on a stick, sold by a group from Mississippi and they bring enough with them to come to Springfield the next week to do the Illinois State Fair...so in a two week timeframe I have access to the best of the shrimp on a stick. Shrimp threaded between pieces of onion on a wood stick. They offer cocktail sauce to dip. It is wonderful...

                    1. MN Fairgoer here...

                      I finally had the pork chop on the stick last year. It was great as raved about by fellow MNs. But I had it at around 8 am....no lines!

                      & i'm a corn dog girl - no pronto pups here.

                      and the cream puffs at the MN fair (near base of the gondola thingy) are excellent.

                      lastly - I 2nd the roast corn, but those lines are too big and it seems that lots of other spots can do that corn just as well with the rent-a-center corn roaster.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: St Paul Susie

                        Pork chop on a stick at a 2002 Chicago Bears-New England Patriots game at Memorial Stadium on the University of Illinois campus. It was like eating a shoe. On a stick. The Pats won, 33-30.

                        A buddy of mine claims to have eaten and enjoyed Rocky Mountain Oysters a few years ago at Coors Field in Denver. I'm still not sure how I feel about this.

                      2. At the Tennessee State Fair, of course we always had to have at least one corn dog, and I had to have my Italian sausage fix, but for serious eating we'd go into the concessions building where there's an array of lunch counters, some purely commercial and some run by service clubs or churches. My fave was always the one run by the Daughters of Isis, an African-American women's service club. Mrs. O would always get a pig's knuckle plate, and I almost always had the better-than-grandma's fried chicken...but one year I got the chit'lins! Now THAT was some serious stuff - first of all convincing the nice lady that yes, I really DID want that, and then exploring the very unsubtle flavors, considerably more, ummm, pronounced than any tripe I'd eaten. My waitress did quite pointedly set a bottle of hot sauce down in front of me, for which I was grateful...

                        I wasn't ready for another plate when I'd finished, but I wanted some on subsequent visits. Alas, it had been pulled off the menu.

                        1. I dont know if this counts, and if it does you'll get a lot about the fantastic Central American chow at the Red Hook (Brooklyn) soccer fields, but there was a weekly basketball game in the south Bronx. A lot of Garifuni people came to this particular game. They are from Honduras, the descendants of Africans who escaped from 17th century slave ships, swam to shore, and intermarried with Carib Indians (now otherwise extinct, I believe). One afternoon a woman sidewalk vendor sold me a bowl of peanut soup that was incredibly good and spicy and basically West African. I went back many times in search of that soup, and each time she told me she didnt make it.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Brian S

                            OMG, BrianS, I know some of the food prepared by the Garifuni too! In Honduras at an open market, I went directly to their food stalls, had great rice & beans cooked with coconut and some fried fish, it was SO good! thanks for bringing it all back. that soup sounds good, hope you find it again. So cool that you have access to that food in Brooklyn.

                          2. *Chicken fried steak patty sandwiched in between a sliced Krispy-Kreme donut and drizzled with honey and powdered-sugar.

                            *Cheese stuffed avocado, battered, deep-fried, eaten on a stick.

                            1. If outdoors includes Beijing street markets, then its a deep fried scorpian, served on a stick. I did not partake of the deepfried seahorse.

                              Pictures available but I don't know how to insert or link.

                              1. Best? Gotta be a corndog at a county or street fair. But they're really the best when freshly fried. Sometimes, you get there and they're already fried... warm and nice, but ALREADY FRIED! You realize their friolator is off, and you're like, MAN! But they hand you this hot thing off their warmer tray... and you dip it in your mixed mustard and ketchup, and wow. It still tastes like summer. Now if we can just get those heavier gals and their boyfriends to wear more discreet clothing at the fair........!

                                And man. I know this may be really counter-Houndish. But I just LOVE Dippin Dots, which one of the sponsoring civic groups at our county fair always sells in their booth. I know it's a gimmick, and I know that there's better ice cream. But I love that s_ _tuff!!

