Every August, the talk of the town (my hometown, Syracuse, to be specific) is always the Great New York State Fair. And this year, the talk is mostly about how multiple food vendors had pulled out.
This made me a little nervous at first, but it turns out that this was mainly referring to Dinosaur BBQ, Gianelli Sausage, and Tully’s (a sports bar chain famous for its chicken tenders). Maybe these are big draws for people coming in from out of town, but the first and last ones have stand-alone restaurants I can go to year round, and I can buy Gianelli sausage in just about any grocery store around here, so I personally don’t really associate any of these with the Fair.
So when I later heard that a.) many of the still-existing stands were trying out new things, b.) attendance was way down this year (for incredibly obvious reasons), thus eliminating any long lines to discourage me, and c.) admission fees are only $3 everyday (as opposed to $10 most days with occasional $1 days), I figured surely this must be the year to go, right?
Unfortunately, my plans for a perfect day at the fair didn’t go quite as I was expecting. Mainly, the only day I had free time to go happened to also be nearly 100 degrees. Even after skipping the grogginess-inducing wine slushies, that’s just not ideal overeating-then-walking-it-off weather. My sister complaining the whole time that she couldn’t find a place that did fried cheese curds (like….. just get fried anything else girl what are you doing) didn’t do much to improve the enjoyability of the day. A couple of stands, such as one doing fried gator mac & cheese and one that I’ll mention later, didn’t have the things that I had read online that they were doing, further throwing my plans out of sync. Ultimately, I was only able to stomach 3 different stands over the course of about 2 hours before calling it quits.
The good news is I didn’t get sunburnt this year. Thank you, bottle of sunscreen that’s 3 years past its expiration date but still worked somehow. Also, there’s whatever the fuck is going on in that butter sculpture.
Fried Cauliflower with Thai Chili Sauce (Veggie Patch)- $8
Holy shit- a vegetable! It’s still fried, of course, but it IS vegetables. The batter is crisp and doesn’t break apart or fall off the cauliflower, the cauliflower itself is cooked through while still being toothsome, and the Thai chili sauce (while still being that sorta generic, Mae Ploy style sauce that’s sweeter than it is anything else) does work really well with the cauliflower. It’s simple, but it’s good. And, having been cooked to order, was probably the freshest thing I ate all day.
Philly Cheesesteak Fries (Big Kahuna)- $12
One of my favorite things from my 2019 trip to the Fair was the Caramel Crack Fries, and I was keen to try their hotter counterpart, the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos Fries. Unfortunately, they had to simplify their menu a little this year, removing both of those, but they did have this spiritual successor.
The beef is a sickly grey and a little underseasoned when eaten alone, and many of the fries, while still cooked through, are a little on the pale and limp side. This is not really the end of the world, though, since fries with this much wetness on them weren’t going to stay crisp for long anyways. (Also, this is neither here nor there, but this year they’ve gone with a crinkle-cut as opposed to 2019’s straight-cut) The cheese sauce is yellow goo from a can (the cans were proudly stacked up by the register), which- you know what? Is how the cheese on a cheesesteak SHOULD BE. The peppers and onions have been cooked down almost to the point of mush, but still taste like peppers and onions. Everything, when eaten together, tastes good, it’s just a little hard to look at. the fact they put it in a dog food bowl doesn’t help. And I can’t help but feel like it was this giant bowl of slop that killed my appetite for other, potentially more interesting, offerings.
Chicken and Waffles- (Oh My Darling + Luna Loca)- $12
I’m doing my best (and, in my opinion, succeeding) to ignore my previous disdain for stands at the fair that are just simplified versions of local restaurants that you can eat at anytime when judging this collab between 2 somewhat trendy downtown restaurants that I’ve never been to (because I don’t know where to park, ok?). Slightly more worthy of judgement, however, is the fact that it was ready mere seconds after I ordered it, cluing me into the fact that these are not being made fresh.
Is that even that big of a deal, though? The chicken wasn’t as dry inside as I would’ve expected from something that had been sitting inside a hot box for who knows how long. The breading was still somewhat crisp, and was well seasoned, including some kind of spice that wasn’t present upfront but lingered on the palate. The waffle was very crisp, and had an incredible, unique crumb on the inside (Maybe from a yeasted batter of some sort? I don’t really know enough about baking to say for sure.), but was also very dry. The icing drizzle over the top mostly clung to the chicken, providing no relief for the dry waffle.
If it had been made fresh, it would have easily been the best of the 3 things I had that day. But I personally feel that part of the appeal of eating fried garbage is watching it emerge from the fryer, glistening with grease and obliterating your mouth upon your first bite. If nothing else, it was good enough for me to want to try their stand-alone restaurants (as soon as I figure out where to park).
Final Verdict: It’s hard to say if there’s any real big showstoppers this year, but I don’t think I can say it’s gone downhill at all either. If you want fried food but typically don’t like pay the $10 admission fee or dealing with crowds, it’s worth going this year if you’re vaccinated. And if you aren’t? I think they’re giving out shots at the fair, actually. So go kill 2 birds with 1 stone and get vaccinated already dude wft.
2 thoughts on “The New York State Fair Easily Has Some of the Fried Food I’ve Ever Had”
On first look I thought the butter sculpture was skeleton children sitting at school desks and that didn’t seem weird to me anymore. Uhhhhh.
Unfortunately I didn’t have the patience to wait for it to spin around again to photograph the best part: a sign behind that kid saying “EAT SLEEP GAME REPEAT”
Also, the Fair wouldn’t have the guts to promote equal education for skeleton children in the butter sculptures.