There’s always much fanfare around these awards, with the fair releasing a list of more than 30 semifinalists in July, then whittling it down to 10 finalists in August and finally awarding the crowning three after a ticketed live tasting event featuring celebrity judges.
Lines are typically long at vendors with winning and semifinalist foods. And prices are also typically high.
We stood in line and tried all three of this year’s winning dishes so you don’t waste your time or coupons at your State Fair of Texas visit.
Ruth’s Stuffed Fried Taco ConeThe winner of “best tasting - savory” is deserving of the award. Ruth’s stuffed fried taco cone (18 coupons or $9) is essentially a barbacoa burrito in ice cream cone form. The cone is a corn tortilla shell, and it’s filled with slow-cooked barbacoa, black beans and cilantro-lime rice. It’s topped with pico de gallo, queso fresco, salsa verde and a lime wedge. They also have a toppings bar at the stand where you can add additional flavors.
The meat is rich and plentiful, and the cone format makes for a portable, though messy, eating experience. It’s also a very good value — relatively — for a Big Tex Choice Award winner at under $10.
Fla’Mango TangoWinner of most creative, the fla’mango tango (25 coupons or $12.50), incorporates two desserts into one. You get a scoop of strawberry-mango sorbet alongside a hand pie stuffed with bits of mango and topped with whipped cream. Though you get two elements, the two parts of the dish are incongruous: The sorbet does not add to the mango hand pie.
And we wish the hand pie had more mango in it — the one we sampled was 80% pie crust. We’re also confused as to why this was awarded “most creative.” As our companion noted, the plastic flamingo stuck into the whipped cream was the most creative part of this dish.
Big Red Chicken BreadThey made a bold choice, choosing the Big Red chicken bread (17 coupons or $8.50) as “best tasting - sweet" this year because half of the dish — the fried chicken wing — is not sweet at all.
This dish is a play on chicken and waffles, with a Big Red-glazed cake doughnut taking the place of waffles. The doughnut is aggressively sweet, so make sure each bite you take includes some chicken to balance out the flavors. The doughnut is also a strange texture, wet and spongy, which is slightly off putting if you eat it on its own. The chicken wing on top is well-fried, though ours was underseasoned.
Like Ruth’s stuffed fried taco cone, this is an unusually inexpensive Big Tex Choice Award winner at $8.50.
We think it would’ve made sense to swap the “best tasting - sweet” and “most creative” award winners, as we found the Big Red chicken bread to be a more inventive dish than the fla’mango tango.
The State Fair of Texas continues through Oct. 20.