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Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Best Things to Eat at the San Diego Fair, 2012

The San Diego Fair starts this Friday and I can't wait.  It's the symbolic kick off for Summer and this year they're doing a cool deal - $24 for all 24 days!  You can go again and again, which sounds insane but think about it - now you can try ALL the food.  No more wondering if you should get the bacon wrapped turkey leg or the Porkabello Kebab.  I know, these are big decisions!

But to the regular guy who only goes to the fair once or twice a season and who doesn't want their final photo of them clutching Deep Fried Chocolate Covered Bacon ("What was he thinking??!") it's time to get selective.  And that's where Local Wally comes in.  I tasted all the food at the fair and now present to you the BEST food at the San Diego Del Mar Fair, 2012!

Smothered in a tangy sauce, the pulled pork and tri-tip sandwich are as good as you'll find at your local San Diego BBQ joint.  Tender and flavorful, the pork beats out the tri-tip by a small margin but both are worth the calories.  You won't feel too guilty eating these, either.  Of course, that Pork Chop on a Stick is intriguing as well.  On a stick!??  How cool is that!

If you like the idea of people pointing at you with deep envy, get the 4 pound bacon wrapped turkey leg at Bacon-A-Fair.  It's the size of a football and you can even suggest that you are going healthy because it's mainly Turkey!  On the Paleo "caveman" diet?  This is your stop!

If you have never had Australian food, it appears they are big on deep frying potatoes and dipping them into Ranch Dressing, Nacho Cheese Sauce, or Sweet Chili Sauce.  Ahhh, those Aussies know how to live!  Don't miss this - I know it sounds disgusting but a tempura battered slice of potato dipped into decadent heart stopping sauce is the stuff that fair food memories are made of.  Say, why is that EMT guy hanging out there?  I hope it's because he knows good food when he sees it!

 My wife disagrees with me on this one.  She likes Hot Dog on a Stick.  But I like any food stand that stacks up rows of corn dogs in the window, glistening under the heat lamps with a sheen of deep fried goldeness.  The batter isn't as sweet as HDOAS, but that's OK with me.  I can go to my mall and get Hot Dog on a Stick, but I can only get this once a year at the San Diego Fair.

 San Diego has a lot of fish tacos.  I love the crunchy ones served at The Brigantine in their bar and the grilled ones served at OB's South Beach Bar.  But when you're at the fair, the best ones are at the Palapa.  Fried and crispy, at first I was taken aback by the flour tortilla but in the end this was a worthy contender.  Certainly miles ahead of the terrible fish tacos served at Petco Park (labeled as "Rubios" but not even close to what you get at a Rubio's outside the ballpark).  Nice people at this stand, too.

Tasti-Chips has been around for a long time, making fresh cut potato chips, and no one does it better.  Light and crispy, some puffed up like you might find in a fine French restaurant, you can smother them in sauces but why ruin a good thing?  This is the number one essential "don't go home without them" food stop.  Listen to me, I know what I am talking about!  Local Wally loves French Fries and these Tasti-Chips are one of my all time favorites!

Not all fair food has to be terrible for you.  The Greek Gourmet serves up the Best Gyros at the fair, thanks in a big part to Mary Papourlias-Platis, otherwise known as the CaliforniaGreekGirl.  A San Diego coastal local, Mary's gyros is more than decent fair food, it kicks butt on the Daphne's of the world.  And I like it that she doesn't tempura batter it and fry it, though if another booth did I guess I would have to try it.

The Lobster Shack makes it debut at the fair this year and I know what you're thinking.  Lobster at the fair?  Whaaaa???  But yes, this guy is a real lobster guy (just look at him!) and he's cooking up real live lobsters in these giant steaming pots.  Lobster Roll, Lobster Dinner, and all at a price that's fair in any venue outside the fair, and a bargain inside.  $25 gets you a lobster dinner - it's a lot, but didn't you just fork out $4 for the same ear of corn that Ralph's is selling 3 for a buck?  These are nice people taking a big risk with selling lobsters at the fair so make that trek into the infield and splurge a little.  Isn't this better than that deep fried Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich?  Remember, it's in the Infield so don't go looking up and down the Midway for the lobsters.

You'll find a lot of places selling BBQ'd corn but this stand near the exhibit halls is the best.  With a smokey char'd exterior and piping hot kernels, you won't do better.  Add some hot sauce and spices to kick it up, or just smother it in butter, it's wholesome goodness that will remind you of being a kid.

OK, this is crazy but the BEST bite at the San Diego Fair 2012 was found at the Gingerbread House.  It isn't macho like a giant turkey leg, in fact it's downright dainty, but the cookie dough on a stick with fudge topping and nuts is by far the best thing I ate this year.  Guaranteed to put a smile on your face, I suspect that people will be lining up for these once the word gets out on how good they are.  Whatever you do, don't buy one and share it!  You're going to want your own.

The Biggest Disappointment Award this year has to go to Bacon-A-Fair for their PorkaBello Kebab, a Mushroom stuffed with Gorgonzola Cheese and wrapped in Bacon.  You're going to see them on the skewers and want one but try to resist.  The bacon is flaccid, the mushroom is just a mushroom, and the cheese is nonexistent.  It looks great on the grill but it's a toss in the trash after one bite.  I love Bacon-A-Fair but this is a fail.


You have to love any stand that has Indian Fry Bread AND Thai Chicken!  Fry Bread is like it sounds, a slightly greasy deep fried dough that you can put toppings on.  With cinnamon sugar it was a bit like a churro.  Worth considering.
Funnel Cake is a standard, a doughnut-like batter dunked into hot oil in a stringy form factor.  I got mine with ice cream and hot fudge but everything got soggy so I suggest a basic powdered sugar topping to keep it nice and crispy.
Nutty ice cream bars and cute girls at the fair, what's wrong with that?  Grant's does a great job with ice cream desserts.  When you want a good quality ice cream bar, head to Grant's.

See you at the San Diego Fair in Del Mar!  And don't forget, you can get more Local Wally at and my soon to be launched site on the San Diego Microbrew Scene!


mayanrocks said...

i lost four hours of my life on the via de la valle offramp, and by the time i actually got into the fair, they were sold out of porkabello kabobs! i was super bummed, but a little less so after reading this blog :)

the maple bacon donut at texas donut is def worth a mention... i wanted it to have my babies!

mayanrocks said...

i lost four hours of my life on the via de la valle offramp, and by the time i actually got into the fair, they were sold out of porkabello kabobs! i was super bummed, but a little less so after reading this blog :)

the maple bacon donut at texas donut is def worth a mention... i wanted it to have my babies!

shivani said...

Seems delicious. Would you be able to find out when will San Diego food fair happen this year?