Food & Drink

Here’s what to eat at the California State Fair, tasted and reviewed by our interns

The California State Fair kicked off last weekend at Cal Expo, featuring the first-ever Food Festival Competition on Saturday, July 13, where 30 vendors competed to show off their flavors. From churro funnel cake topped with a mountain of whipped cream to crispy bacon covered in chocolate and Tajin, we know it can sometimes be hard deciding what to eat at the fair. The Sacramento Bee interns tried the following new and returning fair favorites to give you an inside look.

Vegan Philly cheesesteak sandwich

Vendor: Frik’n Vegan

Special notes: First-time vendor. Also sells vegan nachos.

Participating in Food Festival? Yes. Winner of bronze ribbon in the entree division.

“Wow” factor: 3/5

It was nice to have a healthy option amid all the fried and sugared foods at the fair. The sandwich had so many varying textures that made us think, “This sandwich is vegan?” Frik’n Vegan lives up to its Frik’n name.

Soft beef taco salad

Vendor: The Original State Fair Soft Taco

Special notes: Really juicy, so make sure to eat it over a plate or to keep napkins on hand.

Participating in Food Festival? Yes. Winner of silver ribbon in the entree division.

“Wow” factor: 1/5

This was a standard soft beef taco, but it was delicious and filling. There’s a lot of pageantry at the fair, vendors frying everything in sight and drizzling syrup all over, but if you’re hungry for a dependable meal, this might be it.

Hawaiian chicken in a carved pineapple

Vendor: The Bacon Habit

Special notes: Rice and grilled chicken in a pineapple? Does it get any better than this?

Participating in Food Festival? No

“Wow” factor: 5/5

A small portion of the pineapple core was carved out and replaced with rice, grilled chicken and smaller pineapple pieces. The pineapple serves as a bowl, and after you’re done, you can save the pineapple to eat at home. Also, eating out of a pineapple is a perfect Instagram moment.

Spicy chocolate-covered bacon

Vendor: The Bacon Habit

Special notes: Again, keep napkins on hand because on a hot summer day, the chocolate will melt!

Participating in Food Festival? Yes

“Wow” factor: 4/5

Chocolate, spicy seasoning and bacon sounds crazy but we loved it! Even if you’re not a fan of spicy food, the chocolate balances out the Tajin to ease the spice. We appreciate the creativity on this surprising concoction.

Funnel Cake

Vendor: Gringo’s Mexican Funnel Cake

Special notes: If you can finish the “jumbo” funnel cake alone, in thirty minutes, you get it for free! It’s a pretty hefty stack, so we do not recommend it after a full meal.

Participating in Food Festival? No

“Wow” factor: 3.5/5

We really loved how crunchy this was. In the video, you can see just how much whipped cream and caramel gets drizzled over one funnel cake. We hope this is your cheat day so you can indulge in this creamy, sugary, wonderful mess. Well-suited for people with an extreme sweet tooth and easy to share with a group.

Bacon & Pecan Cinnamon Rolls

Vendor: Country Fair Cinnamon Rolls

Special notes: Soft, fresh-out-of-oven rolls covered in crunchy pecan nuts: the best of both worlds.

Participating in Food Festival? Yes. “Best of Show” winner and “Best of Division” winner in dessert.

“Wow” factor: 3/5

These award-winning cinnamon rolls are a staple across California country fairs. Tasty and filling, each serving has more than enough sugar for one person. Considering that these cinnamon rolls won the most awards at the Food Festival Competition, you don’t have to take our word for it to know that they must be good.

Green Monster and Pina Colada smoothies

Vendor: Country Fair Cinnamon Rolls

Special notes: A healthier option to satisfy your sweet tooth cravings.

Participating in Food Festival? Yes. Winner of bronze ribbon in fruity division.

“Wow” factor: 2/5

We ate so much sugar trying to taste everything offered to us, that these fruit smoothies offered a much needed change of pace. The Green Monster is lighter than the Pina Colada and has a subtler taste.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee

Kyung Mi Lee, from Yale, writes about government and politics for The Sacramento Bee. She is originally from Honolulu, Hawaii.
Elliot Wailoo, from Yale University, is a local news reporter for The Sacramento Bee interested in prison systems, police, and education. He is originally from New Jersey.