If you can fry it, you can eat it. That seems to be the unofficial motto of South Florida Fair food vendors, and it's one we are more than happy to live by.
During the two weeks the fair is in town there's a lot of food that gets consumed. That means about 18,000 turkey legs, 20,000 pounds of granulated sugar, 2,900 pounds of funnel cake mix, 25,000 pounds of fries, 24,000 ears of corn on the cob, and more than 5,000 hamburger patties. Oh, and about 1.8 million napkins to help you wipe away all that fried food mess.
Over the years, we've seen a number of weird, wacky, and even downright disgusting foods that have been rolled in batter and deep-fried at recent state fairs, from the traditional Oreos, candy bars, and Twinkies to Kool-Aid and even beer. This year, the 2016 South Florida Fair — which returns to the fairgrounds in West Palm Beach January 15 to 31 — will be offering the usual array of carnival-style eats, and we've already picked out our favorites, from bacon and beef burgers to pork parfaits.
Among them, we're hearing whispers of this year's signature food item compliments of Porky's BBQ, a longtime South Florida Fair vendor, whose owners say they will debut their Waffle Burger this year — one part Belgian waffle and one part all-beef patty, a mashup that will be featured on an upcoming episode of Cooking Channel's Carnival Eats. Our arteries are getting clogged just thinking about it.
5. Funnel Cake and Elephant Ears from Bianco's Foods
Funnel cake and elephant ears — fried and flattened dough smothered in butter, sugar, and cinnamon — are synonymous with state and county fairs. Why? It's a simple food that spans both culture and generations. Pretty much every nation in the world has a version of fried dough. Sure, it has absolutely no nutritional value and clocks in at an estimated 300 to 500 calories per serving, but it's still a favorite at carnivals and fairs across the country, combining the basic goodness of fried dough and powdered sugar in supersized portions. That makes it the perfect fair treat (whether or not you intend to share it).
4. Giant Corn Dogs and Turkey Legs from the Meatball Factory
Lou and Vicki Pacifico started the Meatball Factory in 1975. At the time, it was just the two of them traveling the country with a single concession, selling homemade meatballs, Italian sausage, and red sauce. Today, what the Pacificos started has grown into a successful family business now run by their daughter and her husband, Nichole and Ryan Collmer. Over the years, the menu has expanded to include an array of fair food, much of it still homemade. The Italian sausage is prepared fresh according to Vicki's family recipe. The corn-dog batter is made from scratch. The red sauce for the pizza is the same as the one the Pacificos originally served in 1975. And the fried dough, funnel cake, and deep-fried Oreo batters are all made in-house. Of course, that's not all: The concession offers three stands that sell everything from giant turkey legs and London broil to chicken pita sandwiches and Greek or caesar salads.
3. Totchos from the KK Burger Stand
Last year, Larry Sivori — owner of Sivori Catering, a South Florida Fair food vendor for more than 35 years — came up with a new and improved take on his famous Krispy Kreme donut burger, an item he dubbed the "Philly Cheese Steak Donut Burger." And it was just what you'd expect: authentic Philly steak meat (AKA shaved rib eye) and a burger topped with two cheeses, grilled green peppers, and grilled onions. Then, all that meaty-cheesy-grilled-veggie goodness is stuffed between two Krispy Kreme donuts. That'll still be on the menu, of course. But we couldn't wait to see what else Sivori came up with for this year's fair, so we asked him. His newest concoction: totchos, a basket of loaded nachos made using tater tots in place of boring old tortilla chips, and topped with all the usual fixings. Sivori finishes his with ground beef, salsa, melted cheese sauce, jalapeños, sour cream, black beans, and optional hot sauce.
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2. Pork Parfait from Porky's BBQ
This will be Porky's 26th year at the South Florida Fair, but this family-owned and -operated concession has been traveling the country serving comfort-food-style eats for more than three decades. Their menu has a little bit of something for everyone, but the main focus is on the meat. They use a commercial barbecue pit to smoke everything from two-inch-thick jumbo pork chops and beef brisket to ribs and burgers. You can also find plenty of deep-fried items here too: fried pickles, fried green beans, fried watermelon, and fried macaroni and cheese. But it's their signature creation, the pork parfait, that brings people back again and again. For the past ten years, it's been one of their best sellers, a cup filled with alternating scoops of pulled pork, mashed potatoes, and barbecue sauce layered to look like a parfait dessert. Porky's estimates it will sell close to 100 of these parfaits a day.
1. The 50/50 Burger from Bubba's Bacon
Four years ago, Bubba's Bacon owner Devin Falcon decided he was going to cook bacon. But not just any bacon: a quarter-pound of hand-cut bacon that Falcon breaks down himself and serves on a stick. The bacon is baked and grilled, then hand-threaded on a stick and dipped in a number of toppings. That includes maple syrup for his most popular — and signature — menu item. New this year is the s'mores, Falcon's latest creation: a chocolate-covered stick of bacon that's smothered in marshmallow fluff and coated with crushed graham crackers. But probably the best thing at this year's South Florida Fair is the 50/50 burger from Bubba's Bacon, a quarter pound of ground bacon and a quarter pound of ground beef patty grilled and served between Texas toast for a truly meaty monstrosity. Let's just hope there's someone selling antacid on a stick too.
The South Florida Fair will take place January 15 to 31 at the fairgrounds, located at 9067 Southern Blvd. in West Palm Beach. Tickets are on sale at all Palm Beach County Publix supermarkets. Call 561-793-0333, or visit southfloridafair.com.
Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.