By Richard Lannen
The State Fair of Texas is the mecca of fried foods and a haven for hungry and adventurous eaters alike. With so many choices available and dozens more added every year, it can feel daunting to decide what to eat. Some people try their best to taste every new addition and Big Tex Choice Award winner the Fair has to offer while others only go for their childhood favorites. In the same vein, there are a handful of foods that, to me, are quintessential to any Fair experience.
Choosing to dine on a Fletcher’s Corny Dog may seem obvious, as it has become as much of an icon of the State Fair as Big Tex. However, ordering the Jalapeño and Cheese Corny Dog is potentially the best decision you could make during your visit to the Fair. The hot dog is filled with large chunks of diced jalapeño and plenty of cheddar cheese while still coated in the classic Fletcher’s cornmeal batter. With the perfect combination of spicy and savory, the Jalapeño Cheese Corny Dog rivals its predecessor.
Another classic State Fair treat that I can never resist is the Pineapple Dole Whip. On a hot summer day, this cold treat, abundant in pineapple flavor, is the best thing to cool you off. The soft serve is not overly sweet and light enough that I don’t feel weighed down, which is ideal, considering the miles of walking still to be done. Almost like a palate cleanser in the middle of my 10-course meal that is the State Fair of Texas, the Pineapple Dole Whip is something I always look forward to eating. Dole Whip is available across from the Hall of State at the soft-serve stand. As far as sweets, there is nothing that compares to the taste of warm cinnamon roll, and Stubby’s offers one of the best. Order the “Works,” and you will be treated to a hearty serving of cinnamon-flavored heaven coated with plenty of icing and topped with chopped pecans. It is the perfect mixture of sweet and salty. Pro tip: Grab chocolate milk from the Oak Farms stall directly across the food court to wash down that massive cinnamon roll. New to this year’s State Fair, Ruth’s Stuffed Fried Taco Cone quickly became one of my favorites. As the name suggests, it is a tortilla rolled and fried in the shape of a waffle cone and filled to the brim with cilantro rice and barbacoa and topped with pico de gallo, queso fresco and salsa verde. The barbacoa is tender and well-seasoned and just moist enough to compliment the crispy tortilla. The food comes with a plastic fork, but it tastes best eaten face first, like an ice cream cone. It is obvious why the Big Tex Choice Awards chose this as Best Tasting for 2019.
Another addition to the Fair this year is the Fry Rub and Rye.
Despite its strange name, I was shocked by how delicious it was as both a dish and a drink. There have been several creative drinks introduced at the Fair throughout the years, but none have been more successful than the Fry Rub and Rye. The drink is a mad scientist’s mixture of “wine-based whiskey” combined with lemon juice, maple syrup and egg whites, and finished off with mango infused beer. The drink comes in a glass with the rim coated in barbecue rub and stacked high with a tower consisting of a fried pickle, an onion ring and a jalapeño popper. Individually each component might sound a bit strange but enjoyed together it is a surprising combination of sweet, salty and spicy, composing a rather sophisticated concoction with bold flavor.
In spite of the growing options, whatever you do decide to eat during your visit, there is little chance you can go wrong. Everything pairs well with a day spent walking around the State Fair of Texas.