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Fair Foods: too low-brow or just plain scary?

It's time again for county fairs! Woo wee! Although I grew up in the South and attended several county fairs, I've never had anything more exotic than a corn dog. But I'm an adult now, ready to gird my loins like Andrew Zimmer? and try something wild and wonderful and, probably, dangerous in large quantities!
What would be the top two fair foods to try? The chicken breast snuggled between a sliced Krispy Kreme donut? The deep fried Snickers? Or is there something even more incredible and tasty?

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  1. How about deep-fried avocados?

    Though I haven't tried them yet.

    1. I think fair food can be a great treat, but...I doubt i'd try anything as adventerous as Andrew Zimmer...in part cuz you don't know about quality/saftey issues, and some things, no matter how "chow-worthy" I just cant see myself eating. LOL!! That said, likely any food stand with a locally well-known resto or retail affiliation, and a decent line (quick turnover) will probably hold you in good stead.

      1 Reply
      1. re: luvs2munchabunch

        I would like to say I am adventurous, or at least brave enough to try fair food with a well known resto. affiliation, but in my hometow, Evansville, IN which has the second largest annual street fair in the country, the real local specialty is the brain sandwich. NO THANK YOU! I have always been hesitant to dig into one of these, but when Alton Brown went to my hometown and didn't like it at all, it sort of sealed the deal for me. I will just contentedly stick to what I get every year that I go which is a stromboli from a particular fraternity, a piece of PB fudge from a smallish church, and my own individual jug of fresh cider from the local apple orchard. If I am super not miserably stuffed I might get chicken and dumplings which is probably the second most popular dish there.

      2. I love fair food! (Thank god summer only comes once a year...) Corn dogs, barbecued beef and pork on a stick, pulled pork sandwiches, pierogies, sausage and pepper sandwiches, frozen custard, funnel cake, I love it all!

        1. Hubby loves to try any new food...even if we agree it will most likely be bad. Some items warrant one bite and others have us licking our fingers. Among some of last year's food available at the Texas State Fair were:
          Fried Coke- eh, pass
          Fried balls of macaroni and cheese- pretty good, but not great
          Fletcher's Corn Dog -required
          Funnel Cake- also required
          Fried Cheesecake- would rather have plain cheesecake
          Fried PB& Banana sandwich- decent...probably better made at home
          Donkey Tails (hot dog wrapped in cheese and then a flour tortilla and....fried)- rather have a corn dog
          The Texas State Fair is a little over 2 months away. I wonder what deep-fried wonder this year will bring....
          PS- I thought the idea of a KK donut chicken sandwich sounded disgusting. However, I was in San Francisco and ate a fried pork bun in which the bun was sweet and had a certain KK quality. Convinced me that I will at least try a bite if they are at this year's state fair. Low brow? Yes! Scary? Most likely. But I am not going to rule something out until I try it.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Honey Bee

            Tried the fried chicken sandwich (on KK donute w/raspberry jam) at the Orange County CA Fair. Disgusting in every way possible, and totally inedible. One tiny bite (taking the hit for the 'hounds) was MORE than enough.

            1. re: CynD

              I have to say, you are pretty brave. I don't think this is one I would have been able to bring myself to try...

              1. re: CynD

                Three of us shared one and it was OK- really salty and really sweet- None of us could have eaten it all, though.

                1. re: Cathy

                  Yeah, we shared it four ways, and I couldn't force myself to take a second bite. Blech!! And just for the record, the deep fried oreos were equally as bad. That's the last time I let this friend do the dinner round up at the fair.......

            2. Folks like funnel cakes, but I think they're overrated. Mike had never eaten one till a while back when we went to the county fair here, and I told him he had to get one. After he ate it, he said, "Okay, don't have to have another one of those."

              We also have grilled turkey "tenderloins" which are served on a bun with ranch dressing. They're actually quite good, and relatively healthy. (You put the ranch on yourself, so you could skip it if you wanted to, although they can be a bit dry without it.)

              Down at the Iowa State Fair I'm told you can get a pork chop on a stick, but I haven't been there.

              3 Replies
              1. re: revsharkie

                I'm not proud. I love fair food. My vote is for anything on a stick - it just tastes better that way.

                For true food-on-a-stick paradise, hie thee to the Minnesota State Fair. Even the cream-puff booth will put your cream puff on a stick if you ask them to. For proof, see BellyDuJour's brilliant video, Minnesota State Fair On A Stick:


                And here's the MN State Fair site:


                1. re: AnneInMpls

                  was it last year, or the year before, Anne, that there was a convention of food writers in msp and everyone was talking about going to the MN state fair as the big food destination for months-- all the nyc and cali food writers planning what booths to hit for greasy fair food they apparently couldn't get at home. bizzare for sure!

                2. re: revsharkie

                  The pork chop on a stick, isn't actually on a stick. The chops are cut so that the bone acts as a stick. They sell 10's of thousands every year. There is always a line. It's a good chop. A cut above other fair food.