                                1. Hard to beat the corn dogs at the Texas State Fair. Then again, the funnel cakes are also pretty darn good.

                                  1. At Japanese festivals, there is usually at least one vendor who offers an okonomiyaki (savory japanese pancake) made thinly and wrapped around chopsticks so the consumer can easily eat it while walking. I myself am a fan of the box of fried chicken cartiledge, where as my husband cannot stop recounting when he bought something called "bondegi", (boiled insect larvae) as a snack on the street in Korea.

                                    1. Went to the Orange County Fair yesterday & a bit disappointed. I'm a bit spoiled by the cream puffs from my husband's home state & the nirvana of State Fairs, Wisconsin... People wait in lines there for days & woe on the person who inadvertantly cuts in line! Anyway, the OC ones were stale & nasty & it was very easy to throw it out. The corn was also disappointing - margarine pats you had to spread all over instead of dipped in real butter & dried out shrivelled corn. Now, I like a good char, but this corn probably didn't have a whole ot going for it before the grill. Didn't finish that either. However, all was not lost - the hot cinnamon bun with extra scraped up goo & cream cheese frosting -not on top, but pooled on the side, as on the bites with lots of goo, it would be overkill, but on those lacking the carmelly crunchy stuff, the frosting is a lovely addition. I am really getting weak - that was all I could handle. Did get a little hungry after I got home & wished I'd had some of the deep fried mushroom, artichokes & eggplant combo (with perhaps a few giant onion rings thrown on top) combo with ranch to dip. Next year...

                                      1. At the Sonoma County Fair, years ago, I once had a rendition of a boudin, which was so unspeakably unpleasant I couldn't finish it: weirdly pale, with a sour, bland, funky taste that made me think it had been left in the hot sun for an hour or two before cooking. But I have been told that it was a poor representative of its kind, so maybe someday I will be able to try a better one.

                                        1. Garlic ice cream and garlic wine, Gilroy garlic festival. So weird.....

                                          1. When we were stationed in Japan when I was a kid, I remember that they had squid on a stick at all the fairs. I always thought it was sooo wierd to see tenticles hanging out of peoples mouths as they ate them.

                                            My favorite would be the bacon wrapped hot dogs that we get from the vendors at the USC Football games. They are sooo good.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: KellBell

                                              Those bacon wrapped hot dogs are insanly good.

                                            2. A deepfried buritto. The buritto was one that you would find in a grocery store freezer, with the filling being something vaguely beefish. Anyway I was a kid and would get these deep fried bombs at Ascot raceway in gardena, ca. Sadly Ascot is now gone . . . but not forgotten.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: mattesq

                                                Whoa, I live like 50 steps away from the old Ascot Raceway. Now, sadly is a car auction something or other. Deepfried burritos are the best. We buy them at Ramona's and deep fry them ourselves. Insanely artery choking freaking good...

                                              2. Not strange, not regional, but a must-have when we go to a TX Rangers game in Arlington - garlic fries. They're thick fries slathered in garlic "butter" and have supplanted nachos as my favorite "why do I love this so much?" food at the ballpark.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: shanagain

                                                  I've had these, and they are absolutely THE best. I think they're drizzled in olive oil, and not butter, but there's a ton of garlic on them and the fries soak up all those juices. It's almost worth sitting through a Rangers game just for the fries.

                                                  TT

                                                  1. re: TexasToast

                                                    I couldn't find a pic of the actual fries, but these come pretty close.

                                                    http://static.flickr.com/25/38815173_...

                                                    TT

                                                2. The California State Fair in Sacramento of my youth, used to have the best cinnamon rolls. Don't forget freshly made corndogs!

                                                  1. at the north carolina state fair, i experienced a deep fried cheeseburger. i had been looking forward to the deep fried twinkies, but the cheeseburger outranked the twinkie in terms of taste.

                                                    1. How about deep fried oreo cookies. I've seen these at several fairs/festivals in the south. A cardiologist is highly recommended after eating several of these.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: ScottWNC

                                                        Had to tried the deep fried oreos and deep fried twinkies at the Erie County fair last year. Neither was oustanding, but then again....you are starting with Oreos and Twinkies :P

                                                        At a fair I went to in the UK, they did fresh made 'donuts' (no holes in them). Kinda like zeppole but denser with the powdered sugar on top.

