Food at the Fair!
It's no secret that the Fair is a special place for me. I've been every year that I can remember (multiple times a year at that). It's hard to describe what I love about the State Fair so much. There's just something about the atmosphere, the beginning of fall, and Fair Park itself. There's so much beauty in the grounds from the architecture to the landscaping. And of course the food doesn't hurt!
Since I moved to Downtown Dallas a few years ago, it seemed logical to get a season pass. After all, it's just a short DART trip away. This year I took a first time visitor with me, and it was my first time to go on Opening Day.
Each year, I follow the Big Tex Choice Awards very closely. I make my selection of must-haves for the season and have a plan going in. Most years, I pace myself... just a few items each trip with my season pass. This year was different. Since I had my special first-timer, Mandy, with me, I had to go all in.
One thing that is not widely advertised are the ticket prices of all these Big Tex Choice Awards finalists and semi-finalists. Felt like I should do my due diligence to find these and share them so you'll know what you're in for!
Let's start with our Big Tex Choice Award Winners: Most Creative AND Best Taste-Savory winner, the Funnel Cake Bacon Queso Burger and the Best Taste-Sweet winner, the Gulf Coast Fish Bowl. Now neither of these appealed to me, so I haven't tried them, but I can tell you they are 24 tickets each. Each are fairly easy to find. The burger was on display near the Discovery Gardens. The Gulf Coast Fish Bowl was at the stand to Big Tex's left and near the swan paddle boats.
Other finalists include the Deep Fried Chicken Noodle Soup on a Stick at 18 tickets. This one I did try and was pleasantly surprised by. It had a nice flavor, and a good portion of food. We found it in the Tower Building Food Court in the corner at the Scrumptious Pieshakes stand.
Another finalist was the Tamale Donut at a reasonable 12 tickets. This was one Mandy had circled on her list of must-tries. This did not disappoint. It had a good flavor and I dare say was the best value of anything we bought. (There's also a 3 ticket coupon in the visitor's guide!)
Sticking with the savory options, the Texas Fajita Fries were a hefty 26 tickets and found in a number of places around the fair (I believe five locations, so just keep an eye out if you're interested.) We didn't try these and I haven't heard good things. My advice: skip it.
And lastly we have the Surfin' Turfin' Tater Boat. This one is hard to find and only in one location near the swan paddle boats. It is SIXTY, yes, sixty tickets. This price may remind you of the Fried Lobster from last year (which is back at the fair this year, but up to 65 tickets) Didn't try this one either, so proceed at your own risk!
A surprise late entry to our day full of food was a savory semi-finalist in the Fried El Paso. This was 18 tickets and found at the Trio on the Green patio near the Pan-America Arena/Cotton Bowl area.
Now for the sweet finalists!
My most anticipated new item was the Fat Smooth. This treat is cream puffs dipped and fried in Cafe du Monde beignet batter, drizzled with chocolate and caramel sauce and topped with a dusting of powered sugar. The best way to describe it was an ice cream sundae on a beignet instead of a brownie. It was delicious and 14 tickets. We found it in the tunnel next to the arena with the pig races and the petting zoo.
Another item I was excited to try was the Deep Fried Froot Loops. These were a hunt because there was no Big Tex Choice decal to be found. Luckily we spotted a box of Froot Loops on the counter at a stand with turkey legs near the DART entrance to the fair. This was a marshmallowy pastry with some Froot Loops inside and sprinkled on top. It wasn't as sweet as I had feared when I first saw the description, which was a relief. At only 12 tickets, I would definitely recommend.
Next up was the perplexing Pinot Noir Popcorn, which I affectionately call the Olivia Pope Special. (BIG Scandal fan here!) This was an absurdly expensive 20 tickets, however, there is a 4 ticket coupon in the Visitor's Guide making it a still pricey 16 tickets. I wasn't sure what to expect with this, and I'm still not sure what the dusting/coating was on these kernels. It was a sweet flavor, but nothing resembling pinot noir in my opinion. It wasn't bad, but it was nothing to write home about. I'd say pass unless you're particularly fond of novelty popcorn.
Lastly, there was the Fried Texas Sheet Cake from Fernie's for 14 tickets found in the Embarcadero. If you know the State Fair, you definitely know Fernie's famous for their sweet treats each year. I skipped out on this one, because I don't do pecans, but you usually can't go wrong with anything from Fernie's. They are responsible for items like the Holy Moly Carrot Cake Roly (which is back at the fair this year) and my personal favorite, the Fried King Ranch Casserole (which was inexplicably not brought back the year after it was introduced).
I'd be remised to not mention my two favorite foods at the State Fair. One is a classic and one is a underrated gem. The Fletcher's corn dog is a MUST EAT! It's 12 tickets and you have to have one. Now the Deep Fried Bluebonnet is such an underrated gem. This is found at the Magnolia Beer Garden for 15 tickets, and I'm here to tell you it is worth it. I get this multiple times a year. Now this was not supposed to be back this year, but I pitch a mild mannered fit and managed to save it, so do yourself (and me) a favor and make sure to get over to the Magnolia Beer Garden and get one. You'll thank me later.
Watch our visit to Opening Day of the State Fair below:
That's it for me for now... I'll be back with more fair secrets soon!