It's still hard for us to not call it the Puyallup Fair, and I'm so stuffed full of fried food and fair specialties, I can't think straight. And if you've been around long enough that you can't even think about heading down without singing, "You can do it at a trot, you can do it at a gallop..." then you know it will always be the Puyallup fair. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, watch this video - also known as the soundtrack to fall for Seattle childhood.
In either case, what's now called the Washington State Fair (and the proud owner of the coolest URL, www.thefair.com) runs from September 2 through 25 and is one of the biggest fairs in the country. That means there is a lot of food, and much of it is surprisingly good. I was devastated that two of the most absurdly fair-food-y stands had cases of the first-day jitters so I missed out on deep fried butter and they will, at some point, serve Nashville hot chicken and a waffle bowl full of popcorn chicken smothered in gravy and maple syrup (someone please get this and tweet a photo at me, I'm @gastrognome). But I went back and checked in on the classics and tried a few new dishes and am here to tell you a few things that you should definitely eat at the fair. Most of them are deep-fried. Or on a stick. Or both. Because
You don't need me to tell you, since I'm not sure it's even permitted to go to the fair and NOT get one, but here's the thing: temper your expectations. You'll likely wait in quite a line to get them and the ones you bake at home from the mix are just as good. But for pure nostalgia's sake (and, at $1.50, the most affordable snack there), you will eat a scone and marvel at how it tastes like the Puyallup Fair and childhood, and is just the kind of rich, warm, doughy, carby goodness that will prep you for a long day of crowds and fun.
Do we just want to eat this because it's an absurd name? Yes. But there's a reason for it: the batter is made by Krusteaz and it's a dog (or, in this case, a pup). Isn't it just a corndog? Yes. But it's a very, very good corndog, dipped and fried when you order it. Also, it's really fun to say Krusty Pup a lot.
It used to be you could only get Dole Whip at Disney parks and people would come back from vacation and regale their friends with stories of the mythical frozen pineapple dessert. Even though it can be found pretty easily in Seattle these days (including at the brand new GoPoke, opening soon in the ID), it retains a little bit of that special-ness when consumed amidst the sweaty crowds--a whiff of sweet sunshine, in soft-serve form.
Stemming from a long-gone restaurant just blocks from today's lines for Piroshky Piroshky at Pike Place Market, Kaleenka is the one true piroshky. One hot, meaty bun from this stand and you, like me, will wonder why people stand so long in line for such an inferior piroshky.
Cap'n' Crunch Breaded Shrimp on a Stick
In sampling newer items, I did not expect this to be such a winner. But this is why we taste before we talk: plump shrimp, sweet, crunchy coating, and a good hot fry made this my favorite bite of the day. It comes with a little sweet sriracha sauce, too, which is worth dumping on top.
Deep Fried Anything
Attending a fair is an exercise in regret: you should regret the money you spent buying junky toys, the time you wasted in line, and everything you ate. The easiest way to do that? Hit "Totally Fried" where Spam, Velveeta, Kraft, and Snicker's all hit the deep fryer. Krispy Kreme doughnut and fried chicken sandwich? They'll deep fry that, too! If you're looking for a unique, interesting option to regret later, try the deep fried peanut butter and jam.