- Alex Springer
Performing feats of gastronomic daredevilry at the State Fair is one of the most exhilarating things a local foodie can do. The Utah State Fairpark has watched me scarf down everything from alligator meat to fried grasshoppers at this annual celebration, and I have no regrets whatsoever.
As fun as all that adventurous gorging is, there's always a bit of post-fair ennui that wafts in once it's all said and eaten. To combat this, I've compiled a list of local joints that serve up their own brand of fair food all year long. If you're ever in need of a little deep-fried dangerous to tide you over until next year, check these places out.
Deep-fried Twinkies at The Bayou (645 S. State Street, 801-961-8400, utahbayou.com): Perhaps no food abomination is as beloved as the deep-fried Twinkie. Like the discovery of plutonium, it's one of those milestones that has made an indelible impact on the course of human history—for better or worse. Of course, The Bayou's menu of Cajun-inspired classics is the main reason to visit this Salt Lake gastropub, but if you're hankering a piece of fried gold straight from fair food history, they are happy to oblige. The deep-fried Twinkies ($7) here are prepared in the usual fashion, but the Bayou team goes the extra mile and hits them with a drizzle of raspberry sauce once they hit the plate. If you want the full fair experience, kick off your meal with the savory alligator cheesecake, made with real alligator sausage.
Funnel Fries at Piper Down (1492 S. State Street, 801-468-1492, piperdownpub.com): Head just south of The Bayou, and you can indulge in another fair favorite—funnel cake. It's not exactly the intertwined nest of golden-brown cake batter that you'd see at the fair, but I'd argue they've done this dessert one better. They're called Funnel Fries ($7), and they're everything you love about funnel cake just chopped up into bite-sized, fry-shaped snacks. For an extra three bucks, you can add a cup of vanilla ice cream, the preferred condiment for any type of dessert fries. Since Piper Down has some kind of special or local event scheduled every day of the week, there's really no excuse not to indulge in some funnel fries every now and then.
Cheese Sticks at Bricks Corner (1465 S. 700 East, 801-953-0636, brickscornerslc.com): Fried cheese is not that difficult to come by here in Utah—which is awesome. But if you really want to recreate the joy of biting through a crispy layer of batter into a slightly-too-hot ocean of gooey melted cheese, Bricks Corner is the place to be. Their appetizer called The Importance of the Fried Cheese ($10.50) is a meditation on the eternal desirability of deep-fried cheese. Like I said, it's not hard to get mozzarella sticks if you're in need of a quick fix, but if you want to bend your knee and worship at the altar of golden and gooey, you can't really go anywhere else. The menu description itself touts "mozzarella cheese blocks"—not sticks, mind you—to let you know that cheese worship is something they take seriously. Come for the thick slabs of Detroit-style deep dish, stay to make proper observance to the church of deep-fried cheese.
Corn Dogs at Yummy's Korean BBQ (2946 W. 4700 South, 801-769-6614, yummysutah.com): Like fried cheese, corn dogs are also ubiquitous along the Wasatch Front. However, I was recently introduced to a corn dog that makes the stuff they serve up at the state fair seem tame. The Korean corn dog ($4.50) at Yummy's Korean BBQ shares the same basic DNA as traditional corn dogs, but it comes with a twist that must be tasted to be believed. The outside of this beast comes with a delightfully crisp finish thanks to the panko breadcrumbs that get applied before it hits the deep fryer. Once it's done, it gets a liberal sprinkling of granulated sugar and then a hefty squirt of ketchup, mustard or both. It's rare to encounter something like this outside fair park boundaries, but the fact that it's been a Korean mainstay for the past ten years or so makes me think that we as human beings are going to be alright.
Snow Cones at Bahama Buck's (582 E. 12300 South, 385-275-448, bahamabucks.com): I know it's just ice and heavily-colored corn syrup, but snow cones are one of the most refreshing delights on God's green earth. Many parched fair patrons owe their survival to a well-prepared snow cone, and the team at Bahama Buck's certainly kept me cool during the summer's record-breaking heatwave. What sets this place apart is their ice shaving process—they opt for a finer grind, making a dessert that is a bit more like snow than ice chips. They've got a vast list of flavors, along with a decent selection of caffeinated options, and they don't skimp on that syrupy goodness. Snow cone fans of all stripes will be able to find something to cherish at Bahama Buck's.
It may be a whole year before we can brave the trials of the fair food gods once more, but those after a quick fix before then need only check out these enthusiastic locals.