Hello, dear friends. It’s Octobertime in Texas, which means only one thing: it’s time for Ranger playoff baseball and The Gator to strap on his third stomach for the STATE FAIR OF TEXAS EATVESTIGATION! Hopefully, you were by IN THIS ECONOMY last year for my first fair food round-up. If not, let me quickly drop some knowledge on you to let you know what I’m about. I have undertaken the heroic challenge of trying as many of the exciting delicacies found at the State Fair of Texas as I can. Then, after processing and digesting and recovering from the associated sugar-high I rank the eats so that you, the dear ITE reader, can make effective and efficient and economical use of your money (and calories) at the State Fair!
This year, I tried my best to remember the coupon costs (but kind of failed) and consider them in my rankings — so as to truly help you maximize your dollar — but at the end of the day I’m all about the tongue touching taste. Besides, good food is worth the money, right? This year, I had 3 hours to try as much as possible and could only manage a mere 17 of the delicious Fair offerings (it took me 5x as long to write this damn report). I’m reasonably pleased with my eating work. One complaint to The Great State Fair: the rising prices of things such as the Fletcher’s Original Corny Dogs are getting out of control. The “coupflation” (as penned by my lovely assistant) really adds up when on a mission like mine.
Before I go any further I must preface with the warning that I consider myself a super adventurous eater and my tastes do skew to the “odd.” So take these reviews as you will (but you should trust me). I’ll try anything once and I’ll shoot you straight. THAT’S why I get paid the big bucks. So, let’s get started…
Estimated Monies Spent on Eatvestigation:
$0 — Admission (Thanks to a source within a local Independent School District) + $78.50 — Coupons for Food = $78.50 (Crazy, but totally worth it).
But enough talk about money, let’s get to the food.
#17.) Fried Margarita (10 tickets?) You know when you’re eating a delicious funnel cake and sipping on a refreshing margarita one second and then drinking a backwashed margarita full of pieces of funnel cake the next? Neither do I… I haven’t retired to New Mexico, yet. That’s what eating/drinking the Fried Margarita is like (the backwash, not the New Mexico retirement). I don’t want things, even delicious funnel cake and whipped cream, floating in my margarita. 2010 Big Tex Choice Awards Finalist? Top shelf crap. (Nimitz Drive)
#16.) Fried Beer (10 tickets?) Yep. This 2010 Big Tex Choice Awards Finalist and winner for “Most Creative” has also had the coldest of receptions. And, for good reason, I’m afraid. Accurately described by most, as a pretzel flavored ravioli filled with a pocket of Shiner Bock beer, Fried Beer isn’t bad… it’s just not good… at all. It’s like the worst Gusher of all time. An initial salty, doughy taste from the fried “pretzel ravioli” is suddenly doused with a gush of luke warm beer. I’m not sure if I would want the beer to be cold. I’m definitely sure I WOULDN’T want the beer to be hot. I’m also definitely sure I never want to eat another one ever again. The one thought that just instantly popped into my head: “Why am I eating this?” My hat is way off to Mark Zabel for the creativity and even the effort of patenting the whole process of making Fried Beer (that’s what saved it from dead last). I just wish the inventiveness had paid off tastewise. (International Blvd, Coca-Cola Food Court)
#15.) Fried Texas Caviar (10 coupons?) Man. I love black-eyed peas. Seriously, New Years Day will find me at peas with the world (see what I did there?) lying face down in a bowl of black-eyed peas. Texas caviar is a traditional dip in Texas (of course) comprised of black-eyed peas and various vegetables (usually corn, jalapenos, and bell peppers) tossed in zesty seasonings and dressing. This 2010 Big Tex Choice Awards Finalist, however, is just crunchy fried black-eyed peas with lots of Old Bay, salt and pepper… NOT what you would call “Texas caviar.” You can order regular or spicy. We opted for the regular which had plenty of heat, even for The Gator who LOVES heat. It just tasted like crunchy Old Bay black-eyed peas. That’s not good. Texas should sue for attaching it’s name to such a sucky product. (Cotton Bowl Plaza, Big Tex Circle/Truck Zone, Automobile Building)
#14.) Fried Beer Batter (9 coupons) “Fried beer batter?” you say. Yep. “Didn’t we already discuss this?” you ask. Nope. This is different from Fried Beer, altogether. Sandwich some honey between two Ritz crackers, dip in beer batter, deep fry, serve with “beer ranch” and you get… deep fried Ritz crackers. They’re almost on to something here. REALLY GOOD beer batter with a beautiful beer aroma. REALLY AWFUL beer ranch with a taste of a half-drank beer you find the morning after a big party… only without the extinguished cigarette butt. Seriously, if this batter was cuddling and necking some cod, pollock or maybe chicken, it would be awesome. Womp-wah. (Coca-Cola Food Court)
