Carnival food is a class unto itself. It’s not just junk food — it’s crazy junk food. It’s junk food so bizarre and unhealthy that every advertisement reads like a dare. Just when you thought that X couldn’t be dipped in Y, someone decides to try it. There’s a reason the Arizona State Fair offers to test your cholesterol for free, and that reason is fry bread covered in Thai chicken.
The food stalls at the Arizona State Fare are expensive, and there aren’t a lot of places to sit down, and almost everything available will give you indigestion. So why eat there? For the novelty, of course. You can find tastier tacos on any street corner, but funnel cake and strawberry lemonade are pure Americana. You wouldn’t dream of boarding the Wacky Worm or Pelican Splash without first loading up on poutine and a foot-long chili dog, because that’s what state fairs are famous for.
The displays are full of snacks, entrées, and desserts, and nearly all of them are smile-inducing — unless you happen to be a cardiologist. Here is a handful of favorites, items that you don't want to miss during your visit to the Arizona State Fair.
It doesn’t look pretty: The moment that white takeout box emerges from a mini-fridge, its insides are smeared with brown goo. The chunks are unrecognizable as bacon, looking more like thin, malformed candy bars. But there’s a lot to be said for combining savory and sweet flavors, and you don’t get more savory and sweet than fried pig and milk chocolate. This $8 snack isn’t an economical choice, since it tastes mostly of chocolate, but it’ll definitely fill you up — and give you a sugar rush you’ll have to experience to believe.
The deep-fried Twinkie is a state fair rite of passage, but that’s just the tip of the artery-clogging iceberg. You’ll also find fried Oreos, fried Snickers, fried red velvet cake, and fried pecan pie. How they manage to fry a banana split, we’ll never know. But the weightiest of these snacks if the deep-fried cheesecake, which looks like a wedge-shaped corndog. Finishing one of these desserts requires discipline, determination, and an iron-clad intestinal tract.
As every diner fan knows, the key to a decadent breakfast is pouring maple syrup over your bacon. Well, vendors at the State Fair have taken this alchemy one step further, by combining bacon and maple sugar on top of a doughnut. Naturally, the doughnut is the size of a small frisbee. This item is heavy and dense and every surface is glazed, so don’t forget a fork. And a few dozen napkins. And a defibrillator.
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The turkey leg is a staple at Renaissance Faires, where hungry guests can grope a massive bone covered in meat, just like their Dark Age forefathers. But the turkey leg also has become immensely popular at the Arizona State Fair, where they are grilled in the open air like a blanket of basted flesh. Note: Unlike your typical Thanksgiving turkey, the leg usually tastes like ham, and one order weighs about as much as a baseball bat. Vendors offer every variation of portable poultry, from “chicken dinner on a stick” to turkey legs wrapped in (what else?) bacon.
The jalapeño is such a point of Southwestern pride that the state should really just put it on the Arizona flag. Yes, jalapeños are spicy. Yes, these jalapeños are mummified in fried swine fat. Yes, the first bite will cause the jalapeño to squirt burning-hot cheese onto your chin and shirt. But the bacon-wrapped jalapeño is also delicious, a nice Tex-Mex addition. It’s decently spicy, but not so spicy that you’ll collapse in the dust and break into hives. The bacon adds some actual flavor, mixing nicely with the green fruit and liquid cheese. Best of all, it’s filling without causing ulcers. Two peppers are totally worth $7.
Bonus: Bacon-Wrapped Pork Belly
It was bound to happen eventually.
The Arizona State Fair is open Wednesday though Sunday until November 8. For more information, visit the Arizona State Fair website.