The Big Tex Choice awards happen once a year at the great State Fair of Texas, and the road to naming the best sweet and savory food items of the year is paved with stress, wrapped in bacon, and dusted with powdered sugar. This year, there were 51 entries from 36 concessionaires.
The first panel of judges—this one’s an internal panel built by the fair—narrows down the field based solely on a written description and photo of each item. Concessionaires can potentially bring in millions of dollars in revenue over the three weeks of the fair if they win this competition. So, you’re going to see a lot of cheerleading in these paragraphs. A lot of over-selling. It all boils down to an overuse of the word “explosion.”
The judges determined that 19 savory items and 17 sweet items would advance to the semi-finals of competition. Siri tells us that leaves 15 items on the cutting room floor.
So, the first obvious question is: If Fried Buc-ee’s is in here, complete with trademark, which items didn’t make it? With absolutely no factual evidence to back this up, we’re guessing these were some of the items that were simply too amazing to make it into the semi-finals for 2022:
Deep-fried Ford Bronco – Unfortunately, this one didn’t work out because of supply chain issues on the upgraded Raptor package. You know we can’t settle for the standard package in Dallas. It’s all about the extra tow hooks that say, “I’m sporty,” even though you’re only using this for carpool pick-up when your golf cart is in the shop.
Hacky Sacks – These deep-fried, somehow gluten-free, casein-free, and dog-friendly kombucha balls are the perfect post-Camp Gladiator probiotic protein punch to the gut. Every order comes with two brags about your recent PR, and one complaint about how there aren’t enough places in Dallas to parkour anymore. (The picture of this item made one judge insta-vomit.)
It’s Lettuce – Nope.
Filler On A Stick – Mustard is so 2021. Now we pump a nice clear gloss limp plumper on top of a classic Fletcher’s corny dog. This treat will guarantee that you show up for Big Tex looking like a snack. (Apparently, people get “sick” and suffer “explosions” if they ingest too much lip gloss, so the judges decided we can’t have nice things.)
The “That’s Right, You’re Not From Texas” – Stand in this judgement-free zone that’s in full sun all day long so it never gets below 110 degrees with a constant dew point of 86. Here, you can say, “Oh my gosh, it’s SO hot,” and the concessionaires will politely agree while they hand you an IPA. Get all the dad jokes out of your system about how the fair is deep-frying its attendees. Attempt to fan yourself with a wet paper napkin. Really drink in the suffering that is Texas at 3 p.m. almost always. (Judges thought this stand would be too popular and nixed it.)
Next, the internal panel of judges will taste these semi-finalist foods, and narrow the field to 10 finalists (usually five sweet and five savory) before they invite a panel of super fancy Dallas celebrity judges to name the Big Tex Choice Awards winners for 2022.
Each concessionaire submitted a full paragraph description of their item. We’ve deleted the word “explosion” where necessary to help distill each item to its core concept, and make it a bit easier for you to determine your potential favorites. Our picks for the finals are italicized.
Bayou Bowl – “A loaded bayou [redacted]!” The dish: Macaroni and cheese topped with garlic-buttered shrimp and lump crab. Drizzle it with cajun cream sauce. Add a sausage link and a French bread.
Cajun Lobster Bisque Croquettes – Lobster-and-brie-filled tater tot with lobster bisque dipping sauce. It’s a little spicy.
Chicharron [Redacted] Nachos – Pork rinds + beef fajita meat +queso + topped with “beef barbeque.”
Crispy Dilly Dog – Core a dill pickle and fill it with a hotdog. Dunk it in “corndog” batter (the use of “corndog” rather than “corny dog” here flags this item as something that is not coming from the Fletcher’s Corny Dog camp) and fry it. Drizzle with chipotle mayo. (This one HAS to make it to the finals.)
Deep Fried B.L.T. – Kind of. They put cheese and bacon on a tortilla, fold it so it’s shaped like a Hot Pocket. Then, fry that, cut it in half, and sandwich the lettuce, tomato and mayo in between the two Hot Pockets.
