State Fair of Texas 2019 Big Tex Choice Awards
It's my favorite time of the year! The 2019 State Fair of Texas opens their gates this Friday morning. The smell of Fletcher's corn dogs will fill the air accompanied by the sounds and lights of the Midway. Over two million people will flock to the shamefully underutilized, yet historically beautiful grounds of Fair Park. It's such a magical time for those who love fried foods, people watching, bargain shopping and the occasional pig race.
Speaking of those fried foods, the lore of the Big Tex Choice Awards brings people in droves to the fair to try out the new finalists and big winners. This year, I was finally able to attend the Choice Awards and try out all ten finalists a month before the rest of the public. It was an awesome event, and I hope to be able to attend each year moving forward.
Before getting into this year's finalists and winners, I must say I had no idea what to expect walking into this exclusive event. There are a very limited number of tickets available for purchase around mid-summer for the event in August. It takes place in the Tower Building, smack dab in the middle of the fairgrounds. There's a panel of judges, typically local chefs and local celebrities, who taste and score each food as everyone in attendance watches video packages from the concessionaires. This year included the new Mayor of Dallas, Eric Johnson and Real Housewives of Dallas' LeeAnne Locken. After all the foods have been tasted and the big winners are announced, the audience lines up to collect their samples from each concessionaire cafeteria style.
Without further ado... the tasting video!
And now for a little further break down of all the foods and where to find them!
Ruth's Stuffed Fried Taco Cone: Best Taste - Savory Winner
Tender, savory, marinated, slow-cooked barbacoa served in an ice cream cone-shaped tortilla shell with black beans and cilantro lime rice. It is topped with pico de gallo, queso fresco, and homemade salsa verde.
This is like a Chipotle burrito bowl that you can eat on the go. Flavorful and definitely something I'll get again in its full-size at the Fair.
You'll find this tasty treat right outside the main entrance of the Cotton Bowl in the plaza and across from the Swine Barn/Petting Zoo.
Price: 18 coupons
Calypso Island Shrimp Bowl
Tasty and colorful tropical cabbage stir fry with fresh carrots, kale, scallions, ginger, and sweet red bell peppers, served on a yellow tropical rice topped with herbaceous grilled Caribbean (marinated) shrimp and a sweet and spicy tropical glaze.
I did like this, but I don't think I'll be getting it again at the Fair this year. This isn't the type of dish I'm craving when I'm there. Fun fact: You can order this dish outside of the fair at Doc's Street Grill in Roanoke, TX, which is where I'll probably be ordering this next.
If you are interested in a dish that is not fried, you can find this finalist at Doc's Street Grill in the Midway near the Texas Star ferris wheel.
Price: 24 coupons
Fernie's Fried Burnt End Burrito
A large flour tortilla is filled with a jalapeno popper spread of cream cheese, savory bacon, Mexican blend cheese, mildly spicy diced jalapenos, pepper jack and smoky nuggets of barbecue burnt ends. Quick fried to a golden brown crispy and served with a sweet tangy, spicy barbecue sauce.
This was my absolute favorite food of the finalists and I can't wait to get my hands on it again. I can't recommend this one enough. The onion rings are crispy and the perfect addition to the delicious barbecue concoction.
You can find this finalist just to the right of Big Tex near the Magnolia Beer Garden or at Fernie's permanent home inside the Embarcadero building.
Price: 30 coupons
Southern Fried Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo Ball
A golden fried ball, filled with fettuccine alfredo, Southern fried chicken bites, and fresh mozzarella cheese. The ball is garnished with house made alfredo sauce, grated parmesan cheese, Italian parsley, fresh basil, and cracked black pepper. Served with a side of flash fried lemon pepper asparagus spears, and a toasted garlic parmesan baguette.
I was most excited for this one, but maybe a bit too much. I found this one a bit bland and disappointing, but I'm willing to give it another try in its full size at the fair. I want it love it!
If you want to give this one a try, you can find it inside the Tower Building at Southern Fried Chicken.
Price: 28 coupons
Texas Cream Corn Casserole Fritters
Cream corn, kernel corn, sour cream, cheddar cheese, and cornbread mix are combined into a batter, chopped bacon and freshly diced jalapenos. Instead of baking, the Corn Casserole is fried into crispy, lightly browned fluffy pillows of frittery goodness.
