As I wandered Thursday night through the Washington State fairgrounds, which I like to call the Deep Fried Glut Fest (while everyone else calls it the Washington State Spring Fair), I noted some of the most coveted creators of deep-fried food were missing in action.
The Bacon Bacon Bacon stand, for starters.
And Earthquake Burger. And the Totally Fried booth (cardiologists everywhere are rejoicing).
And that place that turns a delicious, wholesome apple into a decadent calorie fest of apple fries. No show.
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The footprint of the Washington State Spring Fair in Puyallup might be smaller than its fall counterpart, but it’s no less caloric. There’s still plenty of gluttony to go around.
Here’s a tour of five fried things that could kill you slowly at the Spring Fair. I listed them in the order of my own personal scale of delicious.
And because I believe in complete and balanced reporting, read to the end of the story for a few places to find healthier fare. Your mom made me write that.
FRIED MEAT PIE, $6.50
Where: Fleischkuechle booth, near Murph’s Barbecue and the merry-go-round.
For nearly two years, eating a fried meat pie from the little truck outside the fairgrounds near the Red Gate was an unpronounceable tradition (it’s flish-koosh-lay). Sisters-in-law Pat Tuthill and Pat Jorgensen started serving the portable meat pies that are a German-Russian hybrid outside the fairgrounds in the early 1990s (but the family business was decades older than that). In 2011, family friends Ben and Ginny Vrieze — a mother-and-son team — took over the truck and have carried on the original recipe and menu, with a few modern enhancements (like fried mac and cheese and a bacon fleischkuechle). In 2013, they brought the truck inside the fairgrounds and have been serving as a fair vendor ever since.
The original meat pie is the same recipe and tastes like it, but if I do say so, the beefy patty stuffed into the fried dough tasted softer, a little less dense this year. A nice improvement. The fried turnover was still marked with a golden brown, bubbled surface. The dough makes for a delicious and yeasty jacket around seasoned meat with a light tang.
Also find: Bacon turnover ($6.75); mac and cheese with bacon turnover and Southwest veggie turnover ($6.50); plus ham, sausage and bacon breakfast meat pies (served all day, $6.50); apple, cherry or peach turnovers ($6.50).
CHIHUAHUA DOG, $5.99
Where: Marlowe’s II booth, inside the Restaurant Building.
The Chihuahua Dog is the creation of Bonita Roeser, who based it on an old menu item from Taco Time way back in the day. Russ Roeser, whose father Marlowe started the Marlowe’s food stands 40 years ago, described it in a phone interview last fall. “My wife would make them when we’d go camping all the time. It’s an all-beef hot dog, split down the middle, with cheese inside the hot dog. We put it in a flour tortilla and deep fry it.”
They used a higher quality beef dog that snapped and squirted when I bit into it. Always a good sign. The cheese is of the oozing Velveeta variety, with a crunchy tortilla jacket. It is good in the way only something terrible for you can be.
Also find: Smitty burger ($9.99); hamburger, cheeseburger, bacon burgers ($5.99-$8.49); garden veggie burger ($8.49); fish sandwich, basket and chicken strips ($8.49-$9.99); fries ($3.99-$5.99).
BEEF AND CHEESE PIROSHKI, $8.50
Where: Kaleenka Pirohsky, near the Blue Gate
Fair and food festival stalwart, Kaleenka Piroshky, is one of the quickest serving stands because the buns are pre-fried and kept in a warmer (which doesn’t destroy the integrity of the bun at all).
A beef-and-cheese piroshki from Kaleenka is like a portable Russian cheeseburger. Break open the lightly fried bun to a stuffing of ground beef, with most of the fat rendered, and gooey cheddar cheese. I’m amazed that despite being deep fried, the yeasty dough barely absorbs the oil. The result is a yeasty, flaky bun filled with meaty decadence.
Also find: Salmon and cream cheese or veggie piroshki ($8.50); potato-sausage or potato-dill cossacks ($8-$9).
LOBSTER FRIES, $11.95
Where: Sharky’s stand, near the Blue Gate
This stand takes an ordinary order of fries (mostly unseasoned, blech), and dresses them up with something you wouldn’t expect to find at a state fair — fried lobster. The item debuted at last fall’s fair. It costs more than I think it should (like nearly everything at the fair), but the fried lobster and creamy-spicy sauce made the dish seriously delicious.
Also find: Fish and chips or calamari and chips ($12.95); lobster corn dog ($10.95); deep-fried mushrooms, artichokes, zucchini or pickles ($7.50-$8).
KRUSTY PUP, $4.34
Where: Sales Family stands throughout the fairgrounds
Lesson: Always ask for a Krusty Pup straight out of the fryer because the shelf life for these corn dogs is approximately 174 seconds. Get. Them. Hot. Avoid the flaccid dipped dog that has been sitting there for so long that it has lost the ability to learn new tricks. When it is hot, it’s a crispy-jacketed, very lightly sweetened, corn dog that tastes magical. A few minutes later and it’s “meh” on a stick.
STUFF THAT WON’T MAKE YOUR ARTERIES SLAM SHUT
Baked potatoes: Find baked potatoes at the stand just behind the Restaurant building and near the Blue Gate at a stand that also serves panini sandwiches ($6.50-$8.99).
Veggie burgers: Find Gardenburgers or veggie burgers of some kind at these booths: Stop-N-Go ($5.75); Bernies Burgers ($6); Fred-E’s ($8); Marlowe’s II ($8.49).
Veggie gyros: Near the Blue Gate, find veggie gyros with a yogurt tzatziki sauce ($8.49).
No matter which way you slice it, fair food is not a particularly good value. However, based on my research for bargain food last fall, crunchy tacos remain the best bargain at $2 each at the Macho Mex stand inside the Restaurant Building and Mo’s Fresh Mex Kitchen near the Showplex.
Washington State Spring Fair
When: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday (April 15) and Saturday, and 10 a.m.- 8 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Washington State Fair Events Center, 1110 Ninth Ave. SW, Puyallup.
Admission: Adults are $10, and student tickets are $8.
Enter: Through Blue, Gold, Red and Purple gates.