I know I’m a bit tardy in updating my state fair food cheat sheet, but this should still be helpful for 2011 and just for posterity’s sake.
As I stated in my Day 1 post, after exhaustive research, here’s my 2010 cheat sheet, with some comments on what I ate.
New for 2010: Deep-fried cheeseburger sliders (cheeseburger batter-dipped and deep fried).
Verdict: In a word: greasy. But that is to be expected when you batter and deep fry a bun. I think if you could make them to order with bacon or pickles inside it would spice them up a little. Not bad, but not great.
Giggles’ Campfire Grill (V-13)
New for 2010: Chicken Fried Bacon (thick-cut bacon battered and breaded, fried and served in a boat covered with gravy).
Verdict: I was hoping for more of the batter to stick to the bacon, but what was there was yummy. The description online isn’t quite accurate regarding the “covered with gravy”. You actually get a small cup of maple flavored dip (which you could call gravy), that’s quite good and compliments the bacon. I recommend getting yourself some chicken fried bacon!
Midtown Global Market (V-31)
New for 2010: Camel on-a-stick, mango on-a-stick, African coolers.
Verdict: So I tried the Camel on-a-stick… how should I describe this? First off, it honestly looked like a turd on a stick. Lumpy, asymmetrical, vaguely fibrous, mostly dark brown with some minor flecks of different color. The taste…? Well… I still am having a hard time describing it. Imagines a coarsely ground sausage that was over cooked on the grill for texture. The flavor was reminiscent of a gyro but with a lot of spices (apparently to cover up the flavor of camel). Decidedly not good, but difficult to describe. Alex was the other person brave (or stupid) enough to take a bite. He described is as, “if Basil were a meat.” Needless to say, I would dissuade you from trying the camel on-a-stick.
Moe and Joes Coffee (N-30)
New for 2010: Grilled marshmallow, chocolate and banana sandwich
Missed: I’m sure it’s quite good, but it’s something I could make at home, so it’s hard to spend valuable state fair stomach real estate on this.
Netterfield Food Court (V-20)
New for 2010: Deep fried bologna served on-a-stick or on a bun
Verdict: I should have known better when I finally found the Netterfield Food Court. A collection of the brightly neoned cars you find in the midway at most fairs. Far too much of a commercialized/franchised operation. I’ll give them this much, the bologna was larger than a hockey puck, but it’s still bologna. No batter, just dropped in the fryer. Tasted like… well, bologna. Not worth your time or your 5 bucks.
New for 2010: Sweet potato tots (tater tots made out of sweet potatoes), Danny Boy Burger (burger made with corned beef and covered with kraut, Swiss cheese and Thousand Island Dressing). Irish Soda bread served with cinnamon butter to enjoy here or a loaf to take home.
Verdict: I only tried the sweet potato tots. I really enjoy sweet potato fries dipped in blue cheese, so I was excited about these. However the tots seemed to be tossed in sugar and come with no dip of any sort. More along the lines of sweet potato pie than the savory snack I expected. Instead, try the blarney beans, and a pint of your favorite beer (16 or so on tap!)
Potato Man and Sweetie (J-27)
New for 2010: Deep-fried bacon cheddar mashed potatoes on-a-stick.
Verdict: Quite possible the blue ribbon winner of best new fair food. Better described as deep-friend bacon cheddar mashed potato nuggets on-a-stick, you get your choice of several different sauces (I chose sour cream, but you could get bbq sauce, ranch, and others). The nuggets were crunch on the outside, nice soft mashed potato on the inside, not greasy, and tasty. This is good enough to make my regular rotation of fair foods.
Sonnys Spiral Spuds (T-26)
New for 2010: Sloppy Joe served over a bed of spiral chips; Chocolate Tornado (tornado potato dipped in chocolate)
Verdict: Disappointing. If you’ve seen pictures, or saw the sample at their stand, you would expect a spiral cut potato with chocolate coating half of it. What we got instead was a soggy potato that was sitting in a puddle of water brown-ish (semi-transparent since the chocolate had separate from the oil in the sauce) liquid. Not remotely appetizing and not remotely good. I think the issue was that they freshly cooked the potato and therefore it was way too hot to receive any chocolate. Ideally they should salt the potato while hot, allow it to cool, then coat in chocolate and allow it to harden. This may not be the biggest waste of $5.50 in my life, but it’s close.
Also, for those of you who have picked up a Blue Ribbon Book, here are some good deals that I found:
Ball Park Cafe (S-25)
Blue Ribbon Bargain Book: Get $2 off one order of garlic fries
Verdict: I have had these in the past and they are good. I’d probably get them instead of the ubiquitous fry stands around the fair.
Bridgeman’s Restaurants (J-28)
Blue Ribbon Bargain Book: Get $3 off your choice of a brownie or muffin sundae
Missed: again, something I can get other places, but I still think would be worth trying. Maybe next year!
