State Fair of Texas

The Essential Tasting Guide to the State Fair of Texas

With all these options, it's best to have a plan.
With all these options, it's best to have a plan. Kathy Tran
Each year Big Tex and his cronies work hard to make sure we ingest as many calories as possible while visiting the State Fair of Texas. Here's a guide we put together to make their hard work pay off and to ensure your visit is productively indulgent.

You could just load up the wagon and take the family or friends any time through Oct. 23. But with a bit of strategy, you can get more out of your time and effort. Think of this as a draft guide. A tip sheet. A big ol' friendly howdy.

Here are seven ways to make the most of your visit to the Texas State Fair this year.

Fletcher's Original Corny Dogs, Friday Freebies

Fletcher's Original Corny Dogs is celebrating its 80th anniversary at the fair by giving away 80 corny dogs to the first 80 customers in line every Friday (starting opening day) for the duration of the fair at each of its seven stands around the fairgrounds. While the stand in the shadows of Big Tex is great for your Instagram feed, it's also the busiest, so head to one of the others. Here's a map of all the stands; we're imagining a black Friday-like sprint to these stands when the gates open. Make us proud, Dallas. Tag us with that footage.  
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The award-winning creation, Peanut Butter Paradise, can be found on the Big Tex Choice Awards Map.
Kathy Tran

The Big Tex Choice Awards Map

The folks at the fair are great at making maps. There are several that will allow you to make the most of your steps, time and dollars. Most important is the Big Tex Choice Awards Map: the Michelin Guide of fried fair food, as we like to say.

This map showcases the top 10 winners of the fair's annual fried food competition that takes place before the fair starts. The map has a photo of each of the top 10 nominees and then the winners for Best Taste Savory, Best Taste Sweet and Most Creative. Most of these concessionaires are in the Tower Building food court, but the Best Taste Sweet is off by itself, so, see? Make sure you look at the map. Also, several of the top 10 winners have multiple locations around the fairgrounds. Be the Map.

New Foods Map

We also need to show love to the new concessionaires each year. There's a different map for these. The New Foods Map has 41 fresh fried foods including a burnt red chamoy pickle that makes our jaws clinch and mouth salivate just looking at it. There's a Fat Elvis Biscuit, Fernie's Funnel Cake Chicken Sandwich, pickle pizza and a deep-fried praline cheesecake egg roll. 
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The food court in the Tower Building is a fried food paradise.
Kathy Tran

Thrifty Thursdays Map

Call in sick on a Thursday and head to the fair for a whole fryer of deals. There are more than 85 items on the Thrifty Thursdays Map. Some concessionaires offer smaller sizes of their creations, so you just don't have to buy as much. Coupons are $1 each, and there are a lot of options for just four coupons like a mini funnel cake at Granny's, the Fried Thanksgiving Dinner Ball at Trio on the Green and a crawfish boudin ball from Bayou Kitchen. A fresh pineapple whip cone is just three coupons, as is a Fried Twinkie from Katie's Cafe. We'd eat all that and spend less than $20.

Fair Food Favs Map

Finally, if you're a purist — like you still have cable or a landline — then you can use the Fair Favorites Food Map to help you find turkey legs, funnel cakes and corn dogs for days.

Rainy Days

Fried food just tastes better in the rain, right? Ha, like we'd know. If it does rain during the 24 days of the fair, just dress appropriately and go. The vendors are there rain or shine — they literally have to be open. It's fried food law. Not only will there not be any long lines (except inside the Tower Building), the vendors will treat you like royalty because, as we learned on A&E's Deep Fried Fantasy, every day and every hour counts for vendors to make money, or even break even. Now, imagine if it rains on a Thursday. Cha. Ching.

Bring Your Own Drinks

You can bring a cooler to the fair, so pack drinks and save money for food. Coolers will be searched upon entry, and no alcohol, glass containers or metal knives or forks are permitted. Otherwise, just slip a drink or two in your bag and eat more fried Twinkies. 
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Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.

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