Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans
We decided this year to check out the culinary stylings offered at the largest event held in Arkansas each year, the Arkansas State Fair, lunching our way down the Midway. First up: A fair favorite for more than 40 years, a corndog from Randy's Superdog. For $10, we got the Mega Dog, an 18-inch-long corndog with a premium custom weiner inside a sweet cornmeal batter.
We also picked up some fried green beans ($5) and Cornbread on a Stick ($5) from the Steakhouse stand by the Hall of Industry. The whole green beans were dipped in a light cornmeal battered and fried golden brown. They were addictive. The Cornbread on a Stick — actually a full cob of corn under a layer of a moist corndog-like batter — was heavy and too filling even shared.
Later, we stopped in at the yellow Feed Trough trailer for a rabbit sandwich ($7). The rabbit was moist and savory, if a little tough. A peppery barbecue sauce was available on the side.
One of our group picked up a burger at Mitch's Grill. The big pound patties are hand patted and cooked on a griddle in a screened-in enclosure. The burger came out medium well but nicely crusted, spiced with salt and pepper and served with American cheese on a buttered bun.
Then it was on to a stick of MOINK Balls at the Smoke Shack BBQ ($7). The smoked beef meatballs, wrapped in bacon, were thoroughly spiced with salt, pepper, paprika and oregano; we liked the sweet thick barbecue sauce they were marinated in. They come five to a stick.
Smoke Stack was also serving turkey legs ($8), wrapped tightly in foil for easy eating. The meat was so tender it was falling off the bone. It was also very smoky.
We were bummed to find that the Fried Veggie stand on the Midway only offered fried pickles, a blooming onion and fried green tomatoes — especially after viewing a broccoli floret on the sign. We opted instead for a Veggie Pita ($6) at the Food Court. It was heavy on the feta and tzatziki sauce, which did a lot to counteract the massive amount of onions in our dish.
Out of sheer bravery we forged on, trying the wings offered at the Silver Bullet Saloon. For $7.50 we got 10 wings in two flavors — Chili Sweet and Nuclear. One of our companions found the sweet sauce to be too sweet, but it reminded us of the sauce that comes on Sesame Chicken at Chinese restaurants and liked it just fine. The Nuclear wings, coated with what the crew called "stupid sauce," they were simply too hot for us to handle.
Dessert time! Cherry Covered Chocolates ($5) at the Fried Dough trailer were a surprise hit. These are Oreo cookies battered with a Cherry Kool-Aid infused funnel cake batter and deep-fried. They come five to an order; we had an argument over who would get the leftover cookie.
We also shared a couple of fried pies ($2.50 each) at the Big Show Diner. The pies from Letha's Pies in Northwest Arkansas took several minutes to cook, but they were served up piping hot. The apricot fried pie was tasty but we preferred the pecan pie, which was packed with pecans and low on the custard. The salty crust was a hit with us, and the price was cheap compared to the other things we'd eaten at the fair.
We finished up with the traditional funnel cake at the Big Show Diner. Funnel cakes range from $4.50 at the diner to $6 on the Midway, and extra toppings are a dollar a piece. We stuck with tradition, a dusting of powdered sugar and a pile of napkins as we shared this once-a-year treat between the four of us. It was as we always expect — crispy on the outside, sweet and a little salty and incredibly hot. There was still powdered sugar on our shirts when we left the fairgrounds for home — as usual.
Arkansas State Fair
2600 Howard St.
The best deal for a beverage at the Arkansas State Fair happens to be small cartons of milk from the Coleman Dairy stand up by the Wild West Show. At 50 cents for plain, low fat or chocolate, it's a steal. The state fair continues through Oct. 23.
Lunch at the Fair: 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Mon.-Fri. Gate admission and parking free.