                                                        On Long Island, the fairs had the fresh roasted corn and kettle corn----not so bizarre but I can never pass them up!

                                                        1. I'm from NC and love a trip back home for the State Fair every other year or so. I still, to this day, follow the same routine of exactly what I eat at each visit to the Fair and in what order!

                                                          First stop is always to the Wisconsin Fried Cheese stand where they serve beer battered cheese (mozz, cheddar, or pepparjack) hot from the oil. I always get the mozz with marinara on the side.

                                                          Next, I have to get an order of Al's French Fries. Al is a local guy from Apex, NC and his fries are fresh, handcut and they fry them all day long so they are always piping hot. My mouth is watering just thinking of them.

                                                          then, I have to have a corn dog - and it can't be a red hot dog inside. Yuck!

                                                          By now, I'm wanting something sweet, so I head to one of the inside buildings where my absolute favorite treat is found - Vermont Maple Sugar Cotton Candy! It's a total dream. I buy four bags and eat one on site and take the rest home to savor.

                                                          After wandering around some more, I'll usually find whatever the newest treat is at the fair to try out. This varies from whatever they've figured out can be battered and fried this year (veggies, twinkies, oreos, etc.) or a new BBQ stand.

                                                          I usually end my total food fest with homemade ice cream at the NC State Vet School stand. Absolutely delicious and HUGE servings of homemade ice cream.

                                                          You know - the Fair wasn't on my list for this year, but I just might have to go....

                                                          1. I went to the Iowa State Fair every year until I was around 12. I always liked the corn dog fried to order, extra well done, then lathered in mustard with a lemonade or orange drink squeezed fresh in front of you.

                                                            One year when I was around 6-7 years old they had a Mexican Pavillion at the Fair. I had never had Mexican food before or a taco. This was a few years before they had taco kits and fixings available in the supermarket. They had these mini tacos that were fresh made soft corn tortillas and they deep fried them crispy to order and filled them with spicy meat and some type of cheese. They had some salad stuff on the side to add but all I asked for was the chopped raw onion. The first one was good but then they put hot sauce on the second one. It was love at first sight, especially since it was my first experience with hot sauce as well. I ate around 20 of these mini-tacos and drank gallons of water to stop the burn. My uncle laughed at me like crazy since my face turned bright red and I as sweating. But I still kept begging for more tacos and pouring on the sauce. I'm practically drooling right now thinking back on it.

                                                            At the Saugerties, NY Garlic Festical I love the Garlic Fudge. Mmmmm, that stuff is incredible.

                                                            As for street food in Asia... Wow! Everything's great, especially in Bangkok.

                                                            1. Grilled lobster and old-fashioned daiquris (a little sugar, some lime juice, fill the glass with Havana Club, no ice) at the Cuban booth at a Communist Party fair in Rome.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                see, that's not even fair!!
                                                                Daiquri's should never have turned into what they are today. Rum, sugar and lime is all you need.

                                                              2. As a first-timer at the Minnesota State Fair about three years ago, there are two things I want to return to sample:
                                                                The honey ice-cream from the Apiary Exhibit: dense and creamy and studded with roasted sunflower seeds.
                                                                The garlic fries from somewhere nearby: regular french fries topped with sauteed garlic piled on top. My brother gets 'em with extra stink. It was obscene.
                                                                And I second pairing the bucket o' homemade choc chip cookies and the all-you-can-drink milk stand. Genius.

                                                                1. No love for the deep fried pickle at the MN State Fair? Given the money and time, I would fly back home every year just to eat myself stupid. I miss eating my food on a stick while checking out butter statues and petting prize winning sows. I actually get a little teary when this time comes around every year...

                                                                  1. If you want cream puffs, you have to go to the wisconsin state fair, they also have the best enormous chocolate chip cookies, baked potatoes and corn dipped right in butter.

