Photo: @nerdy_truck on Instagram.
State fairs are the freak shows of edibles. If it can be fried, served on a stick, wrapped in bacon, or doused in cheese, it probably will be. Across the country, fairs introduce new foods annually, from fried butter to ice cream cheeseburgers to red velvet funnel cakes. All bets are off as far as logic or sophistication are concerned. (Brownie points if you can even identify most fair foods on sight alone.) Luckily, the so-bad-they’re-good temptations are available for a limited time only, so forget about your beach body goals and give in to your baser appetites while you can.
The Strangest Menu Items From Six State Fairs Across the Country:
California State Fair (July 8 – 24, 2016)
Photo: @catatefair on Instagram.
“Classy” and “healthy” are not words oft associated with fair food, but the fare at the California State Fair isn’t completely divorced from those adjectives. Here, you’ll find meat-free choices like veggie dogs on a stick, eggplant Parmesan sandwiches, and steamed artichokes. Upscale options like lobster fries and wine flights with a side of cheese and fruit also set the menu of this Sacramento-based event apart.
Those on low-carb or gluten-free diets can get their protein from the 2-pound Caveman Turkey Leg (wrapped in a mere pound of bacon, above) and knock out two servings of vegetables with corn-on-the-cob and asparagus, both bacon-wrapped. Yes, there are also artery-clogging chili cheese curly fries, a “fiesta style” funnel cake, and deep-fried PB&J cheesecake on hand, but those pale in comparison to the marquee eats from Official State Fair Chef Keith Breedlove, owner of the Culinerdy Cruzer food truck. His mac-and-cheese stuffed burger is the stuff food porn dreams are made of.
These eats ain’t cheap, however, and fair officials must know it because this year they introduced Taste of the Fair, a scheduled opportunity to try snack-sized portions of fair foods for $2 a pop.
Minnesota State Fair (Aug. 25 – Sept. 5, 2016)
Photo: @mnstatefair on Instagram.
The smörgåsbord of ridiculous edibles at the Minnesota State Fair, which attracts close to 2 million visitors over the course of 12 days every year, is legendary. Candied bacon doughnut sliders, French onion monkey bread, and deep-fried grilled cheese bites are just a few of the items debuting in 2016. The home state of Spam also pays homage to that mystery meat product with Spam sushi (above) and Spam curds served with a side of ranch dressing. Cleanse your palate with Bridgeman’s vintage La La Palooza sundae or a Cracker Jack caramel sundae, scooped directly from the box of caramel-coated popcorn and peanuts.
Wisconsin State Fair (Aug. 4 – 14, 2016)
Photo: @bjesssie on Instagram.
America’s Dairyland lives up to its nickname at the Wisconsin State Fair. First and foremost, there’s the Original Cream Puff, a staple for 92 years. Then there’s the cheese: cheese balls on a stick, cheese blintzes, and jerky cheese fries are only the beginning of the moo-centric menu items. When you tire of cheese, switch over to the Badger State’s other favorite flavor: beer. Beer cheese fondue, beer-battered boneless chicken wings, beer and pretzel bites, Blue Moon-marinated pork tacos, and Budweiser barbecue pulled pork sliders will make you wonder if you’ll be able to walk straight, much less walk, after this massive brewski-infused buffet. And we haven’t even mentioned the beercicles yet! If you miraculously have room for dessert (the cream puff counted as breakfast, right?), satisfy your sweet tooth with a red velvet cake milkshake or cookies and cream mini donuts. Food coma, here we come.
Iowa State Fair (Aug. 11 – 21, 2016)
Photo: @boostindb on Instagram.
If the food at the Iowa State Fair had a theme, it would be “pseudo fusion.” There’s The Slopper, created when a chopped foot-long hot dog meets a bag of crushed Fritos and is then ladled with cheese and chili sauce with optional jalapeno peppers, sauerkraut, pickles, sour cream, or onions. Bypass the usual (boring) corn dog and opt for a bacon-wrapped corn dog deep-fried in jalapeno batter instead. Or get “loaded” with the shredded potatoes that have been mixed with bacon bits, cheddar cheese, chives, and sour cream, then deep-fried and skewered. Dessert comes in the form of ice cream nachos, a combination of cinnamon sugar chips topped with scoops of similarly spiced ice cream, caramel drizzle, hot fudge, strawberries, nuts, whipped cream, and a cherry. There appears to be a Mexican food influence happening here, but how spicy could the Hawkeye State really get?
State Fair of Texas (Sept. 30 – Oct. 23, 2016)
Photo: @statefairoftx on Instagram.
Texans might not be known for swallowing their pride, but they sure do get a lot of deliciousness down their gullets at their state fair. Chicken-fried lobster, Frito pies, fried PB&J sandwiches, deep-fried brownies, and bacon cinnamon rolls on a stick (above) are just the beginning of this glutton’s paradise. In the grand tradition of rugged individualism, fair-goers also celebrate the culinary arts with a series of cooking contests in the Competition Kitchen. Homemade cakes, cookies, and biscuits are just some of the baked goods that battle it out for blue ribbons in the Lone Star State.
Florida State Fair (Feb. 9 – 20, 2017)
Photo: @flstatefair on Instagram.
Bet you’d never guess the Sunshine State was a big contender in the fair food fight. Will you put your money on the The Double Barrel Burger (one glazed doughnut, two beef patties, strips of bacon, and a mound of mac and cheese, all sandwiched between two more glazed doughnuts) or the The Bacon Bomb Explosion (ranch-seasoned ground chuck topped with cheese, bacon, and BBQ sauce, above)? Prefer your pork on the sweet side? Try the chocolate-covered bacon or the bacon maple funnel cake.