Deep Fried Brisket Cheese Sticks – Trigger warning for this one: Brisket will be put into a difficult flavor combo. It’s a mozzarella stick with brisket. You’re fine. You’ve got this. Deep breaths. Then, they bread it and fry it. And then, they’re dusting it with parmesan and asking you to dip it in “smoked marinara sauce.” If that just means barbecue sauce, maybe it’s all going to be OK?
Deep Fried Lasagna Roll – It’s fried lasagna. Plus, you get a side of zucchini fries. This could be the best hangover prevention yet.
Deep Fried Texas Country Cookout – Pulled pork, goat cheese, and special sauce are mixed, shaped into a patty, breaded, and fried. Topped with cole slaw, potato salad and barbecue sauce.
Dim Sum Loco Burrito – Shredded pork, potatoes, onions, bell peppers, and pepper jack cheese are rolled in an egg-roll wrapper and deep fried. Served with deep-fried shishito peppers (WHY DIDN’T WE JUST DO THIS ALONE?? Give me a KFC bucket-sized bowl of deep-fried shishito peppers pls). Plus a fortune cookie with a Texas flag in it, which probably says “We know we should have just done a bowl of deep-fried shishito peppers, sry.”
Fried Charcuterie Board – Fun name. But, it’s going to be more like a Fried Lunchable in practice: It’s mozzarella, salami, and sliced green apples in a wonton wrapper and fried. Plus goat cheese and hot honey.We’d love to see Lucia make this happen for real.
Fried Soul Food Eggroll – It’s a wonton wrapper filled with chicken, collard greens and mac ‘n cheese, deep-fried and served with a “fusion sauce.”
Holy Biscuit – “This mouth-watering Southern [redacted]” is a biscuit topped with brisket and street corn queso. Plus bacon. Plus honey. Plus “crispy pickle French fries.” If Holy Biscuit isn’t from Abel “Fried Jesus” Gonzales, it really should be, marketing-wise.
Shaking Beef Salad – Here’s their full description of this dish: “An iconic dish taken to a whole new level – Big Tex’s level, that is. Shaking Beef is a French-inspired Vietnamese dish, we take beef and cut it into small cubes – the size of playing dice – before sautéing. We then mix in cucumber, lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, pepper, and soy sauce, into the skillet.” This dish has the word “salad” in the name. And it doesn’t appear to be fried. Those two factors will make it very difficult to make it into the finals of this competition. The photo they give the judges had better be glorious.
Southern Fried Chicken and Sweet Potato Pie Waffles Sliders – We’re really hoping this item comes from the ladies at Fernie’s Funnel Cakes. They tested out a fried chicken and funnel cake slider on national television, and this could be the evolution of that item. It sure would be a lot easier to use waffles for this than it is to make tiny funnel cakes on demand. This item is exactly what it sounds like: fried chicken on sweet potato waffles with syrup and topped with bacon.
Texas Slide – Waffle-bun slider with chicken, steak, bell peppers, onions, provolone cheese, and secret sauce.
Texas Hot Bull Ride – It’s like hot chicken, but with shrimp (and named “Bull” for some unknown reason):Battered shrimp is tossed in a sweet and spicy sauce and served with ranch dressing.
Texas Ranch Hog Wings – Ranch-salt dusted fall-off-the-bone pork drizzled with sauce.
Texas Twosome – It’s a grilled cheese Frito pie. They’re giving you a cheesy-toast base for your Frito pie. Because every time you’ve ever had a Frito pie, when you’re done, you’re like, “This dish needed more density. I wish it had been heavier.”
Turkey Leg Taquito – Mix shredded turkey with cheese, bacon, and jalepeños. Wrap that in a tortilla and fry it. Serve it with chips, queso, barbecue hot sauce and Texas hot sauce. 100% would scarf. The best turkey legs at the fair come from the guys at Smokey John’s Barbecue. If they’re behind this item, it’s guaranteed delicious.
