The quality of food fare at food fairs has increased exponentially over the last few years.
We are about a week away from kicking off the Wisconsin State Fair in Madison, Wisconsin that runs from August 4-14. While there are still all the events that you remember as a youth, the main focus is on the food. And it gets better every year.
The spirit of the food truck has invaded the state fair. It used to be enough for a vendor to deep fry something weird and they’d call it a day. Not anymore. These offerings are culinary creations that wouldn’t look out of place in a Michelin Starred restaurant.
Each year the Wisconsin State Fair awards a Golden Spork to the best food creation at the fair, eight finalists have been named, here’s how I would rank them on description alone:
#8 – Fried Pickle Cheese Curd Tacos – Richie’s Cheese Curd Tacos
The Fried Pickle Cheese Curd Tacos is completely deep-fried with pickles sandwiched together with cream cheese and freshly battered white cheddar cheese curds. Mix them all together and into the deep-fryer it goes to get that classic Richie’s crispy taco shell stuffed with ooey-gooey cheese. Topped with raspberry chipotle sauce and fresh greens, get ready for this reimagined Fair dish.
These are probably pretty great if you like pickles. I personally think anything involving a cucumber is inedible. It’s a hard pass for me.
#7 – The Sconnie Slugger – Miller Lite Sports Bar & Grill
Highlighting the great state of Wisconsin, The Sconnie Slugger combines a locally made beer brat and cheese curds and then dips them in cruller cornmeal batter. This on-a-stick work of art is deep-fried and topped with “dijonaise” and German sweet & sour cabbage.
This is a corn dog that comes topped with kraut and something called “dijonaise.” I don’t know what that is and won’t be looking it up. That photo doesn’t do this dish any favors as well. I’d definitely eat this if it was handed to me, but I’m not making the trip to Madison for it.
#6 – Black Bean Burrito Balls – Lakefront Brewery Beer Garden
The Black Bean Burrito Balls have a mix of black beans, sweet corn, a plethora of cheeses, and spices combined into bite-sized spheres and breaded with a combination of spicy cheese curls and nacho cheese chips. Then, into the deep fryer they go! Served with zesty chile lime sauce, this may make you turn your back on the traditional burrito.
A vegetarian option, these balls are the first thing that I would make a trip to taste. These sound excellent. They won’t make me “turn my back on the traditional burrito” but maybe other places will see these are start making something similar. Sign me up!
#5 – Cinnamon Toast Crunch Latte – Slim McGinn’s Irish Pub
Slim McGinn’s Irish Pub’s Two Brothers nitro coffee goes to the next level when mixed with Cinnamon Toast Crunch infused cereal milk. Add a cereal crust rimmed cup and top with delicious whipped cream and you have the Cinnamon Toast Crunch Latte.
I’m not sure what infused cereal milk is, but if they’re mixing the milk that’s left in the bottom of your cereal bowl into some nitro coffee, it’s a wonderful idea. I’m honestly not sure what the alcohol policy is at the fair, but this drink is BEGGING for a little nip of Rumchata to round it out. One of these looks great, two could be a problem.
#4 – Brandy Old Fashioned S’more On-A-Stick – Freese’s Candy Shoppe
The Brandy Old Fashioned S’more On-a-Stick upgrades the classic whipped cream bar by infusing the flavors of the Wisconsin brandy old fashioned. But, here’s the twist – that fluffy cream is sandwiched between two graham crackers and covered in milk chocolate. After being drizzled with white chocolate, it’s topped with the traditional old fashioned garnishes of dried orange and dried cherry.
Our second “dessert” of the list pays homage to the famous Wisconsin Old Fashioned. I don’t think there’s any actual alcohol in it but I’ll let that pass for now. I’m very fascinated by the dried orange garnish. This is either incredible or inedible, and I’d make the trip to find out.
#3 – Surf & Turf Sliders – Tropics
Surf & Turf Sliders are piled with marinated pulled pork cooked to perfection, a layer of tropical slaw, and Tropics’ signature pineapple mango salsa. Topped with hot, crispy coconut shrimp and smothered in a jalapeño aioli sauce, enjoy this beachy delight in a fresh Hawaiian sweet roll bun.
I enjoyed pretty much every single word of that description that just got better and better as it went. This one probably should be higher but I don’t know if this should even qualify as “Fair Food” This is way too nice. Also, this has to be the most expensive item on this list. They don’t list prices, but there’s no way that is less than $18. Worth it I’m sure, but fair food should never be more than 10 bucks.
#2 – Peño Pretzel Popper Brat – Gertrude’s Pretzels
The Peño Pretzel Popper Brat is a 10-inch jalapeño cheddar bratwurst carefully wrapped in fresh pretzel dough, topped with coarse pretzel salt and fresh cut jalapeños, and baked until it’s golden brown. But that’s not all! Once it’s done baking, it’s brushed with butter, drizzled with white cheddar sauce, and served with a house-made jalapeño cream cheese.
Our final two offerings on this list are food-on-a-stick items that make State Fairs great. This pretzel popper brat isn’t too much, it has a unique look about it, and you’ve never had anything like it before. That’s what the State Fair is all about. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see this one take home the Golden Spork in 2022. It looks incredible but not quite as good as my favorite item on the list.
#1 – Flamin’ Hot Cheetos Chicken On-A-Stick – Bud Pavilion
This deep-fried chicken skewer is breaded with a special seasoning blend and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos dust. Drizzled with chipotle ranch and sprinkled with top-secret seasoning, this is certain to bring some spice to your life!
This dish might not win, but I would hitchhike to Madison to try these. I’ll eat pretty much anything that gets a little of that Flamin’ Hot Cheetos dust on it. These also look like the easiest to recreate at home for yourself out of all the items here up for the Golden Spork.
You can check out ALL the food (and there’s a ton of it) at the official Wisconsin State Fair website.
The fair kicks off August 4th and runs through the 14th in the state capital of Madison, Wisconsin.
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