                3. In New York City there are street fairs nearly every weekend, Unfortunately, what they mostly ends up being are long, crowded street full of vendors selling touristy chotschkes and tube socks. Indeed, DH and I call them tube sock festivals. That said, here's what you commonly find at street fairs in New York,

                  Sausage and Peppers
                  Funnell Cake
                  Mozzarepa: a grilled corn arepa with an obscene amount of industrial mozzarella and grease dripping from it,
                  Grilled corn on a stick

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: MaspethMaven

                    I remember getting shrimp on a stick or lobster tail on a stick in the Bronx. It seemed that every street corner had a guy out there with his own BBQ grill. I thought to myself, hmmm, how sanitary could this be? But then the scent got to me and decided to buy one. It was so cheap and one of the best lobsters I have ever had! Can you still get this there?

                    1. re: justagthing

                      I have never seen lobster on a stick in any other borough. Was it perhaps an Feast/ Festa that you were at that had it? It could be associated with "feast" fare, which is a completely different category. By "feast" I mean an Italian-American Catholic celebration of a particular saint. Google "Our Lady of Mt. Carmel" and "Giglio" for an example.

                      1. re: MaspethMaven

                        This was a decade ago or more. We were walking from the subway to the Bronx Zoo. At every street corner, we saw these guys out there with their BBQ's and selling lobster and shrimp. It smelled so great. It had nothing to do with a fair or fiesta. It was like the hot dog carts that you see haphazardly throughout.

                  2. At the State Fair of Texas, you can get fried BBQ ribs. Oddly enough, they are pretty good. There is also a stand called Darn Good Corn only on the Midway which served grilled corn with all of the toppings usually offered for elotes. Bypass the boiled corn and make the trek to the Midway even if you don't like the Midway.

                    At the Iowa State Fair, the thing to do is go by the Iowa Pork Council. Bypass the line for the full dinner and head to the little stand outside where they sell grilled pork chops on a stick. For a mere $5 you get a huge pork chop seasoned with salt and pepper and grilled to fabulousness. Completely Chow worthy as well.

                    As for the strange, don't try fried Oreos. They just get all mushy and gross. The deep fried Snickers is pretty good. Sort of like a chocolate dipped donut turned inside out. Not something I want again, but we ate most of one unlike the Oreos where we took one bite and found it bad and another bite to make sure and threw them away.

                    1. And I forgot to add Kettle Corn to my list. (I am the only one in my family who likes kettle corn, but for me it is strangely addicitve.)

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: flourgirl

                        Many, many years ago we found ourselves at a county fair in southern Idaho - possibly Twin Falls, but I can't remember for sure. What I can remember is the large Idaho potato, in which the vendors had drilled a hole lenghtwise and stuffed a fresh home-made country sausage into the hole. The potato was then wrapped in foil and baked, and when done was split open and topped with butter and sour cream. Heart attack on a plate to be sure, but my husband still dreams about that potato.

                        1. re: judybird

                          O my! Definitely the stuff dreams are made of.

                          1. re: judybird

                            That sounds like a good make ahead camping food.

                        2. The "new" items at the San Diego County Fair were Fried Rattlesnake Bites as well as Rattlesnake chili (sort of tasted like rabbit or muskrat). The Krispy Kreme jelly donut with the fried chicken patty (sweet and salty; satisfied some cravings, but I wouldn't eat it all the time). The deep fried avocado with a basil sauce was new last year and OK- if no sauce, not much flavor. The deep fried Snickers was new 3 years ago and pretty good because the carmel was melted under the fried dough coating. Deep fried Twinkie 4 years ago- Twinkie in a fried dough coating and topped with raspberry or chocolate sauce was OK for a one time thing. I am not a sweets person, so it all is either ok or bad to me. I go for the 'regular' stuff I can't get on the outside-Australian Batter Fried potatoes with ranch sauce, batter fried artichokes on a stick, sweet potato fries...Cinnamon rolls are so popular and I don't understand it.
                          Really I go to the County Fair to see the Exhibits in the Home Arts Section- crafts, art, preserved foods.

                          1. If you ever find yourself in my hometown of Brattleboro, Vermont ..on the Fourth of July....head for Memorial Park. If you get there early afternoon you can avoid the outrageously long line at the Thai Food stand. For the "princely" sum of $7, I had an amazing meal of Pad Thai, a spring roll, and a skewer of satay chicken. More traditional fair food is also available (small selection...small town though), but the Thai stand outshines the rest by far in my opinion.

                            Also, if you're in Brattleboro the first weekend of June, check out the Strolling of the Heifers Festival. There's a charming parade featuring the area's most beautiful bovines bedecked in flower garlands and escorted through town by fresh-faced young farmers in the the making. Then head to the town commons....mmmmm.....for cheese tastings, samples of Turkey Hill Ice Cream (they sponsor the event ..so don't be startled by the giant cow float emblazoned with their logo.) Also, don't pass up the various maple treats, especially the maple cotton candy...a wisp of pure maple ecstasy!

