Review: New foods at N.C. State Fair offer a change of pace
Each year, new and returning vendors alike come to the N.C. State Fair with a lineup of new foods to add to its ever-growing roster and rival the classics.
The fair boasts 48 new foods this year, including options from returning vendors.
“I've been doing the corn and stuff up here for 23 years,” Grover Douglasof Douglas Farms, said. “My son and daughter-in-law, they came up with the idea of these candy grapes. And we started it this year, and it's really been a big hit. People have really enjoyed it.”
Other new foods from this year include an assortment of nontraditional flavor pairings, ranging from fried caramel apple cow tail to bacon berry cookie dough on a stick. Many featured a blend of savory and sweet flavors with unconventional ingredient pairings.
Of course, fairground staples like deep-fried Oreos, funnel cake, turkey legs and lemonade continue to excite fairgoers.
“I’m at the fair, so I don't want plain fries — I want fries like this,” Pudding, a fairgoer holding a carton of fries piled high with chicken and seasoning, said.
Fans of the fair may find themselves struggling to decide between the classics and new products.
“There's a lot of new things to try that I can't really figure out what I want to try. There's so many options,“ Alli Martinez, a longtime fairgoer, said.
Here is our side-by-side comparison of new foods versus classics, rated by quality, tastiness and affordability.
To Drink: Strawberry Cheesecake Slush vs. Lemonade
The strawberry cheesecake slush is a refreshing addition to the fair. It has a subtle strawberry flavor, paired well with a New York-style cheesecake drenched in a bright red slushie. This drink is an excellent palate cleanser, but for the steep price of $15, cannot beat the addicting, tart lemonade’s value of around $8.
For a Snack: Dill Pickle Donut vs. Funnel Cake
Despite its head-turning composition, the dill pickle donut falls flat in terms of flavor.
The donut underneath delivers a great texture, but the dill dip spread on top overpowers the rest of the dish. This item sets high expectations of an interesting flavor profile, but the individual ingredients fail as a cohesive unit.
The underwhelming, bland donut felt more like a bagel. Although it was around $9, the nostalgic, gooey funnel cake reigns supreme for its taste and great value at $10.
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For a Meal: Cajun Style Andouille Sausage Corn Dog with Mardi Gras Mustard Dip vs. Blooming Onion
Every bite of the andouille sausage corn dog is packed with flavor, ranging from the juiciness of the sausage to the spicy tang of the Mardi Gras mustard dip. The cornflakes on the outside of the corn dog provide a pleasurable crunch that synthesizes well with the andouille sausage.
On top of a flavorful experience, this take on a classic corn dog has a great value and comes with a side of Cajun fries for only $15. It is a considerable rival to the blooming onion, and is satisfying without leaving a greasy aftertaste.
For Dessert: Cinnamon Peach Praline Cobbler Topped with Caramel vs. Deep-fried Oreo
Densely packed with cinnamon, peach, praline, vanilla ice cream and caramel, this nostalgic dessert excels in texture and consistency. The warmth of the peach and batter compliments the praline to a T, and the cinnamon provides a satisfying crunch.
There is a lot to love about this cobbler rendition, including the fact that it is not overwhelmingly sweet. The freshness of the peach is satisfying when compared to the greasiness of a deep-fried Oreo.
At $17, this cobbler is quite pricey, but it provides a much needed break from typically greasy fair food.
Overall, this year's new additions diversify the fair's menu with a refreshing change of pace. Most of them are worth a try, but it will always be hard to beat the classics.
Use this map on the N.C. State Fair website to navigate this year’s new foods.
Sarah Wooster is the 2023-2024 assistant data editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She is pursuing a degree in statistics and information science.
Anh Nguyen is the 2023-24 data editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as the DTH's data editor and assistant data editor. Anh is a senior pursuing a double major in statistics and information science.