Gird your arteries: 2018's wacky-but-delicious State Fair foods

Illustration for article titled Gird your arteries: 2018's wacky-but-delicious State Fair foods
Photo: mstroz (iStock)

State Fairs are vast wonderlands of livestock, artwork, and other attractions; visitors to these summer paradises can stroll for hours and leave with memories, handmade goods, and perhaps a sunburn. All those things are wonderful. But you have not come to The Takeout for a midwesterner’s fond reminiscences about pretty horses and huge tomatoes. You have come for food news. We’ve got food news. So click the video below, and continue to scroll. We’ll go state by state, starting with a motherfucking cotton candy taco.


The Texas State Fair hands out three Big Tex prizes—one for the best savory food, one for the best sweet, and one for the most creative. The savory (Hoppin’ John Cake with Jackpot Sauce) and sweet (Arroz con Leche) both sound great, but it’s the most creative winner that’s captured The Takeout’s imagination. Look at this majestic specimen:


This thing is a graham cracker taco shell “coated with a marshmallow glaze and stuffed with chocolate, toasted marshmallow, and organic cane sugar cotton candy.” It’s then topped with chocolate cookie bits, and two chocolate cream-covered biscuit sticks get planted in there for good measure.


Plenty of dishes from the Minnesota State Fair sound great—the wood-grilled elote sounds especially delicious—but this one hits the sweet spot between wow, that sounds good and wow, that sounds kind of nuts and also pretty unhealthy. Behold, the Turducken Sausage Sandwich:

This dish (from Giggles’ Campfire Grill) is pretty much exactly what it says on the tin. It’s boiled in beer before grilling, then served on a fennel bun. Yum.


The finalists for the top prize at the “on-a-stick” capital of the world included the All Iowa Belly Up Burger from The Rib Shack (ground pork belly burger topped with pulled pork, sauce, thick-cut candied bacon, and slaw, served on a brioche bun) and Brown Sugar Pork Belly on a Stick from the Iowa Pork Tent (a quarter-pound strip of honey-cured pork belly, rubbed with brown sugar). But the winner? Just look.

These little wonders are “two crispy egg roll wrappers filled with apples and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and served with caramel sauce for dipping,” per the Des Moines Register.



Hello, I want these immediately. Feast your eyes upon these deep-fried spinach lasagna bites.


This creation from Albanese’s Roadhouse in Waukesha earned the restaurant its second win in as many years. Give them to me now.



May I interest you in a burger where the bun is two Krispy Kreme donuts?


The Philly version of this culinary innovation includes “shaved seasoned steak atop a ¼ pound fresh grilled hamburger topped with Monterey Jack cheese, sautéed onions, and green peppers.”

This concludes our tour. If you tried any of these beauties, or others, let us know in the comments.


Contributor, The A.V. Club and The Takeout. Allison loves TV, bourbon, and overanalyzing social interactions. Please buy her book, How TV Can Make You Smarter (Chronicle, 2020). It’s short!



Alison, while the wood-grilled elote is for sure a Top 2 or 3 new item, and one I am for sure getting, the new food that sounds best to me and that I’m most looking forward to at the Minnesota State Fair which I will make my annual pilgrimage to on the last day on Monday-Labor Day, are the Grilled Peaches at The Produce Exchange:
“For years, this stand has been exploiting the peak of Washington State’s superb Sweet Dream peaches. This year, consulting chef Alexandra Motz (her day job is at top-rated Spoon and Stable in Minneapolis) goes further, brilliantly, using heat to unlock even more juices and sugars. Motz grills them straight-up, but also finds success with Greek vanilla yogurt (topped with a gluten-free pie crumble) and chèvre (peppered with thyme, rosemary and parsley). Still, the peaches’ inherent goodness requires no embellishment.”

The picture appears twice for some reason, even though I only copied and pasted it once, but hell, when something looks this good, who cares?