Many new foods are at the State Fair of Texas, with many great options locked out of the Big Tex Choice Awards. Ahead of opening day, we did a taste test to find the hacks to make your order the best, when to eat them, and what to skip.
Deep Fried Birria Bomb
The photo doesn’t do this bite justice. You can’t see all the ooey-gooey deliciousness inside. It’s stuffed with birria, Oaxaca cheese, and mashed potatoes, drizzled with poblano ranch dressing, and served with a consomme and fresh guacamole. It’s classic fair food, and here’s a pro tip: a creamy, spicy salsa is available that adds an extra kick.
Fried Cacio e Pepe
It’s Eataly’s debut year at the Fair, and its entry is fried cacio e pepe — not deep fried. It uses flour, egg wash, and bread crumbs for the batter, so it’s delicate. The ingredients are obviously of a higher quality than most concessionaires. The chef who created it explained that it’s built to appeal to Texans but is still traditionally Italian because pressing leftover pasta with cheese for dishes like frittata di spaghetti. Save this for the end of your day before you leave or for a cooler day. It’s a heavy bite full of rich flavors that might slow you down.
Deep Fried Vietnamese Coffee
It’s from Michelle Le, Big Tex Choice Awards savory winner deep fried pho. She tells Eater Dallas that her pho has gotten so much attention few have tried the deep fried Vietnamese coffee. It’s strong and almost tastes like a brownie. Her batter’s rough texture differs from most, and the dolce de leche creme drizzle makes this a lovely, sweet bite.
Strawberry Cream Sando
It’s also Sandoitchi’s debut year at the fair, and for those unfamiliar with this trend, these sandwiches have been hits on TikTok — and look gorgeous as you eat. Expect a bite of dessert lighter than the typical offerings. The pillowy soft milk bread is heavenly, the cream is more delicate than cream cheese, and the strawberries are the star.
Strawberry Shortcake Sopapillas
Speaking of strawberries, Cody and Lauren Hays, the team behind this year’s Big Tex Awards creative winner for banana bourbon caramel sopapillas, also introduce what they call a “sopapilla factory.” One option is this strawberry shortcake sopapilla. They are about high-quality ingredients, and you get a massive serving for two to four people.
Deep Fried Sushi Bombs
The TikTok famous sushi bake gets deep fried in a crust. It was created by Greg Parish and inspired by his niece — and it’s part of a trend at the fair to embrace food trends on social media. No raw fish is involved. They layered sushi rice, imitation crab meat, and salmon to bake. It’s rolled in Panko and deep fried. Dip it in the house-made yum yum sauce and a dollop of wasabi, which brings out the flavor with just a drop of the eel sauce because a little goes a long way.
Fruity Pebble Pickle
This is as wild as it gets. You will either love it or hate it. The chef behind it, Heather J. Perkins of the Candy Pickle Factory, tells Eater Dallas that combining Fruity Pebbles and a pickle came to her because she liked the cereal’s smell. She experimented and realized that wrapping a strawberry fruit roll-up around it, drizzled with sugar syrup, would make them all stick best. If you feel curious or excited about this, try it. If you aren’t, stay far away.
Creole Etouffee Beignets
This is another wild one. It sounds like a bad idea on paper, but surprisingly pleasant. The etouffee and sausage are mild enough not to overpower the bite. The beignet covering resembles a typical fair deep fry batter, and the powdered sugar is the prominent flavor. Unclear if this will have that nostalgic appeal for those not acquainted with Creole and Cajun food already, but it’s quite a novel bite for those who are.
This bowl is another end-of-day item because it all sticks with you. The fried chicken adds a nice texture but doesn’t add to the flavor. The winning combo is the brisket, candied bacon, and brown sugar chipotle sauce trio. The slice of Louisiana sausage that garnishes the side is perfection. Our only complaint about the mac is that the cheese could be a little heartier.
Fairgoers may remember this as a Big Tex Choice Award finalist last year. It’s back with a boatload of options, including fajita beef and chicken, seafood, chopped brisket, and portobello mushrooms. Here’s the move: ask for the Hatch chile queso on whatever you order. It’s much creamier, thicker, and better quality than the regular melted cheese. The massive servings can easily be shared with four or more people. For vegans and vegetarians, they are frying tortilla chips in a separate vat that isn’t mixed with the chicharrones and good vegan cheese. Get that with the portobello mushrooms for a filling fair meal.
If you love deep fried Oreos, give them a break this year and try this dish. It’s essentially the same flavor profile. The traditional cinnamon and sugar in churros is here but hardly comes through, so it carries the flavor of the deep fry batter. The Oreos are deconstructed into crumbs and drizzled with chocolate syrup and cream cheese icing.
Cotton Candy Margarita
This sweet drink uses an agave-based wine. Surprisingly, the main ingredient is cream soda. The team working on it wanted to capture the flavor of cotton candy and went through a lot of taste-testing to land it. When we tried it, we noticed the cotton candy melted into the drink, and we recommend letting that happen.