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An introspective moment with a Fletcher's corny dog.
Robert Strickland/EDFW

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A Chef's Guide to the Deep-Fried Absurdities of the State Fair of Texas

Is there another annual food event more ridiculous and deliciously over-the-top than the State Fair of Texas? We think not. The Grape's Brian Luscher dared to sample the weird and (sometimes) wonderful fried foods of the fair — because if there's anyone you can trust when it comes to fair food recommendations, it's definitely one of the city's most respected chefs.


Brian Luscher State Fair

Photo: Robert Strickland

But first, a disclaimer: "Just like paying money to go see the bearded lady or the mysterious two-headed snake, the morbid curiosity of trying all the crazy new foods is part of the spirit of the State Fair," says Luscher. Much like the fair itself, the following 'reviews' are all meant in good fun.

According to Luscher, the dynamic duo of a freshly fried Fletcher's corny dog and an ice-cold beer is the pinnacle of fair foods, and so each item is scored on a scale from one to five corn dogs. All foods were sampled fresh out of the fryer; just about anything will suffer after a few minutes under the heat lamps, but a little charm goes a long way when trying to convince the concession workers to fry you up something fresh during off-peak hours.

Without further adieu, onto the fried things:

Fried Maple Bacon Amazeballz

Amazeballz

Photo: Robert Strickland

WHAT IS IT?: The cake balls are made with chocolate cake, chocolate frosting, maple syrup, and bacon pieces and are sourced from Plano bakery Amazeballz (that's right, they're made with local balls). Unlike most things at the fair, they're not battered, but rather just dropped straight into the deep-fryer. After frying, they're topped with a sugary trifecta of toppings — powdered sugar, chocolate syrup, and maple syrup — plus more bacon, because uh, bacon.

LUSCHER WEIGHS IN: "Really soft. Chocolatey. The maple and the chocolate are really good together. The bacon almost gets bulldozed by the chocolate, but it's in there. These are really good. My daughter would go bonkers over these... but she also butters her bacon."

verdict 4

Hot Soul Cake

Hot Soul Cake

Photo: Robert Strickland

WHAT IS IT?: A "chicken bite" (aka chicken nugget) is sprinkled with a savory seasoning called "TT's Fairy Dust" and stuffed inside of a vanilla cupcake which is then waffle-battered, deep-fried and topped with cream cheese glaze and powdered sugar.

LUSCHER WEIGHS IN: "As far as the hidden nugget goes, the breading to meat ratio is definitely weighted toward the breading. Don't get this for the protein. The deep-fried waffle batter on the outside is nice and crunchy, with the soft warm cake and the sweet cream cheese. If there was more chicken, it would be a little more rewarding. The TT's spice, I'm not really getting it — I wish there was more of that zing or spice. Because there was no fried chicken experience for me, I give it a two. If it was just a fried vanilla cupcake, it'd be a solid four."

verdict 2

Deep-Fried Sweet Tea

Deep-Fried Sweet Tea

Photo: Robert Strickland

WHAT IS IT?: Finally, someone decided to turn Texans' favorite beverage into a deep-fried absurdity. Sweet tea custard gets a graham cracker crust before being tossed into the fryer and finally topped with sweet tea syrup.

LUSCHER WEIGHS IN: "It's definitely sweet, but it doesn't really taste like sweet tea to me. It's like a pecan-less deep-fried pecan pie with a graham cracker crust. It's enjoyable, but if you're a sweet tea junkie I think you may be a little let down. It's fun, tasty, crunchy, gooey, satisfying, it hits all the dessert parameters. But for me it wasn't a sweet tea experience, so I'll give it a three. It did not suck."

verdict 3

Deep-Fried Brisket

Deep-Fried Brisket

Photo: Robert Strickland

WHAT IS IT?: Frequent Big Tex Choice Award winner Abel Gonzales failed to win an award for this year's creation: 12-hour smoked brisket that's buttermilk battered and panko breaded before being fried and served with an onion ring, barbecue sauce, and pickles.

LUSCHER WEIGHS IN: "This is a good piece of protein — this tastes like real smoked brisket, period. Although I don't think it would pass the Aaron Franklin shimmy test, it's a little chewy. But it's a real honest piece of brisket, there's no soy protein, it wasn't injected with some type of enhancement. There's even a little smoke ring. That's Texas in a basket. There's a reason they call this guy the god here. You know the only thing it needs? Some ranch dressing."

verdict 4

Texas Fried Chicken in a Waffle Cone

Texas Fried Chicken in a Waffle Cone

Photo: Robert Strickland

WHAT IS IT?: This creation turns chicken and waffles on its head, filling a standard waffle cone with fried chicken tenders, sausage gravy and a mysterious "sweet surprise" at the bottom. Oh, what ever could it be?