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: vermontpoet

                              Honey cotton candy was my favorite thing on the planet... until I met maple cotton candy... OMG!!!

                              1. re: abowes

                                Which fair has honey and maple cotton candy? I think I see a road trip in my future!


                                1. re: AnneInMpls

                                  North Carolina State Fair (Raleigh, NC)

                                  1. re: abowes

                                    And it's coming up soon! Oct. 12 - Oct. 21, I believe.

                            2. Must say I got over cotton candy a third of the way through my first one. I think I was about ten at the time...I gotta have at least one corn dog a year, however.

                              My favorite foods were from the Tennessee State Fair - there's an outdoor open-pit barbecue place that fires up first thing in the morning, and by noon they're cranking out ribs, shoulders, chickens, sausages...all good, even when it's really too hot to be eating that kind of thing (which is why we would hit'em at night). The Daughters of Isis had the best fried chicken and mashed potatoes, and one year I tried the chit'lins - had to convince that nice old lady that Yes, Fat White Boy here really DOES want some o' them, and then make a show of enjoying them. I really didn't have to pretend, though they'll never be a favorite...

                              I can do without the funnel cakes and the deepfried Twinkies, and eating a burger at a fair is just silly, like going to a really wonderful Chinese restaurant and ordering chop suey. I am a complete sucker for the old trick the Italian-sausage guys pull, when they see a bunch of people approaching and throw a pile of peppers and onions on the grill to bait the trap. I know they're doing it on purpose, but what the hell. I can just about always eat an Italian sausage.

                              LA County so far hasn't shown me much with their Fair, except that you can get wine there. The sweet stuff does not appeal, and the savory lacks depth. Maybe I'll have to make my annual Nashville trip a little early...

                              1. Suddenly this thread becomes very relevant...Mike and I scored free passes to the Iowa State Fair next month by agreeing to host the "Old Fashioned Hymn Sing" with our missionaries who are on furlough from China. I haven't been to the Iowa State Fair before. Totally looking forward to it.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: revsharkie

                                  Hope for nice weather. Usually if it isn't raining, it's in the 90's and humid. On the other hand, nice weather results in crowds over 100,000 people. That's a lot for an event in Iowa.
                                  Do make a point to walk through the cultural center. My favorite building with all the photographs from the photography competition. Lot of other fun stuff there.
                                  Varied Industries building is just inside the West entrance. It's like like meeting in person every telemarketer you've ever heard from. Nice array of products though, and, this is key, it's air conditioned.
                                  Check out the web-site for the free stage entertainment. It can be surprisingly good.
                                  To keep this food related, the pork chop on a stick is all Iowa, and fair food at its finest. I think I mentioned the Cattlemans place. Good ribeyes. There are also some good Lamb burgers east near the lamb barns. Near the Administration building there are a couple of Root Beer stands. Root beer is ok, but it's something like .75 a cup. Far and away the cheapest cold drink.
                                  Have fun.

                                  1. re: Bobfrmia

                                    The lemonade stand north of the Sheep Building at the Iowa State Fair is the cheapest on the fairgrounds and the only one where cherry lemonade is available.

                                2. Penn's chicken on a stick (battered and deep fried with onion and pickles) gets my vote as the best thing to eat. Also love the italian sausage with onions and peppers. Top it off with a free home-made bisquit with sorgum and a cinnamon roll and an elephant ear, and then it is on to the beer stand! Life is good...

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Clarkafella

                                    There is a "sugar shack" set up at the Champlain Valley Fair in Essex, Vermont. It has maple everything... maple donuts, maple cotton candy, maple coffee, maple sundaes, maple candy, maple milkshakes... it smells absolutely incredible when you walk in.

                                    I'm a county fair junkie. I grew up in a small town, so something like the yearly fair was the most exciting thing to happen since Christmas. You can't beat fair food... thanks for this thread. I can't WAIT until next month!

                                  2. Some menu items for the 2007 Texas State Fair have been announced: fried lattes, fried guacamole, fried peach cobbler on a stick, fried cookie dough, and fried chili pie.


                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Honey Bee

                                      Hey, don't forget the fried banana pudding or the fried sweet potato pie...


                                      I will be at the fair in early October--anyone who goes before that, I would be curious about which things to try. I am going with others and hope to be able to share, except for my frito pie. That's ALL mine alone. Don't know why, but I just love that stuff.

                                    2. Growing up in Phoenix always meant an annual frybread binge at the state fair. The Navajo stand that was there as a kid is still there. Navajo tacos, powdered sugar, or honey. C'est Magnifique!

                                      1. We've given up going to fairs since our children grew up and left home but when we did go I could never resist the italian sausage cooked with green peppers and onions. I also always had heartburn later but it was worth it!
                                        For dessert, there were elephant ears - I guess they were just funnel cakes given a cute name. Yum!