In fairness to fair food, we made you this way.

The culinary spectacle that is the North Carolina State Fair is sure to fulfill even the wildest deep-fried fantasies. Fatty and fried, salty and crisp, not to mention stuffed, all can be found in the corridors of vendors at the fair.

On Monday, fair organizers held the annual media tasting of new fair foods. For the News & Observer to assess this very specific category of eating, foods have been ranked on taste, texture and how they rate on the "Fair-ometer," a just-now made-up metric that measures Fair-ocity, or the creative spirit of fair food.

Before we dive into the list, this year's most adventurous creation, the Red Velvet Cheese Enchilada Funnel Cake was a disappointing no-show.

Here's our rankings from Best to "No, thanks."

1. The Chickenator by Chef's D'Lites

The Chickenator

Chef’s D’Lites

Golden fried chicken breast nestled in a cinnamon bun, topped with pepper jack cheese and crispy bacon, drizzled with a zesty honey sauce.

Doughnuts as a bun? How quaint, says The Chickenator, a fried chicken sandwich, topped with pepper jack cheese, a spicy sauce and bacon, lovingly yet firmly caressed by two cinnamon rolls. In the sweet and savory dance of this sandwich, the heat of the pepper jack cheese is the note that keeps it from swinging too far one way or the other.

2. Roasted Pumpkin Spice Corn by Douglas Farms

Roasted Pumpkin Spice Corn

Douglas Farms

Roasted corn dipped in butter, rolled in brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice.

This one's for the pumpkin spice haters out there. Somehow corn on the cob, on a stick, rolled in sweet butter and sprinkled with brown sugar and pumpkin pie spices is not an abomination. One nameless reporter was compelled to dance.

3. Pineapple Dole Whip by Tropical Delights

Pineapple Dole Whip

Tropical Delights

Our Pineapple Dole Whip is a soft serve dairy-free frozen dessert made with exclusively vegan ingredients and is gluten free. This smooth, tropical treat is the original Dole soft serve flavor craved around the world.

This sweet phenomenon has finally made it to the fair and delivers a brightness that cuts through everything else like a ray of sunshine through a deep fried fog. This dessert was the winner of the Media Preview event.

4. Campfire on a Stick by Hot Chix Hotcakes & Chicken

Campfire on a Stick

Hot Chix Hotcakes and Chicken

Mini pancakes layered with toasted marshmallows covered in chocolate with a graham cracker topping.

All the satisfaction of a S'mores, but your clothes won't smell like smoke. This stack of mini pancakes and soft marshmallow is drizzled with chocolate sauce and graham cracker crumbs.

5. Pimento Cheese Crab Balls by Waypoint Oyster Bar

Pimento Cheese Crab Balls

Waypoint Oyster Bar

Pimento cheese stuffed crab ball.

Generous on the crab and oozing with full-on molten pimento cheese, these crab balls reach the very pinnacle of the fried arts.

6. Stuffed Cubano Baguette by La Farm Bakery

Since this comes from La Farm Bakery, maybe there should be a separate category for fancy fair food. But fancy or not, La Farm embraced the spirit of the fair and stuffed a solid Cuban sandwich inside a perfect baguette.

7. Loaded Lamb Nachos by Neomonde

Loaded Lamb Nachos


Shawarma spiced ground lamb simmered with onions on a bed of Neomonde Baking pita chips and topped with fresh pico, feta cheese and harissa yogurt sauce.

Using sturdy pita chips, this refreshing take on nachos won't make you miss the guacamole.

8 Crack-n-Cheese Stuffed Turkey Leg by Hickory Tree BBQ

Crack-n-Cheese® Stuffed Turkey Leg

Hickory Tree BBQ

Crack-n-Cheese® stuffed into a fall-off-the-bone smoked turkey leg . Crack-n-Cheese® consists of hickory smoked turkey bbq, homemade mac & cheese and our signature sauce topped with turkey cracklins.

Smoked turkey legs are a dime a dozen at the State Fair, but one happens to be stuffed with mac and cheese, barbecue sauce and turkey cracklings. Think of this turkey leg as a bread bowl.

9. Korean BBQ Pork Belly Eggroll by Woody's Wing Wagon

Tangy and sweet, this eggroll triumphs where other creative eggrolls have fallen short. (Looking at you Thanksgiving Dinner and Shrimp and Grits).