#13.) Fried Peach Cobbler (9 Coupons?) What’s deep fried, filled with super hot peaches and looks like an uncircumcised penis on a stick? Why, Fried Peach Cobbler of course! Seriously, I dare you to eat this and NOT feel a bit inappropriate. OK, enough immaturity (penis!). Poorly flavored, stewed peaches wrapped in a puff pastry then deep fried and covered in off-tasting brown sugar. Guaranteed to burn you and make you feel inappropriate. It’s a molten hot mess of mediocre proportions. Seriously. Try not to giggle.(Coca-Cola Food Court)
#12.) Fried Frito Pie (10 coupons?) The winner of the 2010 Big Tex Choice Awards Finalist for Best Tasting, Fried Frito Pie is a strong choice. However, in my opinion frying the Frito Pie didn’t really do anything for the Frito Pie. Frito pie (good Frito pie, at least) is crunchy, hot meaty, cheesy, and rich. There’s really no way to improve it by breading it and frying it. It tasted like a cafeteria style Frito chili pie. The kind produced in ridiculously large portions and left to marry for a week… and there’s NOTHING wrong with that. It needs more cheese and onion and begs to be covered with the sour cream and salsa packets offered. It tasted fine, but it “makes you want a REAL Frito chili pie,” as expertly mused by my beautiful co-eatvestigator. (Nimitz Drive, Cotton Bowl Plaza, Midway/Skyway convergence, MLK & Midway, Big Tex Circle/International Blvd)
#11.) Fried Queso Bites (9 coupons?) Underrated! Tastes like deep fried off-brand Rotel/Velveeta cheese dip! Served with a side of salsa, I could definitely eat these while watching any televised sporting event while trying to tune out obnoxious comments from my bee-hived aunt from west Texas, sitting on her plastic covered couch smoking her Slims. (Midway where Kidway, Thrillway and Texas Skyway convergence)
#10.) Fried Peanut Butter, Jelly & Banana Sandwich (10 coupons?) The Gator caught a lot of flack last year for some foods he didn’t try. The biggest complaint? Why didn’t you try the Fried Peanut Butter, Jelly & Banana Sandwich? Ah, yes. The Fried Peanut Butter, Jelly & Banana Sandwich a.k.a. – “The Elvis”, a.k.a. – “The Fried PBJB.” A whole peanut butter, jelly & banana sandwich, battered, and then deep fried. This may make some people mad, but it was only pretty good. I mean, you can’t go wrong with a PBJB, but within the realm of this Eatvestigation, the Fried PBJB is just kind of a weak sister. It tasted like… well… a peanut butter, jelly & banana sandwich. Not a bad thing, but come on! Now, if this sandwich were made entirely of the corners and edges where the fried batter really made it’s presence known? Alright! Alright! Now you’re speakin’ my language! (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia? Anyone?) Otherwise, save yourself the calories and money and stick with a regular PBJB. The edges elevate this treat into the top 10. (Nimitz Drive & Midway/Funway)
#9.) Fletcher’s Fried Corny Syrup (5 Coupons) A new entrant from Fletcher’s this year! Upon inquiring just what the hell is Fried Corny Syrup, I seemed to have hit upon the VERY friendly Fletcher’s worker’s favorite topic. Fried Corny Syrup, as it turns out, is a caramel stick… on a stick… dipped in Fletcher’s Corn Dog batter and then deep fried. The results are just amazing. Our Fletcher’s friend advised we walk down the way and get a scoop of ice cream and allow the searing hot sugar lava stick melt the ice cream and enjoy what could be a most perfect pairing. He said he liked to do that “a lot” and with “a few” of the new caramel creations at a time. I tip my hat to you, sir. It just needs a layer of powder sugar! (Big Tex Circle)
#8.) Fernie’s Fried Club Salad (12 coupons?) Take a 12” spinach wrap. Fill it with ham, chicken, shredded iceberg lettuce, carrots, cherry tomatoes, sharp cheddar cheese and bacon. Deep fry it. Douse in choice of dressing and serve it with deep-fried sourdough croutons. THESE are steps to yum-yum success, my friend. However, it’s more of a sandwich than a salad. Only warning: drip factor from grease/dressing/both. Taste and the ballsiness to go ahead and fry a salad make this a good product! (Across from Old Mill & Nimitz Drive)
