While we commend the State Fair of Texas for building a drive-thru last year amid a pandemic, dang it, it just wasn’t the same! It’s exciting, then, to see fair food events come back. Nature is healing, as the played out internet saying goes…
The contest kicked off earlier this month with 43 entries from 26 concessionaires, all of whom needed to have at least a year of State Fair concession-ing under their belts. Those were whittled down to 32 semifinalists, which will vie for a chance to earn a coveted “Best Taste – Savory,” “Best Taste – Sweet,” or “Most Creative” titles. But first, another round of judging based on four criteria: uniqueness, presentation, creativity and taste. Then there’s the matter of, How likely will a fairgoer absolutely want to cram this into their face come fall? This is the philosophical question those noble judges must answer.
Will it be smoked brisket–topped fried kolache? Or a deep-fried pretzel doused in candy syrup and covered in Halloween candy? We’ll have to wait until next month to find out.
The finalists will be announced by mid-August. From there, those top 10 will go head to head at this year’s Big Tex Choice Awards event at the fair. Until then, here’s what’s on judging table. (Curious about the judging process? Here’s a first-person account from one of the guys who came up with the award-winning Fried Frito Pie.)
Bacon Jam Corn Bombs
Warm bacon jam ladled over crispy corn hushpuppies, with a drizzle of ranch dressing and topped with homemade candied jalapeños.
Country Fried Shrimp Grits
Battered and deep fried shrimp and cheese grits smothered with shrimp and crawfish sauce.
Crawfish Étouffée Stuff Turkey Leg
Smoked turkey leg stuffed with, duh, crawfish étouffée.
Crispy Crazy Corn
Battered and fried kernals with smoked pulled pork and pineapple slaw.
A smoked turkey frank is dunked in a fiery seasoned batter and deep fried, then smothered with rich and creamy mac and cheese, then topped with fried jalapeños and Cholula hot sauce.
Deep Fried I-35
A sweet and savory decadent tribute to the Texas road trip: fried kolache dough with smoked brisket, with a drizzle of peach and Dr.Pepper barbecue glaze, and garnished with peach slices and powdered sugar.
Deep Fried Seafood Gumbo Balls
Balls of Gulf Coast shrimp, stewed chicken, blue crab meat, and andouille sausage rolled in saltine cracker and breadcrumb batter, then fried, amd served with a side of dark gumbo roux sauce.
Deep Fried Shrimp Étouffée
A deep-fried dumpling filled with piping hot rice and juicy house seasoned shrimp is smothered in onion, celery, tomatoes, green peppers, and cheese.
Frozen Ranch Water
Smoky, mango-infused roast pork sandwich with honey mustard slaw and pineapple rings on Hawaiian sweet rolls.
Lobster Corn Dog
Lucky Duck Dumplin’
Deep-fried pastry filled with a delicious combination of rich, fluffy cream cheese, blended with succulent duck bacon and roasted sweet corn.
Bacon-wrapped sausage with mac and cheese.
Takis Fuego chips covered with melted cheese, savory refried beans, a dollop of sour cream, fresh pico de gallo, cilantro, and a fiery serrano pepper.
Texas BBQ Brisket Banh Mi
A toasted baguette topped with chopped smoked brisket, lightly coated in barbecue sauce, along with cilantro, cucumber and homemade pickled daikon radish and carrots.
Texas Chicken Fried Steak Flauta
Texas Easter Eggs
While they are not actual eggs from a chicken, they are filled with meats, spices, cheeses, peppers, and all things Texas, shaped like an egg, decorated with a savory (Easter colored) ranch sauce, breaded, deep fried, and served in a carton with dipping sauce.
Texas Fried Surf and Turf
Tender filet mignon medallions are hand cut and filled with chunks of Langostino lobster, and wrapped in a slice of hickory smoked bacon. Served with tempura fried asparagus drizzled with horseradish hollandaise sauce.
Spiced beef is rolled with lightly browned rice, chopped vegetables, and aromatic seasonings. The it’s deep fried and served on top of a hearty tomato-based-infused sauce with a drizzle of crema Mexicana and a sprinkle of cotija queso.
Like old-fashioned peanut brittle, except with smoky brisket.
Deep Fried Pancakes
Deep Fried PB and Razbrûlée
A deep-fried peanut butter sandwich pocket is topped with a thick and creamy vanilla creme with a turbinado sugar heavy sprinkling and broiled and caramelized to a hard-shell top.
Deep Fried Peach Cobbler Soul Rolls
Peach Cobbler Soul Rolls are filled with juicy sweet peaches that bathe in butter and a spiced sugar mixture before being rolled into an egg roll and deep-fried. It is topped with a generous amount of cinnamon sugar.
Deep Fried Ritz
Ritz cracker layered with a luscious strawberry-swirled cream cheese filling, dipped in batter, and deep-fried until golden brown.
Deep Fried Toffee
Toffee square in a flakey biscuit bite that’s deep-fried and garnished with powdered sugar.
Deep Fried Halloween
A large chewy pretzel is dropped in the fryer, bathed in candy corn syrup, and covered with rainbow sprinkles and powdered sugar. Then there’s orange and white buttercream icing, then comes stacks of Halloween candies, like M&M’s, Reese Pieces, Mini-Twix, Oreo cookie crumbles, and candy corn just to name a few. Topped with a delicious marshmallow whip cream and a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup as the crown. Oh also, Hershey’s chocolate syrup caramel sauce and candy corn drizzle.
Mexican bread pudding is battered and fried, then crowned with whipped topping covered with a drizzle of dulce de leche.
Fried Toffee Coffee Crunch Cake
Banana rolled in fresh funnel cake batter and deep fried it to a crispy, golden brown, then topped with a heaping dollop of whipped cream, and chocolate and peanut butter sauces.
Southern Fried Lemon Ice Box Pie Balls
A pie ball, hand wrapped in a pâte sucrée dough, is infused with graham crackers, lemon zest, and brown sugar.
Texas Pumpkin Poke Cake
A Texas-shaped, decadent pumpkin cake with a gooey vanilla glaze, silky caramel, topped with fluffy whipped cream, and lightly sprinkled with secret spice.
Cookie butter ice cream sandwich: made-from-scratch cookie butter semifreddo, drizzled with cookie butter, and sandwiched between two deep fried Armadillo-shaped cookies.