Off The Leash Hot Dog

18 state fair-inspired foods

By Tara Fitzpatrick

Every fair has its share of over-the-top fare (deep-fried candy bars, anyone?) but we’re focusing not so much on the oddities, but these awesome items that will keep your summer menu feeling festive, all without having to step onto the Tilt-A-Whirl.



  • Poppin': A single kernel that gets that state-fair vibe poppin’ like no other, popcorn is always a good first step. At Klingberg Family Centers, a nonprofit agency providing help to children and families in Connecticut, caramel corn was made in-house, a special end-of-year labor of love by the kitchen staff.
  • Sticky Situation: Making caramel isn’t an everyday thing, obviously, but once the melting starts, you’ve gotta work fast to combine the popcorn and the sticky sauce. The caramel corn treat was a huge hit, but FSD Cheryl Fliss says it’ll be a long time before she can look at popcorn again.
  • DIY Popcorn: For a more hands-on approach, Flik Hospitality has set up season-your-own popcorn bars with seasonings like white cheddar, garlic salt, cinnamon sugar and more.
  • Pop Right Up to the Field: New this year for Tulane baseball games, gourmet popcorn has joined the concessions roster. It comes in 13 wild flavors: Bananas Foster (this is New Orleans, after all!), cookies and cream, fruit smoothie, caramel corn, birthday cake and Green Wave caramel apple.

Mac & Cheese, Please 

  • Mac & Cheese: The comfort casserole has established itself as a state fair staple, seen here fried and on a stick for an outdoor barbecue by American Dining Creations.
  • Mac & Cheese Waffle Bowls: Tender pulled pork and gooey mac ‘n cheese make the best teammates for this trendy bubble-style waffle, found on TD Garden’s Delaware North concessions menu.

Fry It Up

  • Chicken & Waffle Cones: For carnival-themed events, American Dining Creations builds on the success of its fried chicken concept Farm 2 Fryer with this housemade waffle cone filled with chicken tenders, mashed potatoes, bacon, Nashville hot sauce and coleslaw.
  • Black Bean Fritters: Fritters are rarely seen outside the county fairs for the world, and that’s a shame, because there are creative ingredients to add to fritters, as in these black bean fritters.
  • Elote Fritters: University of North Texas Chef Zach Miller just developed these elote fritters, made with the components of Mexican street corn and served with a Tajin aioli (don’t know Tajin? It’s a chili-lime spice worth having on your spice rack for instant fresh, Mexican flavor).
  • Veggie Fritters: And on the healthier side of fritters, these shredded potato-veggie fritters were created at the University of Connecticut using the shortcut of dehydrated potato mix.

Chili Cheese, For the Win!

  • Chorizo chili cheese curds spice up a classic combo, made even better when served over fried cheese curds.
  • Chili Cheese Empanadas: Another cool way to do chili cheese, these empanadas make the situation grab-and-go friendly.
  • Chili Cheese Mini Corn Dogs: And just when you think chili cheese couldn’t get any better, add it to mini corn dogs for a show-stopping snack.
Off The Leash Dogs

Hot Dogs Gone Wild

  • Off the Leash Dogs: A new concept by FLIK Hospitality that starts with a traditional hot dog and then upgrades them into Korean dogs (topped with beef bulgogi, housemade kimchi and gochujang), Tex-Mex dog (topped with guac, salsa and sour cream) and vegetarian dogs (carrot tempura topped with spicy mayo and veggie slaw).
  • Olive Mania: The briny flavor of olives takes center stage with these Spanish hot dogs.

And then some...

  • Year of the Pig: Pulled pork is a great starting point for fun festival fare like this pork parfait from the University of Mary Washington’s Sodexo foodservice team.
  • Fried Corn on the Cob: The local corn is battered and deep-fried at the College of William and Mary of Virginia. As delicious as it looks, they gild the lily with lime-hickory-cilantro butter.
  • Chicken Chip Nachos: The surprising twist on nachos here is the fact that they’re made from chicken!
  • Savory and Sweet: This double cheeseburger at TD Garden by Delaware North has glazed doughnuts for a bun and gets even more flavor with bacon, fried jalapenos and crispy onions.


This article first appeared in Food Management on June 3, 2019. 


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