Want to know what's being served up at this year's Arkansas State Fair? I tried a bunch of the items that will be for sale at a special media preview -- which allows me to be able to tell you about all these crazy foods, and to remind you of other foods we talked about in the past that will be making a comeback this year.
Fried Bacon Cream Cheese Balls. These are tempura battered savory bombs of goodness that should see a lot of popularity with fair goers. Like their cousin the Bacon Cream Cheese Bomb (also sold at Hot Wisconsin Cheese) they’re cream cheese that has been infused with pieces of bacon, but the smaller portions will encourage sharing.
Beer Butt Chicken. The best thing to have at the fair quadrupled with a Coke, but grilled and not deep fried. (Sorry, I felt the need to make a Blues Brothers reference there). Back from last year.
cherry butter and cinnamon honey sugar butter at the Texas State Fair, this is literally a stick of butter that’s been battered like a corndog and deep fried (these are half-size versions for the preview). What you get is a half-melted stick of butter in the middle of a mass of cornmeal -- or, you could look at it as a big piece of cornbread on a stick with the butter in the middle. You’ll find it at CM Steakhouse next to the Hall of Industry.
Yes, they’re back. These scrumptious tortillas full of shredded goat meat are one of the healthiest foods of the Arkansas State Fair. The goat is roasted rather than deep fried, and goat is typically lower in fat than other meat on the hoof. Find it at the Feed Trough back down by the Rabbit Barn.
Hot Wisconsin Cheese. This year the stand is on the Gate 5 side entrance of the Food Court, and there will likely be a line. Among the many options available are Cheddar, Swiss, Mozzarella and Jalapeno Cheese. The Jalapeno Cheese is a white cheese with embedded peppers that has a late and strong heat to it.
Cheeseburger on a Stick. Yes, that's cheese within ground beef within a corndog. Yes, it's good. Dip it in ketchup and be happy.
Chocolate Cream Cheese Bites. Decadently rich, this is definitely something to share with the chocolate lovers in your life. They're back for a second round at Hot Wisconsin Cheese.
Corndogs. You can get them a lot of different places, but really, the best ones come from Superdog. End of story.
Deep Fried Egg on a Stick. Yes, those hard boiled eggs treated like weiners getting the corndog treatment are back again thanks to the folks at Hot Wisconsin Cheese.
Fried Gator. You know, it kinda tastes like chicken -- but it doesn’t. Sissy’s is putting out fried gator on a stick for you to try at this year’s fair, and if you haven’t had it before it’s not a bad deal. The gator benefits from the battering and deep frying process, somehow coming out juicier than with other applications elsewhere.
Fried Green Tomatoes. Yes, they’re back this year, same as last year at Sissy’s on the Food Court.
Gyros. We’ve talked about Paizi’s before; for Central Arkansas, here’s your chance to enjoy great gyros, chicken pitas and vegetable pitas in the Food Court. Paizi’s has a magnificent tzatziki sauce and won’t hesitate to throw on some extra onions or lettuce for you. Another healthy fair option.
Hot Beef Sundae. We last caught up with these folks at the Arkansas Oklahoma State Fair. Enjoy a "sundae" made from a bases of sliced roast beef, a scoop of mashed potatoes, a drizzle of gravy, cheese "sprinkles" and a cherry tomato, at the stand right next to the restrooms across from the Center Stage Grill.
Hubcap Steak Sandwich, too.
Fried Kool-Aid. Okay. I had the Kool-Aid Balls at the State Fair of Texas, which was a similar idea, taking Kool-Aid and deep frying it. But in Dallas, it’s infused into funnel cake batter that’s fried up and then dusted with powdered sugar. There’s a different consistency to what the folks at Fried What? are doing. Somehow their version comes out harder and much stronger in flavor, rendering these powerful little bombs with flavor with what you might get if you deep fried Pop Rocks (and if you’re thinking about that, then please, don’t). I’d suggest skipping these and getting a Funny Bone instead.
