INDIANAPOLIS — As a lady of good Midwestern stock, I’ll toss down whatever fried food comes my way without much hesitation. While I of course have certain favorites – shout out to the fried mac and cheese bites that have sustained me emotionally since August 2015 – trying new things is always in order come fair time.
When the Indiana State Fair kicks off Friday, so will the annual "Taste of the Fair" competition. Twenty two new food items will face off against each other, looking to claim the top prize. It's a good way to check out new eats, and add more items to your fair food repertoire.
Get tips on what to expect, and remember to download the full Taste of the Fair map onto your phone before you head out!
State Fair Mary
This colossal concoction is topped with fried mac & cheese, cheese curds, waffle fries, fried pickles, a mini corn dog, bacon, some tater tots and literally an entire pulled pork sandwich.
Not even it's creators are quite sure if it’s a food or a drink.
“I think it definitely is going to be a drink that’s going to feel like a meal. When you go to the fair you have to go big. When they thought about making a drink, they thought, how can we go bigger and better? ” said Bret Loman with Urick Concessions.
It’s one of the only food items in the whole fair to feature an unfried vegetable. We love a healthy option.
State fairs aren't always the friendliest places for our vegan friends looking for a bite to eat. Black Leaf Vegan made history last year when they brought the very first all-vegan food truck to the Indiana State Fair!
Entered in the Taste of the Fair competition this year are their vegan nachos made with tortilla chips, vegan meat, pico de gallo, creamy ranch, guacamole and sweet teriyaki. Divine.
Their truck also offers a vegan ranch burger, vegan bratwurst, and vegan taco meal.
Don’t knock it until you try it! Pickle pizza rolls off the tongue and tastes good on it, too.
Thought up by the same guys who brought us classics like pizza on a stick, scorpion pizza and cricket pizza, they’ve heard people's doubts about the pickle pizza before.
Those people, they say, often return for seconds.
“Everyone likes pickles. Well, mostly everybody. People just love it. It’s definitely unique, you can’t get it anywhere else,” said Jimmy Swain, with Swain’s Concession LLC.
The dough is homemade and topped with a dill sauce and fresh sliced pickles. It’s reminiscent of ranch in the best possible way.
Original Cow Pie
Not everyone wants to smash a donut burger before heading to the DNR building to cool off.
The original cow pie is a delightful ice cream sandwich of sorts - two chocolate chip cookies with hearty dollops of vanilla ice cream in the center.
You can find it at the Indiana Ribeye tent. Talk about a pairing.
Mint Cookie Milkshake
Everyone has that family member who makes a beeline for The American Dairy Association Barn as soon as they enter the fair. If you’re that family member, add this fabulous milkshake to your list of things to try.
It’s a mint cookie milkshake, topped with crumbled Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies. The mint isn’t super overpowering. Just enough to make it extra soothing in the state fair heat.
This is another gift from The American Dairy Association. It's a simple enough quesadilla, made with rich Indiana cheese, but sometimes that's what you need after a day bingeing so much food. It's served with Indiana's own Red Gold salsa.
Sun King Caramel Corn Ale
If you fancy a beer with a state fair twist, this Sun King, Indiana State Fair collaboration uses 100 pounds of Just Pop In! Caramel corn in every batch. The kernels are from a local popcorn farmer as well.
Deep Fried Brownies
Last year, R&W Concessions took home the top prize at Taste of the Fair with their deep fried cinni-minis.
They’re back again this year with three new foodstuffs - deep fried brownies, deep fried cheese stick and a peach shakeup.
What to make this year as a follow up to their success was something Gidget Hall, owner of R&W Concessions, began thinking about as soon as they won.
“It’s what I do all winter long, is see what I’m going to do next year. I look at different food channels, and different places that I go to shop, I look for things to deep fry!” Hall said.
The deep fried brownie is a worthy successor to last year's treat. The brownie is dipped in funnel cake batter, drizzled with powdered sugar and chocolate syrup.
Even if you don't end up loving it, could you really hate it?
