If you haven't given much thought to state fairs since the days where you could slam down multiple chili cheese dogs and funnel cakes with zero remorse, we get it. But with the Great New York State Fair kicking off August 22, it's as good a time as any for a gentle reminder of what you've been missing since then. Here, we round out our list of 13 not-to-be-missed indulgences at this year's fair.
Fried Specialties honcho Jim Hasbrouck is something of a mad scientist when it comes to the deep fryer, and every summer he unleashes a new deliciously unholy concoction of fried goodness on New York State Fair revelers. This year, the man that brought us The Defribulator and The Harvester (see below) serves up an entire breakfast—that's sausage, bacon, ham, hash browns, cheese, eggs and French toast, all wrapped in a cinnamon bun and (of course) deep fried.
The Wine Slushy
You love wine, but let's face it: a lukewarm cabernet sounds less than appealing once the thermostat careens above 90. The ingenious solution? Turn your go-to cocktail into a slushy. With a little help from an award-winning Finger Lakes winery, this refreshing sipper blends red and white wines together with lemon-lime soda. At about the alcoholic intake of a beer, it's a creative way to beat the heat.
What began out of an inconspicuous 55-gallon drum at biker pit stops is now widely considered one of the country's best barbecue joints. Whether you're a diehard fan or are just catching onto the craze now, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que has earned its reputation thanks to its lovingly old school methods. Head on over to their booth for meticulously cooked meats, slathered in signature sauces that will have you seeing stars.
Deep-Fried Matzo Balls
Jewish delis and New York are an iconic pairing that need no introduction. Still, for as legendary as this coupling is, kosher fare has been notably neglected from state fair menus. That is, until 2017. The arrival of The Oaks at Menorah Park means the fair got its first certified kosher stand. Despite the strict standards, that doesn't mean you can't expect a little fun. Think deep-fried matzo balls, blintzes, knishes, and other beloved favorites.
The Donut Dog
Everybody loves hot dogs. Everybody loves donuts. But does everybody love them together? Well, the answer seems to be a resounding yes, if the Big Kahuna Donut Dog offers us any clues. Featuring a dog wrapped in bacon, with a long john donut for a bun, the pairing is alarmingly perfect. A little sweet. A little salty. And potentially eyebrow-raising as a meal anywhere outside of the Great State Fair.
The Food Trucks
Gone are the days when food trucks stood in for a quick, mediocre meal on the go. In a nod to the next generation of chefs overturning the meals-on-wheels industry, this year's Fair again includes a competition among more than 30 trucks from across the state. For a nominal $3, samples will be on hand at each truck. You'll even have a hand in voting for the crowd favorite. Still, we predict the real winner in this competition would be you, assuming you don't fill up before you make it to every truck.
The Butter Sculpture
We would never recommend eating an artfully carved mountain of butter—mostly because we think it tastes better in the form of deep-fried Oreos (see below). The truth is, this item on our list isn't technically edible, but it's certainly one of the more unusual food feats at the fair. Per tradition, head to the dairy building for the unveiling of an elaborate mound of butter carved into well, just about anything. Past themes have highlighted baseball legends, nursery rhymes, and snapshots of everyday American life.
You can think of the Taste NY building as the gigantic, walk-through goodie bag after the party. Taste free samples from hundreds of mom and pop businesses, local wineries, distilleries, and breweries, and artisanal brands from around the state. Then after you've made your rounds, bring your favorites home, or pack em' up as gifts. This year, the Taste NY experience at the Fair has expanded, and the Taste NY Market and Store are under the same roof—so you can stock up on New York goodies all in one place. From homemade cheese and olive oils to organic and gluten-free truffles, you'll quickly find that tasting New York=loving New York.
We don't know who first had the idea to take an already decadent cookie and make it even more indulgent, but we're not complaining. A staple of the Great State Fair, the deep-fried Oreo doesn't need much by way of explanation. Still, we'll mention that if you like variety when it comes to deep-fried treats, you're in luck—the folks at Fried Specialties could probably deep-fry a couch and make it tasty. Better options: deep-fried pickles, cheese curds, Pop Tarts, and Snickers bars wrapped in bacon (!).
There's always one in every group who'd happily skip dessert for a second entree. This one is for you. Meet the meat sundae: a filling, savory nod to America's favorite dessert. With layers of mashed potatoes, finely carved roast beef, sour cream, and cheddar cheese, you could easily mistake it for a slice of something sweet. There's even a cherry on top. A cherry tomato that is. Who said you can't have your (meat) cake and eat it too?
Vegan Chicken Wings
For vegans, state fairs have long been shunned as food deserts. With the opening of the popular Strong Hearts Cafe, that all changed. Strong Hearts offers the obvious healthy contenders, including hearty salads and smoothies. For the strictly plant-based foodie looking to let loose, they're also serving up deep-fried vegan chicken wings and vegan milkshakes.
You come to a state fair as much to eat the food as you do to say you ate the food. Well, consider this your first stop to adventurous-eater bragging rights. At the Carr's Cove booth, snag a sample of deep-fried gator. You don't have to tell your friends that it (rather unceremoniously) tastes like chicken. If you're really feeling bold, order the kangaroo, which is also available in taste-tester portions.
New York Harvester
Brace yourself: You might need an antacid just reading about this sandwich. Rounding out around 2 lbs., this addition to the Great State Fair can be likened to a deep-fried Thanksgiving extravaganza. Stacked between two sourdough slices you'll find deep-fried turkey, deep-fried mashed potatoes, deep-fried stuffing, and deep-fried bacon. Oh, and there's also cheese and cranberry sauce in case you were worried about being shortchanged. Every ingredient is local to the state, and might just be the best proof yet of New York's go-big-or-go-home attitude.
Find even more food & drink here!