10. Candied Apple Hushpuppy by Ragin Cajun/Pumpkin Spice Hushpuppy by Old North State Kitchen

Candied Apple Hushpuppy with Cheerwine Sugar Glaze

Ragin Cajun

Hushpuppy with chunky cinnamon apple sauce, cinnamon and Cheerwine with a Cheerwine and powdered sugar glaze.

Pumpkin Spice Hushpuppy with Pumpkin Spice Glaze

Old North State Kitchen

Hushpuppy with pureed pumpkin and spices served with a drizzle of pumpkin spice sugar glaze.

Glazed with a Cheerwine or pumpkin spice icing, these hard fried fritters are light and sweet without being cloying.

11. Garlic Cheese Curds by The Cheese Curd Shack

Deep Fried Garlic Cheese Curds

The Cheese Curd Shack

Deep fried garlic cheese curds: if you love garlic bread, you’ll love these.

Deep fried balls of cheese aren't any kind of breakthrough, but do you know what's great? Deep fried balls of cheese.

12. Jerk Chicken Rice Bowl by Cool Runnings Jamaican

Jerk Chicken Rice Bowl

Cool Runnings Jamaican

Jerk chicken served in a bowl with rice, peas, plantains, mango salsa.

From last year's media day winner, a rice bowl of warmly flavored jerk chicken with mango salsa.

13. Sloppy Mac Tater Skins by Chester's Gator's & Taters

Sloppy Mac Tater Skins

Chester’s Gators and Taters

Loaded sloppy joe mac & cheese potato skins topped with bacon, jalapenos and ranch.

For something with the word "Sloppy" in the name, these are surprisingly well structured. The Fair-ometer appreciates anything that uses mac and cheese as a condiment.

14. Party Under the Sea by Party in a Pita

Party Under the Sea

Party in a Pita

Delicious fried flounder served in a crispy pita bowl with fresh salad, topped with zesty taratour dressing – add fries for extra fun.

This flavorful fried flounder on pita bread is a refreshing addition to the fair's seafood offerings. It's less of a party and more of a night in watching Netflix, but those are still good nights.

15. Deep -Fried Olives by Old Style Foods #1

Salt and crunch served on a stick, holding hands with their good friend Ranch.

16. Cookie Dough Milkshake by Old Style Foods #2

Fans of cookie dough will find a familiar favorite. Fair-miliar?

17. Reeses Donut by F&W Concessions

Reeses Donut

F&W Concessions

Hand-cut yeast raised donut covered in creamy chocolate frosting, topped with chopped peanuts, chunks of Reeses peanut butter cups and sprinkled with mini reeses pieces. Can be topped with delicious soft serve ice cream and hot fudge.

A fine doughnut in the spirit of something you might find at Krispy Kreme. At the fair they can be served with ice cream and hot fudge, which the Fair-ometer likes.

18. The JoCo HoHo by Fat Boys BBQ

JoCo HoHo

Fat Boys BBQ

North Carolina jalapeno stuffed with cheese and brisket, wrapped and deep fried, served on a stick.

This on-a-stick entry will appeal to lovers of the venerable jalapeno popper. The JoCo HoHo is well fried, but bites can be inconsistent, mostly filled with cheese and occasional brisket. But what a name!

19. Baketo Pizza Pie by Baguettaboutit

Baketo Pizza Pie

Vendor: Baguettaboutit

Keto-friendly meat crust 6-inch personal size pizza pies with only 5 carbs! Topped with mozzarella, pepperoni, green olives, avocado & pizza sauce.

For those on the Keto diet, this pizza has a crust made of meat, but the pepperoni is the star.

20. The Sloppy Pig by Bubba's Bacon

The Sloppy Pig

Bubba's Bacon

A sloppy joe like you've never seen before! Texas Toas smothered in our sloppy joe mix and covered in cheese sauce. We've topped this one with our signature bacon crumbles because everything's better with bacon!

Big points on the Fair-ometer here, for stacking buttery Texas Toast and covering it with sloppy Joe meat, queso sauce and a whole lot of bacon. But this is a structural nightmare that brings together three beloved things, but doesn't improve upon them.

21. Fried Rum Balls by Gobblin' Gourmet

Fried Rum Runners

Gobblin’ Gourmet

Rum Balls (a medley of ingredients including coconut & rum), surrounded by a pastry batter, deep fried and served with rum flavored dip. No alcohol content after frying, only flavor.

A nicely fried doughnut-like pastry gives way to a surprisingly dense filling of coconut, nuts and pastry and a potentially too-subtle flavor of rum.


(c)2019 The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

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