                                                                    I liked my scotch egg at the MN state fair, and I'm ALL about corn dogs... there is a great place up on the north end that doesn't even have lines!

                                                                    1. Deep-fried Snickers and Oreo's at the Texas State Fair. Snickers was pretty good.

                                                                      TT

                                                                      1. The, the best state fair is in MN - the absolute best. The way to attack the fair is start at 8am before most things open and have a foot long hot dog with onions... then you wander around before the crowds come and work your way to the crafts and vendors... the next food is the freshly made french fries. YUM! Then move to a corn dog (not a pronto pup)- it's Minnesota - you have to do corn. Then on to beer gardens for some music and refreshements. The next stop is the mini doughnuts! Then off to Sweet Martha's for some hot freshly baked cookies and on your wau out the door - grab some good ole contton candy ON A STICK - not in a dumb bag! Enjoy. You can exercise another day...

                                                                        1. Well, hold on here a minute. I think that I have one for you. I have never told anyone, even my husband (just because I forgot), but I have one.

                                                                          The area where I grew up has an annual muskrat dinner. Yes, muskrat. I have not tried it, I heard that it, like everything else, tastes just like chicken. I grew up right over the bridge in the area of New Jersey that made it the garden state, Salem County and it is high farm country.

                                                                          Here is the phone number that I found for the Salem County Rotary Club. They may still have the dinners. 856-935-3600. Let us know how it goes!

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Main Line Tracey

                                                                            I have a friend who attends the muskrat dinner annually. i would, but I have always had some conflicting event. This is not an outdoor event.

                                                                            1. re: FrankJBN

                                                                              No way! I just talke to one of my friends form home last night and she had been many times. SHe said it tastes like dark meat chicken, except a bit greasier and not as tough. I called the rotary club and they said that they may be having a dinner again in the spring.

                                                                          2. At the New York State Fair the specialties are

                                                                            Salt Potatoes: new potatoes (about gumball to golfball size) boiled in salt water (about 1 lb salt to 2 qts water per 2lbs of potatoes) and served with melted butter

                                                                            Chicken Spiedies: chunks of boneless chicken marinated in lemon juice/olive oil vinaigrette, grilled on skewers then served in a fresh italian roll

                                                                            Really Fresh Corn, boiled or roasted

                                                                            Cheese Curds

                                                                            1. Back in the days, not too distant between ten and twenty years ago, when the Trenton, NJ, Heritage Days attracted a much wider group of vendors, I was pleased to be able to get an order of grilled rattlesnake. Hunk of nice fairly heavy white flesh between two ribs.

                                                                              Fried Alligator kibble was also available that day, incongruously enouogh next to a crepe stand.

                                                                              Although Heritage Days is much smaller these days you can still get some ethnic specialties such as goat, oxtail, rice bread, stuffed grapeleaves, and Hispanic pastellitos ( don't forget a nice slab of yam pie from the church ladies)

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: FrankJBN

                                                                                Deep fried pickles. Absolutely divine. And elephant ears. (big sugary flat pieces of dough deep fried and hit with cin/sugar. I'm drooling.

                                                                              2. So hear it is, finally, our video of ALL the foods on a stick as the largest "food-on-a-stick" festival in the world!

                                                                                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-5Lr2...

                                                                                1. Gilroy Garlic Festival (Gilroy, CA): picture a reese's peanut butter cup... but with garlic paste instead of peanut butter. i adore garlic, but that really pushed the envelope too far!

                                                                                  1. Those ice-cream beads at Shea Stadium. Still the strangest thing I think I've eaten.

                                                                                    1. There is a Sauerkraut Festival in Waynesville, OH on the second weekend of October and they have all things sauerkraut, but my favorite is a "German Sauwerkraut Sundae".

                                                                                      It consists of mashed potatoes,some fried onions, sauerkraut, shredded cheddar, sour cream and black olives in that order. I actually ends up looking like a sundae, and the combination is scrumptious!!

                                                                                      http://www.sauerkrautfestival.com/