Moink Balls. These are beef meatballs wrapped in bacon that are then dipped in barbecue sauce or rub.
Pecans. The folks at Ozark Candy and Nuts will be set up inside the Hall of Industry this year, hot roasting and candy-fying pecans on the spot. These smell heavenly; the praline pecans are lovely and sweet and totally addictive. The cinnamon pecans are pretty tasty, too.
Pepperoni Pizza Puffs. Another returning champion from last year from the folks at Sissy’s, these are sections of pizza dough with mozzarella cheese, pepperoni and a little marinara sauce rolled up and deep fried. Nice and satisfying.
Pig Lickers. They just won't go away -- though last year they were just $1 for a chocolate-coated bacon strip, not a bad price to try out something that decadent.
Pineapple Whips. But of course -- one of our favorites.
Pizza. Yes, indeed -- you can get a whole pizza at the Arkansas State Fair from the folks at Leimon's Pizza. The tradition of pizza at the fair goes back to the 1970s and is continued on today. Get a whole pie and share it for a better bargain, or just get a big fat slice right in the Food Court.
Rabbit Sandwiches. Last year the folks at the Feed Trough offered up BBQ Rabbit Sandwiches. This year they’re offering up the rabbit and you can choose whether or not you want the barbecue sauce. It’s good, savory rabbit and really doesn’t need that much sauce. You’ll find the Feed Trough in the yellow trailer over by the Rabbit Barn.
Reuben Sandwiches. An Arkansas staple, it’s a popular treat at the fair. No one really knows for certain why natives dig the corned beef and sauerkraut sandwich to the point where it’s almost everywhere -- but for certain it’s at our celebration on the fairgrounds. You'll find yours at Pat's Kitchen in the Food Court.
Deep Fried Rolos. From the same folks that brought us Chocolate Smooches last year (which of course will be available this year as well) here come battered and deep fried Rolos. The deep frying process makes the caramel soft and a little runny -- which is just about perfect. Share a bunch with your friends.
Sassy's Awesome Blossom. Yes, it's a mostly-sliced-through onion battered and deep fried. Yes, you can get one at Outback Steakhouse or Chili's or 12 other big chain restaurants. But isn't it fun to attempt to juggle one while sharing with friends on the Midway?
Deep Fried S’Mores. It’s exactly what you think it is -- a marshmallow and chocolate bar pieces pressed between graham crackers, battered and deep fried. It’s a pretty big concoction but it has a very good and sweet flavor. You’ll find it at Fried What?
Southern Fried Chicken on a Stick. Another item that might have another name -- it’s a couple of sections of chicken breast meat with a couple of peppers and onions for good measure. At last, something battered and deep fried that was meant to be battered and deep fried!
Steak Boats. Not featured at the fair preview (hence, no photo), this is a boat constructed of steak full of potatoes. Or a potato full of steak. Hey, I'll let you know.
Tater Dog. You'll find it at the Texas Tater Twister trailer, across from the Center Stage Pavilion.
Tater Twisters. Ever popular, it’s a spiral cut potato thrown into the deep fryer and then sprinkled with salt. You can even get yours covered in nacho cheese sauce. The folks at Grater Tater on the Food Court can set you up (while also offering you a Fried Snickers Bar).
Walking Taco. Introduced at the 2009 Arkansas State Fair, the popularity of the item has grown enough for it to be introduced at the State Fair of Texas this year.
The version at the State Fair of Texas didn’t impress me. This one from the folks at CM Steakhouse outside the front door of the Hall of Industry does a better job. For one, you can actually tell it’s watermelon inside. It’s a substantial chunk of watermelon, dipped in a flour based batter and deep fried. And somehow, it retains most of the juice. It was not offensive, though I’m not sure it’s what I’d normally order as far as fair food goes. These guys also serve up Grilled Watermelon on a Stick, for those watching their fried food intake.
Nuclear Wings, wings so hot they might make you cry.
No word on whether the Elvis Sandwich, Giant Cream Puffs or Battered and Deep Fried Bacon will return.