Cha-Cha Chata – Frozen Horchatathat they dust “with crushed candy, a sprinkle of cinnamon galletas de gragega, and deep-fried arroz con leche bites.” Plus it has a churro straw? Feels like they buried the lead on this one.
La Bluebonnet – “Citrus juices,” blueberries, and sugar are blended and poured over ice with an “optional lemon-mint-berry twist.” (Was really hoping Tito’s had sponsored this one.)
Crunchberry® Shortcake – Strawberries are dipped in shortcake batter and fried. Served with whipped cream, covered in Cap’n Crunch Crunchberry cereal.
Deep Fried Buc-ee’s® – You take two dads in American Flag shorts, give them some ‘Claws by the pool and ask them to talk about freedom until they hug. Just kidding. It’s deep-fried beaver nuggets.
Deep Fried Honey – It’s deep-fried Texas honey topped with powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar, and more honey. (After his entire booth was overtaken by bees on national TV, our bet is that this one came from Fried Jesus, too.)
Deep Fried Praline Cheesecake Eggroll – Praline cheesecake in an eggroll wrapper. #FRYIT. Then, drizzle with more praline sauce.
Deep Fried Rocky Road with Blue Bell Ice Cream® – We got way too excited about this before rereading the name and processing the word “with.” They’re deep-frying fudge, drizzled with chocolate syrup, condensed milk, marshmallows, chopped nuts, and powdered sugar. Then they give you a Blue Bell Ice Cream cup with it.
Deep Fried Southern Dessert Dumplings – Sweet potato pecan pie bites are mixed with chocolate chips and wrapped in a wonton wrapper. #FRYIT. Served with a rum-raspberry chipotle dipping sauce.
Deep Fried Strawberry Shortcake Crunch Roll – You’ve got shortcake dipped in strawberry waffle and fried, then drizzled with cream cheese icing and strawberry crunch (vanilla Oreo cookies, strawberry JELL-O mix, and melted butter). Then, dusted with powdered sugar and a fresh strawberry.
Doh-Muff – The name of this item makes so much more sense when you know it’s a doughnut and a muffin mixed together, and it’s not something that deserves medical attention. This Bavarian cream-stuffed doughnut is coated in banana nut muffin batter, then fried and topped with pecans, bananas and strawberries.
Fat Elvis – “This mouthwatering [redacted] starts with creamy peanut butter and strawberry jelly whipped together.” Spread that on a biscuit. Add marshmallow fluff, bacon, and a fried plantain.
Fried Texas Fruit Salad – Apples, cherries, peaches, jalapeños, and strawberry cream cheese are battered and fried. Then, dust them with cocoa caramel powder and powdered sugar. Then, add almond icing.
Peanut Butter Paradise – Deep fry a honey bun, then inject it with caramel and top it with peanut butter. Add Reese’s Pieces, Butterfinger crumbles, peanut butter cups, drizzled caramel and powdered sugar. (Warning: Does not come with a beverage of any kind.)
Raspberry Chipotle Sopapilla Cheesecake – The name only leaves out the whipped cream topping and the drizzle of raspberry compote, chopped pecans and candied jalapenos.
The Ultimate Brookie Monster – Chocolate cookies, Oreos and marshmallows. Then cover that in brownie batter and bake. THEN #FRYIT. Add powdered sugar, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, cheesecake crumbles and strawberry sauce.
Triple Lemon Bliss – Fry up some ladyfingers, stack some lemon bars on top, then lemon pound cake, and top with another lady finger. It’s like a lemon lasagna, and we’re here for it.
One thing’s for sure in this group of finalists: There are clearly no supply chain issue with wonton wrappers or powdered sugar. Judges will determine the finalists based on uniqueness, presentation, creativity and taste. Finalists will be announced mid-August, and the top 10 entries will compete at this year’s Big Tex Choice Awards. #FRYIT