French Creperie (Q-26)
Blue Ribbon Bargain Book: Get $2.25 off any $7 crepe
Verdict: We actually got one of these for breakfast on day one. We got a Nutella and marshmallow crepe. The crepe in and of itself was good. The Nutella was… hell, it’s nutella; if you like hazelnut chocolate you’re gonna love Nutella. The marshmallows were actual small marshmallows which didn’t have time to melt inside the crepe. They would be better off using marshmallow fluff. However, assuming you have the coupon, I would recommend picking up a crepe for your first meal of the day at the fair. Not quite worth $7, but definitely worth $4.75.
Luigi Fries (P-26)
Blue Ribbon Bargain Book: Get $1 off one Luigi Italian Ice or buy one Luigi Italian Ice and get one FREE or buy one of the following Luigi food item, Luigi fries, Luigi hot dago-on-a-stick or Luigi deep fried peppers and receive a Luigi Italian Ice FREE
Verdict: I’ve had the hot dago-on-a-stick in the past. It’s essentially an Italian kebob with sausage and peppers on a stick. It was good, but mostly because it felt taboo eating something with a racist name. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnic_slur#D Can you imagine a food title Hot ____ on-a-stick with some of the other words on that list?
Vegie Fries (T-23)
Blue Ribbon Bargain Book: Get $1.50 off one stick of vegie fries or potato onion fries or $1 off one vegie roll
Missed: didn’t actually hit this, even with a vegetarian in tow. Probably b/c our vegetarian is powered by cheese, and there’s plenty of cheese to be had at the fair. Speak of, we tried the deep fried cheese on-a-stick. It looks like a corn dog, and tastes like nacho cheese injected into a piece of corn bread. I would not recommend.
Last but not least, a few favorites:
Pork Chop on a Stick – Carousel BBQ (K-25) OR Pork Chops & Chicken (U-31)
Verdict: Fantastic! It feels far too simple (and something I could make at home), but it’s delicious and who is going to put their pork chop on a stick at home?
Milk – All The Milk You Can Drink (N-29) OR Dairy Town Diner (R-31)
Verdict: I actually haven’t gone to the all you can drink milk booth in years, for two reason: 1) a dollar? I can remember when it was 50 cents (and I’m sure other’s remember when it was a quarter, or even a nickel); 2) stomach real estate: by the time milk sounds like a good idea it’s because it’s the end of the day and we just grabbed a bucket of cookies. At that point in the day you are just about out of space and even a liquid sounds like a bad idea. But worth hitting if you’ve got the space for it, and aren’t lactose intolerant.
Spam Burgers (W-21)
Verdict: I’ve had the SPAM burger here, but I’d recommend the SPAM curds. They are deep fried little nuggets of SPAM and are quite good (assuming you like SPAM). My only complaint is this year they switch from a small tray to a larger cup for the curds which gives you a lot more curds for your money, but no place to put a dipping sauce.
Buffalo Burgers (H-24)
Inside Heritage Square in the southeast quadrant – Buffalo burgers, elk burgers (Giggles also has some quality buffalo and elk burgers)
Missed: As someone who regularly has buffalo and elk burgers at home this isn’t as exciting for me, but if you’ve never had either you should definitely give it a try and convert from your corn fed (or even grass fed) beef to buffalo or elk.
Tom Thumb Donuts
Verdict: Not as good as the Tom Thumb Donuts at the Mower County Fair, and I’ve tried both in one season. Even others who don’t have the nostalgia involved with my country fair have agreed that the ones in Austin MN are better than the State Fair. I attribute that to the probability that the one in Austin doesn’t clean their oil as they go from one county fair to another. Or much in the way that bagels taste better in New York because of the water, maybe it’s the water they use in Austin to make the batter that creates a superior donut? Regardless, the ones at the State Fair are still good and shouldn’t be missed.
Sweet Martha’s Cookies:
Verdict: If you’ve never had Sweet Martha’s Cookies at the State Fair then you haven’t been to the State Fair. For me it’s an annual tradition to get a bucket (yes, a bucket) of cookies as the last thing before leaving the fair. The goal is to eat down the cookies until you can put the lid on the bucket. You see, at Sweet Martha’s although you pay $15 for a bucket of cookies (really? $15? Martha, are your costs really getting that high? am I going to be paying $20 in a couple of years? much higher and no matter how good your damn cookies are I’ll need to find another tradition) that is piled well beyond the top of the bucket. This year I set a personal record of finding and flirting with the right girl to get a bucket that nearly had as many cookies above the top of the bucket as in the bucket. Best eaten fresh (or re-heated at home in the microwave) these cookies may not be the best chocolate chip cookies you’ve ever had, but they’ll be in your top three.
That’s it for this year. It’s only been a week since the fair ended and I already can’t wait for next year. One word of advice though: skip the camel.