The Texas State Fair: Specializing in Fried Crap, 125 Years and Counting

Categories: Texas Traveler

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Fried sauerkraut balls: a State Fair food that actually makes sense.
This year marks the 125th anniversary of the Texas State Fair, held every fall in Dallas at the wonderfully art deco Fair Park. I honestly had no idea until I went to the fair late last week, however. You'd think there'd be some more momentous foodstuffs to mark the occasion.

Alas, the biggest news this year was fried beer. Served with nacho cheese. O Texas, our Texas...

To be fair (no pun intended), fried beer has more or less been the Holy Grail of Texas State Fair food since the fair started giving out Big Tex Choice Awards in 2005. Texans -- especially those in attendance at the yearly State Fair -- love beer and love fried crap, so finding a way to combine the two has been on every competitive food vendor's brain for the past seven years.

The first tough little pellets of "fried beer" showed up at the State Fair last year, where the Dallas Observer's Alice Laussade documented the judges' disgusted reactions to the lager-filled ravioli in "Okay, Who Put Food In My Beer?":

The Dallas Observer's own food critic, Hanna Raskin, takes advantage of the opportunity to try a free fried beer with the same eagerness I had. She bites in and warm beer spews all over Maki's judging table. It's a beautiful fried-beer spit take, complete with bitter-fried-beer face. It reminds me of that fair vomming scene in Stand By Me, only it's fried beer barf-o-rama instead of blueberry pies.

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The photo is blurry because fried beer projects a haze of warm, fat-saturated alcohol.
Laussade, who was nominated for a James Beard Award for the article, told me all about the endless struggle to create a tasty fried beer over breakfast this past weekend at the oddly Austin-like All Good Cafe in Deep Ellum.

"You know, those guys are actually using molecular gastronomy," she said of the food vendors who labor to create the endless permutations of deep-fried insanity each year. The key, she explained, is finding a way to keep the beer cold at the same time as its wrapper is deep-fried. That's something that no one has yet figured out, however.

Scott Reitz, the three-months-new food critic for the Observer, was with us at breakfast. But unlike the two of us, he hadn't tasted the fried beer at the fair yet.

"Is it good?" he asked.

"No," we both replied emphatically, at the same time. "It's a pocket of shitty, warm beer," I followed. "And it squirts everywhere when you eat it." I explained the embarrassment of trying to prevent my 87-year-old grandmother from getting fried beer all over herself at the fair earlier that week.

"See?" said Laussade. "No one wants to moneyshot their grandmother."

Perhaps the worst sin that the fried beer committed, however, was being served with a side of pump-action nacho cheese, a shade best described as "Toxic Aveng-orage." But that's not to say that all of the fried food was bad.



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10 comments
Christopher KrisKrunk Folmer
Christopher KrisKrunk Folmer

Were you able to try Fried Pineapple Upside Down Cake ,El Bananarito, Fried Autumn Pie or the Walking Taco?? My friend told me about these and sounds pretty good!

big red
big red

Come on, nothing says Texas more than the fried moon pies. And the fried bread pudding was actually quite good. Now if only my cholesterol level would come down from the roof.

Ali
Ali

I would eat anything fried. It gives my arteries a case of the sads but man, my mouth loves it so much. The crunchier the better.

Early Cuyler
Early Cuyler

I am pretty sure a couple of years ago one of the new items being touted was fried butter.  Now that's just messed up, even for Texas.

Alice Laussade
Alice Laussade

Have to say I'd call out fried bubblegum and fried biscuits and gravy as "the biggest news" from the fair this year. Fried beer is so 2010, y'all.

ShitThrowingMonkey
ShitThrowingMonkey

The LaBarge DuLac coffee shop had fried kolaches last time I went there.  Serious business indeed.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

To be quite honest, I only had a few fried foods before I hit upon the fried watermelon. It was so bad, and left such a weird aftertaste, that I was done for the day after that. I just didn't want to eat anything else.

Alice Laussade
Alice Laussade

Abel won a Big Tex Choice Award for fried butter in 2009. Fried butter's awesomely ridiculous. Have to say I really wanted to hate it, but the garlic butter was like a perfect little garlic bread ball.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

We're roughly one year behind in State Fair trends down here. I blame the traffic on I-45.

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