These were good and that Queso Blanco dipping sauce is an added bonus. I thought they were a little too much like the Cowboy Corn Crunch, but if you like cornbread with a little twist, this is a must try. (I'm more excited to try Clint Probst's other semi-finalist: Cajun Crab Bombs... more on that in a later post.)
You can find these Fritters just to the right of Big Tex (next to Fernie's stand) and by the Swan Paddle Boats.
Price: 16 coupons
Big Red® Chicken Bread: Best Taste - Sweet Winner
A homemade, light, fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth, Big Red® -flavored frosting, and served with a savory fried chicken wing resting in the middle of the doughnut.
I was SO surprised at how much I liked this one. Had I not gone to the Choice Awards, I might not have even tried it at the Fair which would've been a big mistake! I am worried that the quality of the fried chicken might not hold up over the course of the Fair, but if it does... you're in for a treat.
To try this crazy Choice Awards Winner, you can find it between the Go Texan! Pavilion and the Embarcadero along the main fried food drag on Nimitz Street. It'll be right across from the Wine Garden with all the umbrellas.
Price: 17 coupons
Fla'mango Tango: Most Creative Winner
A refreshingly creamy mango twist, fried and drizzled with a kicky citrus glaze. Topped with whipped topping and served with a side of strawberry mango sorbet.
Full disclaimer: I'm not a huge mango fan, so I think that definitely hindered my enjoyment of this treat. I really did like the mango sorbet,but not enough to get this one again at the Fair. If you love mango, I would recommend giving it a try.
You can find this Choice Award Winner in front of the Hall of State near the Chevy Main Stage or inside the Tower Building on the back wall near the Midway entrance.
Price: 25 coupons
Deep Fried Bayou Fruit Bites
This delectable dessert is produced using fresh fruit wedges that are battered, deep fried, and sensuously coated in a secret sweet confection. It is finished with creamy whipped topping and drizzled with warm caramel sauce. For those with an extreme sweet tooth, additional toppings include candy, chocolate chips, walnuts, pecans, and assorted berries.
This one really stood out to me among the sweet finalists. I might edge this one out over the actual winner. It reminded me of cobbler and I think it's something I'll get again at the Fair this year with some fun toppings!
To try these fruit bites, you'll find them right behind Big Tex by the entrance to Grand Place and inside the Tower Building.
Price: 20 coupons
Peanut Butter Cup Snookie
Warm, fresh baked peanut butter cup cookie with vanilla ice cream adorned with caramel and chocolate drizzle, whipped cream, and a cherry.
This one is pretty straight forward. If you like peanut butter and Reese's candy, you'll like this. I'm not a peanut butter fan, in fact I usually can't be in the same room with it, but I gave it an honest try. The cookie was decent, but there's not much that makes this unique.
If you're a PB lover, you can snag a snookie at the Highland Park Soda Fountain stand inside the Tower Building (on the back wall).
Price: 18 coupons
Quick Fried "Black Gold" Truffles
A decadent treat made from thin chocolate cookies crushed into crumbs combined with deliciously rich cream cheese. Super sweet mini white chocolate chips are added to make this truffle an unforgettable piece of gold. Hand-rolled into balls and coated in a golden breading consisting of vanilla wafers, corn flakes, cinnamon, and nutmeg, they are fried to a delicate crunch on the outside and creamy sweetness on the inside.
These suckers are SWEEEEET! I'd recommend splitting this with at least one other person. One truffle ball was more than enough for me. They're yummy, but moderation is key.
If you want to give your jaws a workout, you can find these black gold truffles three locations: in Cotton Bowl Plaza closest to the lake, in front of the Chevy Main Stage, or near the Swine Barn/Petting Zoo.
Price: 3 truffles for 18 coupons, or 4 truffles for 20 coupons
That's all the finalists. Happy eating this year during your visit(s) to the State Fair of Texas... and as always, be sure to grab a Fletcher's corny dog!
If you ever have any questions or want to share your thoughts as you try all the newest fried foods, please reach out! I love talking all things State Fair!
I'll be back with more coverage of some of the semi-finalists soon. Stay tuned!