Deep Fried Cheese on a Stick
It's an innocent enough inquiry that's at the core of most state fair foods - if I took this already good food, and deep fry it, could it be an even better food?
Simple, yet aspirational is the deep fried cheese stick. It's also uncommon, despite incorporating two state fair staples - cheese and corn dogs.
The outside tastes like a traditional corn dog, the inside is all melted mozzarella cheese. R&W Concessions makes this one as well.
I could have, but did not out of sheer decency, have five of these things.
Peach Shake Up
A summery take on an old classic. The peach shake up has all-natural ingredients according to maker R&W Concessions, and uses lemons, sugar, ice and some peach flavoring to make a refreshing drink.
Esquites, or Mexican Corn In A Cup
Known though Indiana may be for our abundance of corn, we aren't the ones who developed it. More recent studies show it originated in Mexico as early as 9,000 years ago.
Esquites have long held a prominent spot in Mexican street vendor fare. Corn is nice enough slathered in butter, but can it really compare to what happens when its topped with cojita cheese, hot sauce, chile powder and lime juice?
Esquites are here at the Indiana State Fair as well. But if you're looking around for it, it'll be at Wilson's Concessions under the name Mexican Corn In A Cup.
They're made with corn grown right here in Hamilton County. Don't miss this, a few team members said this was their favorite item!
State Fair Charcuterie Board
Gone are the days where you have to visit five different stands to get a taste of everything you really want at the fair. The new State Fair Charcuterie Board swaps traditional meats and cheeses for caramel corn, mini corn dogs, cotton candy, funnel cakes, saltwater taffy and buttered popcorn.
Sweet, savory and perfect to share, but no judgment on our end if you don't!
Lemon shakeup canned cocktail
Sun King aren't the only ones bringing classic state fair drinks to adults. Hi & Mighty is a gin distillery and tasting room that opened on Indiana State Fairgrounds in July. This is their creation - a bubbly cocktail based on the lemon shakeup we all love!
Bison lettuce wraps
If too much cotton candy starts giving you the shakes, these savory bison lettuce wraps are here to help.
One of the heartier options on the menu, it's made with ground bison, sweet onion, water chestnut, mixed with a little ginger carrot and soy sauce.
It's made by Red Frazier Bison, a Bloomington-based company that adheres to principles of sustainability when raising their bison, so you're supporting a local business with every bite.
Crispy Chicken Sandwich
This newest crispy chicken sandwich from Wilson Concessions is served on a fresh bun with tomato, lettuce and pickle, onion, mayo and mustard. Yum!
There's no one star in this twist on a pulled pork. Enjoy piles of pulled pork, cheddar cheese, jalapeños, and sour cream in this meal.
Flamin' Hot Cheetos Walking Taco
The Flamin' Hot Cheetos Walking Taco from Cantina Louie is served up alongside other fantastic Mexican fare just outside the Coliseum.
Not on a stick necessary but just as portable, you can walk your bag of taco meat, shredded lettuce, shredded cheese, pico de gallo and sour cream all the way over to Pioneer Square if you want!
Pretzel nacho bites
Nachos are always great. Pretzel nachos may be better. These warm pretzels are covered in sour cream, jalapeños, and bacon bits. Find this at Wilson Concessions.
Mac Diggity Corn Dog
Yet another state fair classic with a twist! The Mac Diggity Corn Dog is a blend of corn dog, mac and cheese and sweet BBQ sauce.
I didn't try this one, but rumor on the street says the crunch of the corn dog blended with the creamy mac and cheese is really something special.
Find it at Gobble Gobble Concessions.
Boba Fun Cup
Brought to you by Pork N' More, the Boba Fun Cup lives up to it's name! Enjoy slices of strawberry boba balls, sliced strawberry, and gummy bears mixed with vanilla ice cream.
If you were the kind of kid who added five different sodas to your cup every time you went to a fast food restaurant, this is a drink to try! It's made with fresh Lipton Iced Tea and Blue Raspberry Lemon Twister.
The Indiana State Fair kicks off for the 2022 season on July 29, 2022!