Florida State Fair Food: Best values and strange cuisine

10:18 AM, Feb 11, 2011   |    comments
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TAMPA, Florida -- If you're planning to visit the Florida State Fair, you'll want to know where to spend your hard-earned money on fair food. And to know where the best fair fare can be found - you need only ask the people who eat the stuff most often. The carnies!

Gallery: Food Guide 2011 Florida State Fair

Erc Hendrix told us he's been working at the fair for 20 years! And the food? "You get used to it. Can't get it nowhere else," he says, "But it's good!"

Hendrix knows his carnie cuisine.

"If anyone knows food around here it's me!" he smiles.

So we asked Hendrix and a few of his friends if they had to spend their hard-earned money on some gastronomic goodies here (and they do that quite a bit) where would they go?

Hendrix's pick for a burger is Jenks Concessions on the north end of the Skyride, "Al" has been seasoning the patties for years at this same spot.

"They know how to do it - it's just spicy, just the mixture," says Hendrix.

A tip from other fair foodies is the sirloin tips.

Marc Cardonnell says he and his fellow carnivorous carnies consider the Pickel Barrell sirloin stand just outside the Expo Hall to be one of the best values at the fair.

Throw in some mashed potatoes, grilled onions and mushrooms while you're at it.

"Most of us go to the sirloin place because for your money it's the most you can eat," says Marc. "You eat there once a day and you'll be full."

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Other top honors? For best pizza, carnies give Griff's on the midway a thumbs up for using fresh ingredients. Best steak sandwich? - goes to Butcher Boys just outside the Expo Hall.

And for desert? A traditional funnel cake. Those in the know say the best fried dough for your dough is Paulette's, with a big blue sign also located just outside Expo Hall.

Each year, food vendors also have to challenge themselves to come up with some sort of new fair decadence, Dietary disasters, if you will.

This year is no exception.

Photo Gallery: Pictures from the 2011 Florida State Fair

Next to Paulette's you can find a stand selling a meat-loaf sundae. That's grilled meat loaf with mashed potatoes, gravy and mixed veggies sprinkled on top with a cherry tomato.

A new dessert item is the red velvet funnel cake one row west of the midway.

It's funnel cake batter with cocoa powder and red coloring mixed in, fried and then topped with a cream-cheese icing drizzle. Yum.

Also this year, the folks that brought you the Krispy Kreme cheeseburger last year, the good people at Carousel Foods, went one better - well,  actually, two better.

They added chocolate frosted Krispy Kreme donuts to the burger menu and also this year added a cheeseburger with a slab of deep-fried ice cream in it.

One guy who tried it said he liked the contrasts of hot and cold, sweet and salty.

"It's pretty good. I can't really describe it. It's just - it is - it's like a milkshake burger, Exactly, that's a  good description, a milkshake burger."

Inside the Expo Hall is also a cupcake vendor, whose all-in-one breakfast creation seems to be a hit. It's a pancake batter cupcake with maple-syrup flavored icing and a slab of applewood bacon - yes, bacon, adorning the cake.

"Mmmmmmm, Bacon," said Homer J. Simpson. (I assume he would, anyway).

Enjoy!

See Also: Florida State Fair opens Thursday

Eric Glasser, 10 News

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