LUSCHER WEIGHS IN: "Dried parsley makes it pretty. Aside from that, it's just cheap chicken fingers in a manufactured waffle cone with Sysco sausage gravy and even at a crappy Southern diner it would be not really great. But there's a secret surprise treat at the bottom to reward you for all the hard work and commitment! Oh my god, it's a malted f---ing milk ball. Covered in gravy. Mazel tov."

verdict 1

Redneck Nachos

Redneck Nachos

Photo: Robert Strickland

WHAT IS IT?: Pork rinds topped with "gourmet cheese" (you know, the kind that comes out of a pump bottle), chili, pico de gallo, and jalapenos.

LUSCHER WEIGHS IN: "I got a piece of fatty gristle with the first bite of pulled pork and that stopped me in my tracks. Then there's also the cloying sweetness from the barbecue sauce. I hope there's not a prize at the bottom of this one. This paper tray is filled with fear and regret. That was the equivalent of a carnie trying to get you sick on the Tilt-A-Whirl."

verdict 2

Photo: Robert Strickland

Fry Dog

Fry Dog

Photo: Robert Strickland

WHAT IS IT?: A hot dog on a stick is dipped in batter and rolled in french fries (!) before taking a dip in the deep-fryer. Now why the hell didn't we think of this? Served with a side of nacho cheese.

LUSCHER WEIGHS IN: "There's a lot of juice in this dog — or it's straight-up fryer grease running down my chin, one of the two. Pass on the nacho cheese. Go with mustard for the dog and ketchup for the fries, and an ice cold beer because it's piping hot. If it had been sitting under a heat lamp for 15 minutes, I'm not so sure, but fresh out of the fryer it's really great. It's a smart combination of two simple ingredients that screams America. Any kid of any age is gonna like this."

verdict 4

Photo: Robert Strickland

Funnel Cake Ale

Funnel Cake Ale

Photo: Robert Strickland

WHAT IS IT?: Concessionaire Justin Martinez joined forces with local brewer Community Beer Co. to create an "English style summer ale" said to be reminiscent of the perennial fair favorite, the classic funnel cake. This one snagged the Big Tex Choice Award for Most Creative.

LUSCHER WEIGHS IN: "The powdered sugar rim is a little disconcerting. I don't know if I'm really getting any funnel cake. It's just a good craft brew that would be tasty if you wanted a little bit of mild hops. It doesn't smack of funnel cake. Maybe they should've floated some fryer grease on top. Honestly, it's just good beer. Because you know what would suck? If it actually tasted like a funnel cake. Definitely don't sugar the rim though."

verdict 4

Fried Sriracha Balls

Fried Sriracha Balls

Photo: Robert Strickland

WHAT IS IT?: This Big Tex Choice Award finalist is more complicated than it sounds — after all, you can't just squirt rooster sauce into a deep-fryer. A mixture of shredded chicken, corn, green chilies, tomatoes and Sriracha sauce is rolled into balls, breaded with crushed tortilla strips and (duh) fried.

LUSCHER WEIGHS IN: "From the guy who brought you my all-time favorite fair food, chocolate-covered strawberry waffle balls, comes the sriracha ball. He's the king of balls. It smells like a chicken enchilada. You can definitely taste the green chilies. There's a little heat on the back end but I'm not catching too much spice. It's Sriracha-y, Sriracha-esque — this would satisfy you if you're a Sriracha junkie. If you bought the Sriracha t-shirt at Old Navy, this is probably for you. This guy knows what he's doing when working with balls."

verdict 4

Oh, and just in case you're looking for a little bit more State Fair guidance: Luscher never misses the Dippin Dots, says the Midway's water gun game is the easiest route to winning an enormous stuffed animal, and insists that the Oak Farms stand inside the food court offers one of the best deals at the fair — bottled sweet tea for a mere three coupons. Have fun out there, and don't forget the sunscreen (and maybe some Tums).

Brian Luscher State Fair

Photo: Robert Strickland

Will you be brave enough to try the Texas Fried Chicken in a Waffle Cone? What fair foods will you be sampling this year? Head on over to the Eater Dallas discussion forum and weigh in.

· All State Fair Coverage on Eater Dallas [EDFW]

· State Fair of Texas [Official]

[Corn dog image: Shutterstock]

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