It’s that time of year again—California’s Orange County Fair is on! Grab your chainsaw sculpture, vegetable of unusual size and/or very favorite pig and head on down to Costa Mesa (before August 14). And while you’re there, you might as well grab a bite (or 17).
1. French Toast Bacon Bombs from Bacon-A-Fair
Start your fair day with a bang, and a rough approximation of breakfast. These bombs are indeed pretty… bomb.
2. Bacon Wrapped Pork Belly from Biggy’s
I like how this is two preparations of the same cut of the same animal in one thing, but I love how this is two preparations of the same cut of the same animal in one thing AND THEN FRIED IN CORNDOG BATTER.
3. Chicken in a Waffle on a Stick from Chicken Charlie’s
Am I the only one who read that in the wacky-waving-inflatable-arm-flailing-tube-man-guy’s voice? All the fun of chicken and waffles, but on a stick! You lose some portability when you factor in the syrup, but that’s definitely a sacrifice worth making.
4. Bacon Wrapped Chicken Leg from Chicken Charlie’s
Just a bit of chicken and a bit of bacon. Dang good! Chicken Charlie’s is one of the more beloved vendors at the Orange County Fair. Loiter within earshot of his booth if, like me, you enjoy Finnish viking metal music.
5. Pineapple Bowls from Pineapple Express
Wait, fruit? In fair food? Weird. Might be good if you need to remind your stomach that normal food is still a thing.
6. Pepsi Cola Donut Dog from Bacon-A-Fair
Let’s get serious for a second. This is a solid dog to compete with Pink’s Hot Dogs. Salty-sweet is a common theme in fair food, if you haven’t noticed yet. I think is was my favorite example of that.
7. Daenerys Mother of Doggies from Pink’s Hot Dogs
Hey, that’s the name of that one chick from that one show or whatever. Also a dang good do. A good way to scratch your itch for spice while at the fair.
8. The Lord of the Rings Dog from Pink’s Hot Dogs
I mean, it’s not like onion rings and BBQ sauce on a Pink’s hot dog would NOT be good, right?
9. Top N’ Go Doritos from Chicken Charlie’s
You ever eat something that made you literally LOL? This comes in two flavors, Black Tide and Surf and Turf. Black Tide is topped with escargot and caviar. Surf and Turf is topped with steak and lobster. It sounds like something rich stoner kids would come up with when they’re trying to make a Frito-pie, but seriously, they are SO GOOD.
10. Pickle Fries from Pickle O’ Pete’s
Years ago, when I first heard of people frying pickles, my first thought was, “How does the batter stick?” Well, while I’m pretty sure Pickle O’ Pete’s method is a closely guarded trade secret, what I can tell you is that it works! Pickle O’ Pete’s is probably the best way to work veggies into your fair diet.
11. Deep Fried Nutella and Bacon Pickle from Pickle O’ Petes
Full disclosure: I liked this WAY more than I expected to. I’m not really a fan of Nutella (please don’t hate me), but when it’s heated up and paired with pickles and bacon, it works.
12. Pickled Cheese on a Stick from Pickle O’ Pete’s
Pickle-y cheese/cheesy pickle in corndog batter. Awesome. I think a major takeaway from my Orange County Fair experience this year is that I need more things fried in corndog batter in my life.
13. Bacon Cheddar Brat Burger fom Tasti Burger
It’s pretty hard to stand out in the burger market at a place like the Orange County Fair. Yet, year after year, Tasti Burger does just that. They’re pretty much the main thing that brings me to the fair time and time again. That, and being able walk around with a beer.
14. All American Reuben Burger from Tasti Burger
I love burgers. I love Reubens. I love the All American Reuben Burger.
I love lamp. That “All American” part is sort of redundant, but whatever.
15. Tasti Chips + toppings from Tasti Chips
How weird is it that the two places you find fried-to-order potato chips are the fair and high-end steak restaurants? These chips are some of the best I’ve had anywhere, and that’s even before I added toppings. This year, Tasti added classic cheddar bacon with garlic parmesan cheese to their already long list of toppings.
16. S’moreo Donut from Texas Donuts
Donuts basically the size of Texas itself. And, of course, toppings of melty fudge, marshmallow fluff, crumbled graham cracker and Oreos.
17. Deep Fried Butter from Fair Fix/Fried-A-Fair
Sure, you may hear people whispering about deep fried butter, or see it pop up on a listicle much like this one, or maybe you even know a guy who knows a guy who tried it once—but none of that prepares you for actually being confronted with it IRL. It looks innocuous enough, as you can see, but we all know what lies beneath that golden outside. But it’s actually really good! When done right, you never bite into solid butter, only melted butter or butter-soaked crust. Which, again, is really great.