1. Deep Fried Egg Rolls
The tastiest new item we discovered this year comes from Sissy's, a local operation out of Arkadelphia, Arkansas. These are meatless egg rolls in a tempura-style batter fried on a stick and served with sweet and sour dressing. Somehow, the frying process makes them less greasy than what you get at your average Asian restaurant. An instant hit.
2. MOINK Balls
A great idea from the folks at Smoke Stack BBQ, these are beef meatballs wrapped in bacon, cooked up in barbecue sauce. They come five to a stick and have a fantastic flavor.
3. Rabbit Sandwiches
They're exactly what you think they are. The Fowler family from Dardanelle, Arkansas, raise their own rabbits for Pel-Freeze, but at the fair they're serving up nicely roasted rabbit on a bun at their Feed Trough booth right outside the Rabbit Facility. The moist, shredded rabbit is good plain or you can try some of the Fowler's delicious barbecue sauce with it.
4. Cherry-covered Chocolates
The next logical progression beyond fried Oreos and fried Kool-Aid, these are Oreo cookies that have been dipped in funnel cake batter infused with cherry Kool-Aid, deep fried, and sprinkled with sugar. We were very surprised to find they were not only palatable but addictive, an inspired creation we'll be picking up again on our next Fair visit.
5. Bacon Cream Cheese Balls
The folks with Hot Wisconsin Cheese have come up with another idea: frying up balls of frozen batter-dipped cream cheese infused with bacon. The frying process softens up the cream cheese just enough to be a bit runny when you pop them in your mouth.
6. "Cornbread" (Deep Fried Corn-on-the-Cob)
The heaviest fair food this year as far as actual weight goes—one of these weighs well over a pound—is this full size ear of corn battered and deep fried like a corn dog. The resulting dish is very moist on the inside, combining the best of sweet cornbread and the corn it comes from. The only real problem is it's so filling you may not want anything else.
7. Praline Pecans
The folks at Ozark Candy and Nuts are out at the fair with a fresh batch of Arkansas pecans, which they roast and candy on-site. The praline pecans are quite excellent, as are the cinnamon sugared version. They also sell chipotle-flavored cashews and candied sunflower seeds.
8. Nuclear Wings
The hottest thing available at the Arkansas State Fair, these are hot wings served up with what the kitchen crew calls “Stupid Sauce,” a hot Buffalo-style sauce that make sriracha sauce seem like sissy sauce. We’ve witnessed several people gasp for air after a bite, and one woman actually burst into tears. But for the hot food aficionado, this is the (nuclear) bomb.
9. Fried Rolos
Rather than being dipped in batter, these Rolos are wrapped in biscuit dough before being deep fried. They come out golden and crispy on the outside, and the heating process liquefies the caramel within.
10. Chicken Doughnut Sandwich
It's exactly what it sounds like: a chicken breast served up on a sliced doughnut. Instead of mustard or mayo, it comes with a raspberry sauce for a condiment. Sweet and savory at the same time.
11. Hamburger Steak
The Big Show Diner at the Arkansas State Fair makes up big dinners for hungry folks (including a rarely ordered lobster dinner). The 16-ounce hamburger steak comes grilled with peppers and onions and is served up with two sides and a roll. The big steak is a favorite with return visitors
12. Fried Pies
These are Letha's Pies from the folks who run That Place up in West Fork, Arkansas. They come in apple, cherry, coconut cream, peach, and, our favorite, pecan. The pecan pie flavor is a good match for a slightly salty hand-pinched crust.
13. Fried Watermelon
Unlike dumpling-esque versions found at other fairs, this is an actual substantial chunk of sweet ripe watermelon dipped in a pastry flour batter and deep fried. We were skeptical since our first encounter with the dish had been tart and dry, but this one is extraordinarily juicy and the crust only adds to the good flavor. A grilled version without the batter is also available.
14. Funny Bones
Here's a new twist on the fried Twinkie—these are Twinkies injected with chocolate and peanut butter before being battered and deep fried. They come out very moist and almost cloyingly sweet. Share this one with a friend.
15. Jalapeño Lemonade
Think of what it's like to have a shot of whiskey for the first time. You're close to the afterburn of this beverage from the Dallas-based Fried What? folks. It's traditional lemonade spiked with jalapeño juice, slices, and seeds, and it's the spiciest drink we've ever encountered at the Arkansas State Fair.
16. BBQ Parfait
It's a meal in a cup—layers of baked beans, mashed potatoes, smoked pork butt and barbecue sauce served up with a spoon. Easy to eat on the Midway yet substantial enough to be a full meal in itself.
17. Fried Gator
Chunks of fresh gator meat are laced onto a skewer with onions and peppers and battered with tempura, then deep fried until golden brown. Great with honey mustard.
18. Swiss and Rye on a Stick
What looks sorta like a corndog and tastes nothing like it? This chunk of Wisconsin Swiss on a stick, battered with rye breading and deep fried.It's like eating the best grilled cheese sandwich in your life. Great with stone ground mustard.
19. Tropical Fruit Punch
No one is certain how long Tropical Fruit Punch has been available at the Arkansas State Fair, but the recipe is a family recipe from the 1850s. It's so popular several vendors sell their own version—but the original comes from the Big Show Diner.
20. Veggie Gyro
One of the healthiest options at the fair, this is all sorts of good vegetables in a pita—green leaf lettuce, spinach, purple leaf lettuce, red and white onions, tomatoes and black olives—with Feta cheese and a cucumber-infused tzatziki sauce that brings the whole thing together. Find it at Paizi's.