Gallery: The 25 Best Eats at the Texas State Fair

The Texas State Fair runs from September 30 to October 23. Sure there are funnel cakes and corn dogs, but this mega fair has far more to offer. We were there when the gates opened at 10 a.m. on opening day and over the next 10 hours, got into just about every nook and cranny, sampling any and every food we could find. Here are the 25 favorites, a good number of which are deep-fried, ball-shaped, or both (kraut balls, fried meatballs, Kool-Aid balls).

  • 1. Deep-Fried Buffalo Chicken Flapjack on a Stick

    Publicized as one of the hot new foods of 2011, this is a piece of chicken marinated in Buffalo sauce, dipped in pancake batter, rolled in jalapeno bread crumbs and deep-fried... on a stick, served up with maple syrup. A real cacophony of flavors that will either delight or offend you. At the Texas Caviar-selling booth in sight of Big Tex next to the Auto Exhibition.

  • 2. Salsa Balls

    Salsa Balls

    Another one of the hot new fair foods this year, these are three-inch wide balls of tortilla chips bound together with salsa and served in a pile of yellow queso. Very filling and tasty, they’re for available in the Magnolia Beer Garden.

  • 3. Deep Fried Frozen Margarita

    Deep fried frozen margarita

    No, it’s not frozen at all. This finalist for the 2010 Big Tex Awards is a combination of the frozen margarita mix from Desperado’s Mexican Restaurant and funnel cake mix, deep-fried and placed in a margarita glass. More margaritai mix is poured over and whipped cream is added to the top. This is one of the few foods you’ll find that you have to be 21 to eat. The additional martini mix includes about a shot’s worth of tequila.

  • 4. Kraut Balls

    Kraut Balls

    Deep fried sauerkraut? How’s that gonna work? Quite well, actually. These tight-packed pickled cabbage rounds come out looking like hush puppies but have a tart and buttery flavor that’s crying out for some Russian dressing. We liked them a lot. Find them at the Hans Mueller stand on the east side of the Cotton Bowl.

    Continue to 5 of 25 below.
  • 5. Greek Salad

    Greek Salad

    For $8 you can give two people a very healthy lunch or dinner at the Texas State Fair. This well assembled salad at the Authentic Greek Fare booth inside the Coca-Cola Food Court includes shredded green leaf lettuce, chunked tomatoes, tightly sliced cucumbers, Kalamata olives, croutons and a mixture of cheeses. By far the most complete and healthy meal you’ll find at the fair.

  • 6. Fried Meatball

    Fried Meatball

    Made by the Bert’s Burgers and Fries folks, this is the latest entry from the same folks who won the 2010 Big Tex Award for their Deep Fried Frito Pie. Big fat meatballs cut in half, dipped in batter, deep fried and served half a dozen at a time with marinara sauce and shredded cheese. It’s like eating a meatball sub without the bread.

  • 7. Sweet Tea Pickles

    Sweet Tea Pickles

    We’ve all heard of Kool-Aid Pickles, but we only found this variation at Cassie’s Fun Food along the Midway. It’s tarter than a Kool-Aid Pickle but with an additional sweetness that anyone who loves sour suckers will adore.

  • 8. Shaggy Dog

    Shaggy Dog

    This is a Nathan’s beef casing-free hot dog (regular or foot-long length) topped with a Frito chili pie. Why don't more people marry hot dogs with Frito pies? It works. You’ll find it at the Texas Chili Parlor inside the Coca-Cola Food Court.

    Continue to 9 of 25 below.
  • 9. Deep-Fried Pineapple Upside Down Cake

    Deep Fried Pineapple Upside-down cake

    A single thick pineapple ring dipped in yellow cake batter and deep-fried, then topped off with whipped cream and a cherry. It’s small, it’s decadent and it hits the spot with an almost buttery flavor. One of this year’s hot new foods, it’s served up by the Big As Texas folks at booths on the east side of the Cotton Bowl and along the Midway.

  • 10. Ultimate Fried Burger

    Fried Burger

    Everything about this burger is fried save the bun and lettuce. The flat third-of-a-pound patty is griddle fried. Deep fried pickles, fried green tomatoes, fried onion strings and fried cheese triangles are added along with a big slice of green-leaf lettuce. The whole thing comes out similar to a Fat Darryl in flavor; we suggest you load up on the condiments offered at the counter, it’s a little dry. You’ll find it at the Oasis Restaurant inside the Auto Show, behind the Toyotas and such.

  • 11. Kool-Aid Balls

    Kool-aid balls

    These deep-fried dough balls are a real surprise. The Kool-Aid-infused funnel cake batter comes out tasting like a really strong and delicious strawberry cake. Underrated and filling. At Bert’s Concession on the south end of the Midway.

  • 12. Walking Taco

    walking taco

    Introduced for the first time at the Texas State Fair this year (though you could find at the Arkansas State Fair in 2009), this is a bag of Nacho Cheese flavored Doritos opened up along a side and topped with ground beef, lettuce, tomato, cheese, onions, black olives and jalapenos. Constructed when you order it, if you’re meat-free they’ll hold the ground beef for ya. It's next to the Fried Bugglegum stand, which you should NOT fall for.

