Sunday, October 16, 2011
The 2011 Arkansas State Fair Food Guide.
Candy and Caramel Apples. The best candy apples come from the Colonial Nut Roll Folks inside the Hall of Industry. They lay the thick red sugar coating on tight. Caramel and Caramel-Nut Apples are also available here too -- the easiest to eat, though, is the Caramel Apple Slices in a Bowl.
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.
Battered and Deep Fried Bacon on a Stick. It's like a corndog... but... well, it's bacon. I don't know how they manage to get the bacon to stay so straight, but it's a decent sized piece of bacon under that batter. Comes out extra crispy. Find it at L and M Concessions, where you'll also find Cheeseburger on a Stick.
BBQ Parfait. It’s a meal in a cup -- layers of baked beans, mashed potatoes, smoked pork butt and barbecue sauce served up with a spoon. Easy to eat on the Midway yet substantial enough to be a full meal in itself. You'll find it at Smoke Stack BBQ at the end of the Midway, the red trailer in sight of the Swine Facility.
BBQ Pork Sandwiches. Available at Smoke Stack BBQ with an Oklahoma-style thickish sauce or over at Gold's Boss Hog with a spicier blend.
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. You'll find yours at Gold's Boss Hog.
Bigmouth Burgers. The best you're going to find at the Arkansas State Fair are located at Mitch's Grill just east of the Swine Facility in the big gray building. Grilled right in front of your eyes, these are thick half pound patties spiced just right with salt and pepper and served up on
buttered buns with your choice of condiments, vegetation. American cheese is used here. These burgers could stand against some of the state's best any day of the week.
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). 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 the Steakhouse booth right 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.
Fried Candy Bars. Snickers are of course the big favorite, but there are also Milky Way bars, too. Find them at Grater Tater in the Food Court.
Cherry Covered Chocolates. The next logical progression beyond Fried Oreos and Fried Kool-Aid, these are Oreo cookies that have been dipped in funnel cake batter infused with Cherry Kool-Aid, deep fried and sprinkled with sugar. I was very surprised to find they were not only palatable but addictive, and they're one of my top choices for best new fair food this year. Find them at the Fried Dough Booth along the Midway.
greater number of combinations than what you’ll find at 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. At L and M Concessions on the south side of the Food Court.
Chinese Food. There is indeed, as there has always been, a stand for Chinese Food at the Arkansas State Fair. When I was still in single digits I recall how unique and rare it was to get an egg roll anywhere. These days Chinese restaurants are everywhere, but you can still get your Potstickers, Lo Mein or General Tso's Chicken at the Chinese and American Food trailer on the Midway near Gate 1.
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.
Chocolate Funnel Cake Sundae. It actually has another name, I think -- but I kept trying to write it down and it kept getting garbled. In essence, this is a sundae made with a chocolate funnel cake as its base with strawberries on top. And it is very, very good. Find it at the Steakhouse next to the steps to the Hall of Industry.
the best ones come from Superdog. End of story. I mean, really -- it can be just a little dog or a Mega Dog (18" of weiner in there), it's going to be good in that great perfectly sweet and salty cornmeal-based mix the Superdog folks recreate year after year. Right by the Wendy's Main Stage and the corner of the Food Court. Can't miss those big flags.
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 Fried Steak. Similar to the Hubcap Burger, it's a pound of chicken fried steak on a bun. Introduced last year, it's still offered at the Big Show Diner.
Italian Sausages. So popular with state fair folks, these come from a couple of different Deggeler-related booths along the Midway. Watch the big coils of meat roast on the griddle with all those vegetables.
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.
Lemonade. The best lemonade at the Fair that I've found has to be the folks with L and M Concessions (the Cheeseburger on a Stick people) -- who make it extraordinarily strong. Get ice. Lots of ice.
A great idea from the folks at Smoke Stack BBQ, these are beef meatballs wrapped in bacon, cooked up in barbecue sauce. They come five to a stick and have a fantastic flavor. Available only at Smoke Stack BBQ -- the red trailer down in front of the Swine Facility.
Vice (strawberry, pineapple, coconut and cream) and the Jamaican Me Crazy (strawberry and tropical lemon). A neat souvenir to take home -- they can also be used as coin banks later.
Fried Oreos. It's hard to imagine, but Fried Oreos were only introduced six years ago. Now they're a fair staple. The Fried Dough stand about three quarters of a way back down the Midway (where you turn left to go up to Barton Colliseum) has the best I've found on the fairgrounds.
Pecans. The folks at Ozark Candy and Nuts are 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 -- Chocolate dipped bacon strips. This year they're 3 for $5 -- that's inflation for you. Find them at the Hubcap Burger stand on the Food Court.
Pineapple Whips. But of course -- one of our favorites. The best place to get them is right across from the Wendy's Main Stage at Gate 5.
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. Gourmet flavors this year include White Vegetable, Chicken Broccoli Ranch and Buffalo Chicken.
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 Hot Wisconsin Cheese.
Ribs. Gold's Boss Hog there near Gate 5 offers all sorts of grilled goodness, including a four bone dinner for $14, half a slab for $12 or a full slab for $22.
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! Get yours at Gold's Boss Hog.
Spanish Candy. It’s an unusual option, but these sweet-tart European candies are available from Sweet and Sour USA in the Hall of Industry. Several flavors are available, including sour watermelon, sweet watermelon, bubble gum, strawberry, sour apple and more. Bright and cheerful and easy to take home with you -- they come in long whips for a couple of bucks each. Do yourself a favor -- if you must have sour, purchase a value pack for $5 with snippets of all the best.
Steak Boats. Paper boats filled with cubed steak, cubed potatoes and veggies all roasted in big cast iron skillets. Tasty. Right outside the Hall of Industry at the Steakhouse Stand.
Steak Doughnut Burger. It's exactly what you think it is -- a burger patty served up on a sliced-in-half doughnut. Served up with your choice of condiments and such. You'll find it at L and M Concessions.
Swiss and Rye on a Stick. Forget fried cheese sticks... this is an entirely different experience. A big hunk of Wisconsin Swiss in a special rye flour batter deep fried -- best served up with stone ground mustard. You'll find it at Hot Wisconsin Cheese across from Superdog.
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).
Iced Tea. Available in several locations around the Arkansas State Fair -- most places serve it sweet, but we found the Ice Tea Box over between the Pig Licker stand and L and M Concessions offers up the strongest regular tea (that's unsweet). Also popular with LRPD officers, apparently.
Tropical Fruit Punch. A recipe dating back to the 1850s is still in use at the Big Show Diner (a throwback from when Mexico Chiquito operated the State Fairgrounds location). Deep red and redolent of pineapple juice, it's a favorite that comes back year after year.
Turkey Legs. You can't throw a stick on the Midway without hitting someone eating a turkey leg. There are several vendors selling the legs this year. The best ones can be found at Smoke Stack BBQ -- they wrap the legs tightly after smoking and let them heat through some more. The meat just falls off the bone.
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. Unlike its Texas equivalent, Kathy's Kabana does it with big round tortilla chips, right in the bag. Find it on the east end of the Food Court, between the Pizzaria and the Silver Bullet Saloon.
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.