The Washington State Fair is canceled because of COVID-19 restrictions — or at least, sort of.
You can’t head down to Puyallup this year for the rides or carnival games, but the folks at the fair have figured out a way to let you still experience what is perhaps the magnum opus of any state fair: food.
Every weekend in September, from 11 a.m.-7 p.m., you can drive through the fair grounds and pick up your favorite fair foods, including Fisher scones, elephant ears, turkey legs and more.
To honor this annual tradition, we, Amy Wong and Taylor Blatchford, the dynamic duo that knows little about restaurant criticism but a lot about junk food, taste-tested a sample from the Washington State Fair.
And before any of you readers come for us, here’s a disclaimer: THIS FOOD IS VERY BAD FOR YOU. It’s fried, sauced, filled with sugar — really everything you shouldn’t be eating on a regular basis. We know this, and we are not encouraging you to eat everything on this list.
But it’s the Washington State Fair, OK? An institution! Live a little, eat a scone, relish in the tradition and enjoy our plight as we attempt to try as much food as we can.
Amy: We visited the drive-thru at 4:30 p.m. on a Friday. I was surprised at how easy it was to find the entrance and navigate the winding paths around the fairgrounds. It helped a lot that we were given a map at the beginning, and there were employees everywhere to help us navigate.
Taylor: After entering, you have the option to take a quick detour to look at some farm animals, and I never turn down an opportunity to look at pygmy goats. I do wish we had a little more time to stop and look at them; it felt a little rushed with a few other cars behind us.
Amy: Man, I wanted to pet them so bad!
Taylor: It was eerie to drive around and see all these empty concession stands and vacant arenas. It felt a little apocalyptic.
Amy: The sound of “Thinkin Bout You” by Ciara (shoutout to the first lady of Seattle) reverberating over the empty field did not help. But what did help was how many employees there were on-site to guide you through the lot. Everyone we encountered was tremendously helpful and welcoming; a teeny glimpse of true fair spirit!
Taylor: Krusty Pup was the first stop. Per a colleague’s recommendation, we ordered a classic hand-dipped Krusty Pup ($6.82): essentially a corn dog. The Krusty Pup had a high batter-to-hot-dog ratio, making it chewy, doughy and a tad sweet.
Amy: I wasn’t a huge fan, but did I still eat the whole thing? Yes.
Taylor: We knew we couldn’t try everything, but we tried to get a good variety of foods. We skipped some of the classics like funnel cakes and caramel apples, but you should absolutely check out those stands if that’s what you’re craving.
Amy: Next up we got the ½-pound cheeseburger ($13.50) from Big Mama’s Meat Shack, and again, I was kind of underwhelmed. It had a nicely charred patty with caramelized onions and a soft bun, but didn’t seem worth $13.50.
Taylor: After, we drove to Kaleenka and picked up an apple-and-cinnamon piroshki ($8). It was doughy, but the warm apple filling was perfectly sweet and gooey. At every food stop, someone comes to your window to take your order and payment. The women working at Kaleenka had this genius, socially distant method of duct-taping their credit card reader to the end of a hiking pole.
Amy: We next opted for a mountain of curly fries ($11) from Juicy’s, and it was indeed a mountain. I think I said “bruh!” when I saw it. The drive-thru was not crowded when we went, and food came out quickly. While I wouldn’t say we were rushed, I was scrambling to find space between my lap and the back seat to put our food. I would maybe not recommend ordering as much stuff as we did.
Taylor: Seeing the mountain of fries was definitely the point when we thought, “What have we gotten ourselves into?” — because we were only halfway done! The fries were OK. There were just so many of them, and they could’ve used more seasoning, and quality control — I definitely ate a few thick slabs of potato. Maybe we should have opted for the curly fry brick ($9.95) from Big Mama’s instead, which a nice employee described to us as, “like curly fries in a … brick?”
Amy: On to Duris; I’ve been to the fair before, but never tried an elephant ear. This was a mistake, because … wow, this was a VIP. The steering-wheel-sized, freshly fried, cinnamon-and-sugar-covered delicacy was everything I could have dreamed of. Every bite I took, I screamed internally. We also picked up a Dole whip ($6) because at this point we were starved for any semblance of a vitamin and/or mineral.
Taylor: The Dole whip, a fluffy pineapple soft-serve, was a perfect refreshing break in a sea of fried food on a hot day. You do have to eat it quickly before it melts. This was the only item we finished right away.
Amy: Back to the meats, we got some ribs ($3.50 each) and macaroni and cheese ($4) from Brank’s BBQ. The mac and cheese tasted like a slightly better KFC side, with congealing cheese and mushy pasta. But Taylor and I are also mac and cheese fiends, so we were happy to eat it anyway.
Taylor: The ribs were my favorite of the meat items, and a pretty good deal at $3.50 each. They were massive, with juicy and tender meat that fell right off the bone and perfectly tangy barbecue sauce on the side. They were a bit difficult to eat in the car, though.
Amy: And the grand finale: Fisher scones ($18 for a baker’s dozen). I tell you, reader, I dream about these scones. The crusty, buttery pastries filled with sticky sweet raspberry jam — *chef’s kiss.*
Taylor: Even when I was full of fried food, I still had room for a scone with delicious jam. Multiple people asked me to bring back a scone, and now I understand why — I opted for a baker’s dozen to share with friends and freeze.
Amy: At the end of the food tour, there’s a designated parking lot where you can stop to eat your foods. It was a good spot to snack on the fried items we ordered, which wouldn’t have done well on the drive home. Overall, it was a fun time, worth it for fair classics like elephant ears and scones, and all the Washington State Fair workers who made the experience as personable and “normal” as possible.
Taylor: The food exceeded my expectations, and my favorites were the elephant ear, ribs and scones. Driving while handing Amy food and helping her find space for it in my little Prius was a bit overwhelming. It’s really helpful to have a game plan of which stands you want to hit, and there’s a set order on the map. This was my first time at the fair, and driving by all the attractions made me wish I could get the full experience. Maybe next year?
Tips for if you go
- Plan ahead by checking out their online menu and get a gist of which stands you’ll want to get food from.
- Be conscious of prices, because all these small purchases can add up quickly.
- You can buy beverages there, but bring your own if you want to save a few bucks.
- They have bathrooms on-site, but it wouldn’t hurt to bring your own wipes and hand sanitizer, especially if you get any finger foods.
- Remember that masks are required, and stands only accept credit and debit cards.