    Continue to 13 of 25 below.
  • 13. Sweet Jalapeno Shrimp Corndog

    Sweet Jalapeño Shrimp Corndog

    Served up at Belgian Waffle (the same folks who brought us Fried Beer and this year’s entry, Deep Fried Biscuit and Gravy), it’s a corndog, but with three shrimp instead of a weiner and dipped in sweet jalapeno sauce. It comes out sort of like General Tso’s Shrimp but with jalapeno flavor instead of Sriracha.

  • 14. Deep Fried Latte

    Deep Fried Latte

    The latte here isn’t actually deep-fried, it’s implied, but remarkably well. Winner of the 2007 Big Tex Award Winner for Best Tasting, it's a collection of ingredients that come together to create a decadently espresso-and-milk flavored dessert. It’s a sopapilla topped with cappucino flavored ice cream and whipped cream, drizzled with maple syrup and instant coffee flakes. And yes, it does taste just like a designer latte. At Desperado’s Mexican Restaurant stand east of the Cotton Bowl.

  • 15. Giant Dolmas

    Giant Dolmas

    A gigantic grape leaf stuffed with beef, lamb and rice, baked and served up on a fresh-made pita with “Greek Sauce.” The six to seven inch long dolma comes out baked and hot. Eat it with a fork or fold it in your pita for fair-bound travel. At the Authentic Greek Fare booth inside the Coca-Cola Food Court.

  • 16. Fried Cheesecake

    Fried Cheesecake

    Wrapped in a wonton-like dough, this popular dish from Bert’s Burgers and Fries on the west side of the Cotton Bowl is both tasty and easy to eat. We loved the melty flavor of the real cheesecake and the fact that it didn’t go all over the place. Bert’s, by the way, has been at the Texas Fair for 35 years; the Bert family has actually been participating in the Texas State Fair since 1919, originally with a cafeteria and roller rink.

    Continue to 17 of 25 below.
  • 17. Torta Sandwich

    Torta Sandwich

    Ground beef, seasoned beans, cheese, jalapeno peppers, tomatoes and sour cream served on a section of French bread makes a very hearty two-handed sandwich. You’ll find it in the Coca-Cola Food Court.

  • 18. Fried Chicken Skins

    Fried Chicken skins

    Some folks like white meat, some like dark meat. This is for all the folks who’d rather just pull the skin right off and eat that. Similar to pork rinds but an extra level of fatty goodness, they’re served up fresh and still steaming from the deep fryer. They’re a guilty pleasure, but there's such a thing as too greasy. We'd prefer if it came on a sandwich. You'll find them at Eat Crispies on the north end of the Midway.

  • 19. Berrie Kebabs

    Berry kababs

    Bad spelling aside, how anyone could turn down one of these strawberry and banana packed skewers drizzled in white and milk chocolate? These folks also offer chocolate dipped cheesecake on a stick. Inside the Coca-Cola Food Court.

  • 20. Jerk Tofu

    Jerk Tofu

    Creative and vegan-friendly, it’s two slabs of grilled tofu topped with a drizzle of jerk-seasoned barbecue-like sauce served with a trio of hush puppies. The tofu itself is decently tasty. The hush puppies are some of the best we’ve had. Found north of the Magnolia Beer Garden near the auto show.

    Continue to 21 of 25 below.
  • 21. Deep-Fried Biscuit and Gravy

    Deep Fried Biscuits and gravy

    This is actually more of a soft roll filled with white cream gravy (no meat) like a filled doughnut, dipped in batter and deep-fried. We were surprised to find it was actually a meatless entry. The frying process brings the cold gravy up to medium warm temperature. Created by the Belgian Waffle people who brought you Fried Beer last year.

  • 22. Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich in Graham Crackers. Dipped in Chocolate. On a Stick.

    Peanut butter sandwich dipped in chocolate

    A better name might be the Chocolate-Covered PBJ. We found this chocolate-covered Grahamwich to taste, strangely enough, almost identical to a Twix Peanut Butter candy bar. It should also win an award for longest name. A real winner with the kids. Served up at Benavidez on the Midway, where you’ll also find some of the juiciest turkey legs at the fair.

  • 23. Frozen Arnold Palmer

    Frozen Arnold Palmer

    One of the most refreshing items on our list, it’s half frozen lemonade, half frozen sweet tea, all-around potential brainfreeze generator.

  • 24. Tamale Balls

    Tamale balls

    One of the oldest coolest fair foods, Tamale Balls have actually been served up by the folks manning the booth inside the Exhibit Hall since 1989. These masa-wrapped seasoned ground beef balls are served six to an order.

    Continue to 25 of 25 below.
  • 25. Pig Poppers

    Pig Poppers

    Similar to the Pig on a Stick we found at the Arkansas-Oklahoma State Fair, but with a gourmet twist. These are bacon-wrapped section of Hans Mueller sausages that are deep-fried and served up with jalapeno slices the folks at Bailey’s candy themselves. Found inside the Coca-Cola Food Court.