For some, the North Carolina State Fair is all about the rides, or the racing pigs, or the chance to win a child-size Mr. Wuf at the ring toss.
But for others, like Beth Falkner and her group of friends, it is all about the food – especially the latest deep-fried treat.
“We just go for the food and nothing else,” Falkner, 31, of Raleigh, said.
Falkner and her friends, who attended William Peace University together, are so serious about their fair eating plan that they actually map it out beforehand. It usually goes like this: the new deep-fried “it” food, roasted corn, mini-doughnuts and ham biscuits.
North Carolina’s state fair is no different from any of the others – from Minnesota to Texas – where foods are battered, fried and often impaled on a stick. Vendors seem to try to outdo each other each year with the latest, most outlandish treat. In years past, we’ve seen deep-fried Coke, macaroni and cheese, Ho Hos and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
At this year’s monthlong Texas state fair – the birthplace of much of the fried-food innovation – deep-fried jambalaya took the prize for best tasting and a deep-fried bacon cinnamon roll won most creative in its annual food contest.
Murphy House, the annual innovator when it comes to fried foods at the N.C. State Fair, is bringing the deep-fried bacon cinnamon roll to this year’s fair. (Three small cinnamon rolls are fried, glazed and sprinkled with bacon.)
Other new items in the running for the can-you-believe-it treat are deep-fried Girl Scout Cookies (Caramel deLites, or the cookie formerly known as Samoas), deep-fried Hostess cupcakes and deep-fried Swiss Rolls.
On the savory side, new items include Philly cheese steak egg rolls, pig butt on a stick and alligator and shark kabobs.
Others can’t be swayed by the new fad foods. They have a routine and they’re sticking to it, like Jack Nales of McGee’s Crossroads.
Nales, 55, likes to start with a ham biscuit from the Westover United Methodist Church stand.
“It’s always best to have that first as a foundation for everything that follows,” Nales said.
Then he gets in line for some N.C. State University ice cream, followed by roasted corn from a nearby stand.
“That’s the one I have to go to because you get it right off the fire and they drench it in butter. It’s better than anyone else’s,” he said.
Nales’ last must-have treat: a fat kosher dill pickle from the Mt. Olive stand in the Commercial building.
It seems like Nales has covered all the bases for a great state fair eating experience: salty, sweet, fat and sour.
These suggestions for the best places to get the classic fair foods come from experienced fairgoers:
A cheapskate’s guide
You don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy the food at the fair. Here’s a low-cost guide to free or cheap foods:
Not every food at the fair is deep fried. These stands offer healthier fare.
The booth is located across from the 1853 Grille among the row of permanent food booths
It is located near the entrance to the main midway and around the corner from the eastern end of the row of permanent food booths.