What We Ate at the State Fair of Texas

Hi y’all, I’m Janelle, digital content coordinator for the Texas Exes. I run the social media accounts for your alumni association—the woman behind all those hook ’em emojis. While I may not know the ins and outs of fine dining or specialty cuisine, I do consider myself a “foodie.” What does being a foodie really mean? Basically, I live by the saying, “Phone eats first.” I want a dish to be eye-catching, colorful, and worthy of living permanently on my Instagram feed.  

So, when I found out that I would be going to Dallas to cover the State Fair of Texas, I was over the moon! The food offered at the State Fair is known for being outrageous and over-the-top (see Champagne Jell-O Hot Shots). Finally, it was my turn to answer this all-important question: Does fair food actually deliver on taste or are vendors just trying to become the next viral food sensation? I’ll be ranking State Fair eats both on their “Instagrammability” and their actual taste. Let’s dive in. 

Deep-Fried Halloween 

This had been calling my name since I first learned that I would be covering the State Fair, so it had to be my first stop. The Deep-Fried Halloween consisted of a large chewy pretzel that was dropped in the fryer, bathed in candy corn syrup, and topped with rainbow sprinkles and powdered sugar. But wait, there’s more! Orange and white buttercream icing was piped on top, then M&M’s and candy corn were sprinkled on with the same je ne sais quoi of a chef sprinkling salt onto a freshly seared steak. Lastly, an Oreo and a Reese’s peanut butter bat were placed in the icing and chocolate syrup was drizzled all over. Maybe this wasn’t the best idea for breakfast. However, this definitely is worthy of Instagram acclaim. As far as taste, it was a bit overwhelming.  When the inevitable sugar overload came, I crashed hard. I was tired and sluggish—much like a certain football team in the second half of a certain game, not naming names or anything. 

Instagrammability: 9/10 
Actual Taste: 7/10 

Tornado Taters 

My next mission was a viral sensation that I saw all over TikTok: Tornado Taters. This was normal potato put on a spit and spun extremely fast through a blade so that bountiful potato ribbons come streaming out. Then—of course—the whole thing was deep-fried. The stand I visited didn’t have much spinning going on. The potatoes had already been turned into tornados, meaning I missed out on some great Instagram content. My gut told me to shell out the extra coupon to add cheese and I’m glad I did. The Tornado Taters were just lacking flavor. If I had ordered them plain and dry, it would have been a total miss.  In terms of Instagram and aesthetic appeal, the Tornado Taters were also lacking a wow-factor. However, the ribbons did allow me to get a cool video of pulling out a bite! Maybe share this treat on your stories and not your main feed. 

Instagrammability: 6/10
Actual Taste: 6/10

Deep-Fried I-35 

Every Texan visiting the State Fair has traveled I-35 at least once in their life, so this year one vendor decided to create the ultimate tribute to the Texas road trip. Meet the Deep-Fried I-35. First, kolache dough was deep fried and topped with smoked beef brisket. Then, a sweet and tangy BBQ glaze made from peach juice and Dr Pepper was drizzled all over. Lastly, this roadworthy concoction was garnished with peach slices and a sprinkling of powdered sugar. This was the biggest surprise of the fair. I got in line completely dreading having to eat this, but I did it for y’all. After just a few bites, I was absolutely shocked. The combination of items worked perfectly. The brisket was tender and melt-in-your-mouth soft, while the glaze and peach slices provided a whole other explosion of flavor! The crispy kolache dough rounded out all the textures needed in a snack. 

This wins all the awards for an Instagram-worthy treat. The fresh peaches add a golden pop of color and the powdered sugar creates that instant association with fair food. I loved that the Deep-Fried I-35 tied-in all things Texas and even topped the treat with a little flag. I mean, have you ever seen a cuter I-35 sign?! It almost made me forget about the road’s endless construction and headache-inducing traffic. The real interstate sign allows fairgoers to capture the perfect picture. You can’t beat a good photo opportunity. If I had to say something negative, they were a little skimpy with the peaches and brisket. For 15 coupons, I was hoping for more of a feast. 

Instagrammability: 10/10 
Actual Taste: 8.5/10 

Frozen Lemonade

I know, I know. What about lemonade is Instagram-worthy? Let me properly set the scene. The temperature had reached 95 degrees, the air was full of grease, I was lost in one of the fair’s many midways, and my eyes had started stinging from the sweat. (Or was I actually crying because of the game’s outcome? Hard to say.) I needed to get something to quench my thirst and although the frozen daquiris were eye-catching, I knew they wouldn’t offer much in terms of hydration. Wanting to stay somewhat true to my mission, I opted for a frozen lemonade. Or at least I thought I would get a frozen lemonade. Upon first glance, my cup looked like a normal cup of lemonade. I double checked with the kind but efficient vendor and was told, “Well, we just added a new batch so it’s like, half frozen. Kind of like a slushie.” Eh, it was better than nothing. Sweet and a bit sour, bringing back childhood memories of adding a bit too much sugar to the mix when my mom wasn’t looking. 

Instagrammability: 4/10 
Actual Taste: 5/10 

Fried Oreos 

I was at the point where I didn’t think I could eat anything else, but I knew I had to try this State Fair staple. Surprisingly enough, I had a hard time finding a booth that sold plain old’ fried Oreos. I passed fried cheesecake, fried olives, and even fried butter. I was so close to giving up when all of a sudden there they were: fluffy fried Oreos bathed in clouds of powdered sugar. This treat was so soft, and each bite provided a warm, ooey-gooey chocolate feeling in your mouth. I didn’t even mind that everything in a 5-foot radius had been covered in powdered sugar.  

While fried Oreos may seem simple, they are definitely worthy of making an appearance on your Instagram. Classics are classics for a reason! This treat is instantly recognizable and adored by all. You can even caption it, “Did you even go to the State Fair if you didn’t get fried Oreos??”  

I felt so full after my last bite, the day was ending, and “Neon Moon” had started playing over the loudspeakers. I knew that was my sign to call it quits. 

Instagrammability: 7/10
Actual Taste: 9/10 

Melted Iced Coffee Cup

Bonus item! This beauty awaited me when I returned to my car after the day’s activities. If only Texas could’ve brought this heat in the second half. Well, there’s always next year! Alright y’all, I’m going to go eat some TUMS. 


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