#7.) Fried S’mores Pop-Tarts (10 coupons) Who doesn’t like s’mores? Who doesn’t like Pop-Tarts? Well, The Gator’s beautiful co-eatvestigator, that’s who! I know Pop-Tarts garner quite a negative reaction from many people so, I was surprised when even my companion dug this molten treat. It tastes just like a s’more only contained within a delicious fried dough pocket! You don’t even realize it’s a Pop-Tart! Dig this hot Pop-Tart action! (Taste of Cuba in Cotton Bowl Plaza)
#6.) Fried Cheesecake (8 coupons?) “Oh mommy!” were the first words out of my mouth after I bit into this fair treat that’s been around a while. A sweet, tangy, fluffy (but still rich) cheesecake filling wrapped in a fried dough pillow case dusted with powdered sugar. Simplistic and decadent, it doesn’t REALLY need any topping. The filling is perfect. However, some cherry pie filling on top or a chocolate drizzle (as my eating-mouthed partner suggested) could elevate this bad boy, which has been around for a few years, to the next level of tasty. (Lots of Places)
#5.) Fried Honeybun (8 Coupons) OOOOOOOOK!!!!! Where the hell have YOU been my whole life?!?! Why hasn’t anyone told me about this?!?! This is going to sound crazy, but this is quite possibly better than funnel cake. It’s funnel cake batter to the “hell yeah” power! A big pillow of funnel cake with a honeybun in the middle! The experience is like this: “Maaaaan! Funnel cake is incredible! Sweet, airy, light! WHOA! What’s this?! It’s getting sweeter, denser, richer! It’s toothsome! This is the funnel cake’s roided up step-cousin!” If I had one complaint about funnel cakes it would be that it’s TOO light and not quite sweet enough. It doesn’t really satisfy. The honeybun adds chew, weight and a strong sweetness that completely complements the funnel cake suit of armor (I’m lacking for synonyms). One of these is just right! (Cotton Bowl Plaza and Midway)
#4.) Fried Chocolate (8 coupons?) Do you like trying new chocolate desserts? Do you like only the best of ooey-gooey brownies? If so, then you MUST try Fried Chocolate, a 2010 Big Tex Choice Awards Finalist. The Gator likes chocolate. Not as much as his beautiful walkie-talkie-eatie amiga, but enough. White chocolate mini candy bar and a cherry wrapped in a chunky pecan brownie, then dunked in chocolate cake batter and deep fried. It’s just… incredible. It’s just a damn good dessert. It’s not too cloyingly sweet and somehow, not too chocolatey (which is good for me). It’s ooey and gooey but still has some chew to it thanks to the fried casing and pecans! Like I said, I’m not the biggest chocolate fan, but I love this. (Nimitz Drive and Funway/Midway)
#3.) Fried Guacamole Bites (8 coupons?) The best new thing I personally tried. Just plain good! Surprisingly fresh tasting ball of guacamole with chunks of avocado and lots of garlic bits inside its own little crispy shell. The chip and dip unified! Just try it. You really won’t ever regret it. Especially with the accompanying ranch. (Cotton Bowl Plaza and Funway/Midway)
#2.) Fried Lemonade (8 coupons?) The last thing we tried and couldn’t have been a more perfect ending to the evening. Another 2010 Big Tex Choice Awards Finalist that takes baked and then fried lemon pastry (“made from Country Time Lemonade”), glazes it with lemonade and finishes it off with powdered sugar and lemon zest. It’s just a wonderful lemon pound cake type of dish. It’s zesty, vibrant, sweet, tangy and PERFECTLY wrapped up a foodventurous night. It’s a bite and a kiss (now I’m getting cute) in every forkful. Yes. Eat. Do. (Nimitz Drive)
#1.) Fletcher’s Corny Dog and& A Root Beer (9 coupons & 5 coupons) My 2 annual must-haves, can’t misses. I mean, it’s THE ORIGINAL Corny Dog. A perfect example of how salty can perfectly bridge and balance savory and sweet. Give it a little mustard coating, let it cool a bit, and just go to town!What can I say about the Root Beer? You see 2 GIANT kegs of ice cold, vanilla-ey, licorice-ey, molasses-ey drank on a warm day and your mouth just begs. Are you going to deny your mouth? ARE YOU?! Yeah. You know what I’m talking about. Only down side? The “coupflation.” Everyone (don’t worry about who comprises “everyone”) agrees that Corny Dogs were a mere 7 or 8 coupons last year. Hey Big Tex, WTF? (Lots of Places)
There you have it lady dudettes and gentleman dudes! I guess, including the Root Beer, I technically ate 18 foods, but it was on a previous trip. So, yeah… Anywho, follow my guide and you are triple-hellafied guaranteed to maximize each and every coupon you spend. If you want to try something – TRY IT! It’s The Fair! Here is some advice: take a long a friend or two to help defray the costs (both monetarily and calorically). Here is a challenge: try something new that you could never find anywhere else. Force yourself to try something that you’re just completely stumped by. Who knows what you will find?
So remember: Keep living — unless you can’t. Chomp.