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.
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.
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
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.
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.