SPECIAL EDITION: Wisconsin State Fair Dining

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“In my opinion, the more indulgent the fair food, the better.” -Michelle

On an overcast Sunday, the last day of the Wisconsin State Fair, nine of us gathered to indulge in decadent fried goodness and other foodstuffs. It was Shannon’s idea to do a special edition of the ABCs of Milwaukee Dining at the Wisconsin State Fair. The usual crew was there–including Marilyn and Mike–and we were joined by Brendan and Clare, two friends who have relocated to Chicago and who’d come home to partake in this Wisconsin tradition.

All nine of us ordered an item and then, after the Fair, we ranked the items in the order we would eat them. Since there were nine of us (and Marilyn, who wouldn’t share her Cheerios for the contest), we were all full by the end of this quest.

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9. Shannon’s Elvis Sundae ($5.50) at Slim’s Lakefront Brewpub & Eatery

Description: A scoop of Purple Door Banana Peanut Butter Ice Cream with a chopped Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, whipped cream then topped with an ‘Elvis’ (Reese’s peanut butter cup deep fried in banana butter).

I think the Elvis Sundae suffered in voting because it was the last item we sampled as part of this contest. Shannon said:

The Elvis Sundae was my pick and my least favorite. It was good but I wouldn’t order it again. It needed more chocolate, and the fried banana toppings were so skimpy. The description said it had peanut butter cups on it … I saw a few crumbs. I’ll stick to Georgie Porgies for my fat day indulgences.

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8. Nick’s Maple Syrup Cotton Candy ($5) paired with Lakefront Brewery’s Golden Maple Root Beer ($3) at Wisconsin Pure Maple Syrup

I can’t remember what age I was when the Maple Syrup Cotton Candy became a critical part of my State Fair regiment, but I do remember the man swirling the stick telling my Mom that it actually didn’t have that much sugar.

When I got to the booth in the Wisconsin Pavilion, I noticed the Lakefront Golden Maple Root Beer and added it to my order because I thought it sounded excellent. It was. TJ commented that it didn’t have the strong aftertaste that plagues many root beers, it was somehow smoother and more palatable. The cotton candy was just how I remember it, light, with the perfect sugary maple flavor.

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7. Clare’s Krispy Kreme Cheeseburger ($6) at The Machine Shed

Clare said:

If this was a fresher burger it would have been higher up there, but I think it was sitting around for a little bit. However I loved the sweetness and perfect texture of the donut with the burger. Next time I’ll have to be bold and get the chocolate bacon with it!

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6. Brendan’s Sweet Potato Chips ($6.50) at Major Goolsby’s (1 first place vote)

Brendan said:

Nothing really too special about sweet potato chips as sweet potato items seem to be popping up at all kinds of bars and restaurants. However, I thought these were executed very well.

Shannon cast a first place vote for the chips. She said:

I love sweet potatoes and these were so thin, crispy and salty. I could have eaten the whole plate.

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5. Adam’s Fat Elvis on a Stick ($5) at Slim’s Lakefront Brewpub & Eatery

Description: Peanut Butter Cup dipped in banana batter wrapped in bacon and drizzled with chocolate.

Adam said:

The Fat Elvis on a stick was decadent and would probably be a little rich for one person to eat by themselves, although I’m sure Marilyn would have loved to try.

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4. Michelle’s Scotch Egg on a Stick ($5) at Water Street Brewery

According to Wikipedia a Scotch Egg is “a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat, coated in bread crumbs and baked.” This being State Fair, the Scotch Egg was deep fried rather than baked and it was on a stick, with a side of mustard. We had just had our first one a few weeks before for our ABCs of Milwaukee Dining quest. Michelle said:

My choice was the Scotch Egg and I was happy with it, something I may not have tried if not for the Rumpus Room.

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3. TJ’s Mexican Corn ($4) at El Jefe

TJ enjoyed his choice, which had cheese in it. He said:

My choice was the Mexican Corn on a recommendation from Kenny.

Brendan loved how to corn was served, he said:

I actually usually think the corn on the cob at State Fair is overrated. I just feel like it’s so much work and mess for so little enjoyment. I really liked the corn in a cup because of how much it simplified it for me. The corn was super fresh and the cheese and seasoning complimented it very well.

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2. Cindi’s Cheddar Cheese Curds ($7) at Hot Wisconsin Cheese (4 first place votes)

Cindi wanted it noted that all State Fair cheese curds are not equal. Her selection are found yearly in a booth at the north side of the cream puff building. The curds were accompanied by a jalapeño ranch dipping sauce. Cindi said:

These are the best. You’d think you’d be able to get cheese curds this good anywhere. Unfortunately, these are a once a year treat. I ordered a dish for myself and Adam before everyone got there. That’s how selfish I can be and how good these are.

Michelle rated the curds the highest, she said:

The cheese curds were the best I’ve ever had. It’s a good thing those are not available to me on my way home from work.

TJ loved the curds as well. He said:

The Cheese Curds stole the show. Honestly, they are the best curds/sticks/deep fried cheese thing I’ve had. I wanted to go back for more of just those.

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1. Mike’s Thanksgiving Waffle ($8.75) at Slim McGinn’s West (4 first place votes)

Description: Bread stuffing with craisins, mixed with waffle batter, cooked in a Belgium Waffle iron, and topped with mashed potatoes, turkey, and gravy.

Mike said:

I was pretty sure the waffle was going to be good because I love Thanksgiving food. It was as good as it could have been.

Clare voted the waffle highest. She said:

Unique idea and perfectly executed. The waffle had a great crunch and I love that the mashed potatoes were on top!

I also voted the waffle highest. I loved it so much that Michelle and I ended up getting one on our own.

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Total spent on food for this quest: $75.75.

We enjoyed our time at the Fair. We didn’t ride the rides or see the Expo. We didn’t watch pigs race, but we did see an amazingly strange band from Sweden called Jeerk. The vast majority of our time at the Fair was predicated around eating food and buying more food. Which was totally fine with me. In addition to the items mentioned above, I enjoyed the potato pancakes from Cracovia, while TJ loved the fried stuffing balls from Rupena’s.

We spent some time hanging out at the new craft beer stand, which had an outstanding collection of Wisconsin beers. We hung out with TJ’s family for a while at Tropics at the Fair … the Caribbean-style music got Marilyn dancing.

After about four and a half hours, we split up and headed home.

Before we left, Mike, Michelle and I stopped at the Herb Kohl milk booth–an all-time fair classic–and, to Michelle’s annoyance, I mused about when they started milking Herb to secure an 11-day supply.

Clare summed the day up nicely. She said:

Overall, I’d say this was one of my favorite times at the fair in the past couple of years. Since it was somewhat overcast and a little rainy, it wasn’t overly crowded. There were a lot of great beer options and always fun sight-seeing. Such a fun idea to sample so many different foods.

We are still debating if the curds or the waffle was better. I have a feeling we’ll be back next year to do it all over again.

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