Food

Fried finalists at State Fair of Texas 2022: Brisket biscuit, horchata milkshake and more

The biggest surprise from the finalists is several of these gut-busting fair foods aren’t fried at all.

Finally, someone fried a charcuterie board. (Oh, you hadn’t thought of that one yet?)

Concessionaires Milton and Grace Whitley used Texas bluebonnets as inspiration for their...
Concessionaires Milton and Grace Whitley used Texas bluebonnets as inspiration for their State Fair of Texas drink, La Bluebonnet, in 2022. It's one of two drinks to be a finalist in the Big Tex Choice Awards.(Elías Valverde II / Staff Photographer)

Starting Sept. 30, 2022, the first day of the State Fair of Texas, fried meats and cheeses are but one of the 10 Big Tex Choice Awards finalists in 2022. There’s also a brisket biscuit, fried fudge and deep-fried lasagna.

At this annual calorie fest, the State Fair unveils its 10 best-of-the-best sweet and savory items, each made by veteran concessionaires. These 10 dishes inevitably become the most talked-about junk foods across Texas each fall.

There are even two drinks this year: a horchata milkshake named the Cha-Cha Chata and a sweet, tart juice called La Bluebonnet.

They’ve got a lot to live up to, this year’s slate of Big Tex Choice Awards finalists: They’re following in the footsteps of fried butter, fried beer and fried bubblegum — all very real, very puzzling Texas state fair concessions that have won awards in the past.

And the State Fair of Texas’ 10 Big Tex Choice Awards finalists in 2022 are ...

It's too early to rank the best and worst new State Fair foods, but the fried charcuterie...
It's too early to rank the best and worst new State Fair foods, but the fried charcuterie board by Tami and Josey Nevins was one of our favorite Big Tex Choice Awards bites so far in 2022.(Elías Valverde II / Staff Photographer)
  • Fried charcuterie board ($16): You’ll find salami, prosciutto, mozzarella and even green apples in this dish, tossed together in balsamic vinegar and wrapped in a wonton and fried. It comes with goat cheese and a drizzle of hot honey on top. Its 22-year-old creator Josey Mayes, a fourth-generation concessionaire, created it because of a love for making charcuterie boards for friends.
  • Deep-fried BLT ($15): Bacon and cheese get folded into a tortilla, then tossed in the deep fryer. The sandwich is then cut in half and layered with cold lettuce, tomato and mayo. Garlic Parmesan chips come on the side.
  • Deep-fried Lasagna ($20): Each fried lasagna piece is topped with marinara, mozzarella and basil, then served with zucchini fries. It comes from Greg Parish and his family, who created deep-fried gumbo balls in 2021 our favorite bite among last year’s finalists.
  • Chicharron Explosion Nachos ($24): Pork rinds are doused in Cajun seasoning and topped with queso and chopped beef. It’s a generous helping and easy to share.
  • Holy Biscuit ($15): Ten-time Big Tex Choice Awards candidate Isaac Rousso created this brisket biscuit. It’s a hefty sandwich layered with smoked brisket and street-corn queso, then topped with bacon and Texas honey. Somewhere in there are pickle French fries for crunch and salt. We expect this one to be a talker.
Inspired by the dance move, the Cha-Cha Chata is a horchata milkshake. It was named one of...
Inspired by the dance move, the Cha-Cha Chata is a horchata milkshake. It was named one of the 10 Big Tex Choice Awards finalists at the State Fair of Texas on Aug. 10, 2022. It comes from the Garza family, who won for arroz con leche in 2018 and for Fla'Mango Tango in 2019. (Elías Valverde II / Staff Photographer)
  • Cha-Cha Chata ($16): A horchata milkshake! It comes topped with cinnamon galletas de gragega and deep-fried morsels of arroz con leche, made, notably, by the Garza family, who are four-time Big Tex Choice Awards entrants. The churro straw makes for a drink that’s as fun to sip as it is to photograph.
  • La Bluebonnet ($10): It’s surprising to see a second drink make the finalist list — perhaps the mostly fried competition is veering into new territory here? La Bluebonnet was named for the color of the Texas flower. Concessionaires Milton and Grace Whitley came up with the recipe along with their kids Jaedyn, 18, and Jordyn, 22. Each cup is a mix of citrus juice, blueberries and sugar, poured over ice.
  • Peanut Butter Paradise ($20 or two for $35): A deep-fried honey bun is injected with caramel and topped with peanut butter. Next comes candy: Reese’s Pieces, Crushed Butterfinger crumbles, peanut butter cups, then caramel, and a “cloud” of powdered sugar.
  • Deep Fried Rocky Road ($16): Rocky Road fudge is coated in sweet batter, then fried and topped with chocolate syrup, sweetened condensed milk, mini marshmallows and chopped cinnamon-glazed nuts. It comes with a scoop of Blue Bell ice cream.
  • The Ultimate Brookie Monster ($15): Brent and Juan Reaves, the brothers best known for their turkey legs at the State Fair and for their Dallas barbecue restaurant Smokey John’s, created this deep-fried dessert. “I loved the idea of putting a brownie and a cookie together,” says Brent Reaves, laughing: He thought he’d invented the “brookie,” a marriage of a cookie and brownie that has, in fact, been around for years. When his brother broke the news, the two decided to super-charge the brookie, combining brownies, cookies, Oreos, marshmallows and cheesecake. It comes deep-fried, “cuz it’s the State Fair,” Juan Reaves says.

Can the 2022 finalists live up to the hype? Tell us what you think.

Noticeably missing from this list is Deep Fried Buc-ee’s, a fair-ified Beaver Nugget sourced from the Texas travel center. It was created by the Whitley family, a fair finalist for the drink La Bluebonnet. Even though it was one of the more talked-about dishes on the semifinalist list this year, it will not be served at the fair in 2022.

Prices of each dish weren’t immediately available. We’ll publish a ranking of each of these items after the State Fair of Texas opens (with prices included), so you can save your coupons for the best bites.

A focus on food

For many, the State Fair has always been about food. But in 2022, the fair made it official: The theme is “Taste of Texas,” and these 10 Big Tex Choice Awards finalists will surely be part of the culinary conversation.

Fletcher's sells hundreds of thousands of corny dogs at the State Fair of Texas each year.
Fletcher's sells hundreds of thousands of corny dogs at the State Fair of Texas each year.(Ashley Landis / Staff Photographer)

On Aug. 28, 2022, the State Fair of Texas will host a final foodie event before the fair begins. Among the 10 Big Tex Choice Awards, three winners will be announced: the best-tasting sweet and savory dishes and the most creative concession item.

Those three winners instantly become the pageant queens of the State Fair — they tend to draw the longest lines and rake in the most money.

“The Big Tex Choice Awards are a game-changer for our vendors,” says Karissa Condoianis, senior vice president of public relations. “Those who make it into the top 10 finals, that’s, really, winning. Getting one of those titles is just the fried cherry on top.”

Beyond bona-fried new food at the State Fair, attendees to the 24-day event will surely dig into classic concessions like Fletcher’s corny dogs, funnel cakes and the like.

The State Fair of Texas runs Sept. 30 through Oct. 23, 2022.

State Fair superfans, read these news stories:

Story published Aug. 10, 2022 and updated Sept. 27, 2022 with ticket prices.

For more food news, follow Sarah Blaskovich on Twitter at @sblaskovich.

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