2015 Wisconsin State Fair: Guest Post – Tara’s Take

When Adam asked me to “guest post” about the fair, I started thinking, “How did I get to this point?” How did I go from being a fairly normal individual, who, at most, only gave the fair a second thought once a year while it was going on – to being someone who you could call a “fair addict”, constantly jonesing for that next sweet fair fix. The answer is, Adam. Adam has done this damage to me, or maybe we’ve fed off of each other year after year, constantly trying to one up each other to the point where we both have a raging addiction. It’s a vicious, yet delicious, cycle. So, here are my WI State Fair observations for this year…

 

The fair is such a fascinating atmosphere. I’ve never been anywhere else, where I’ve witnessed such an insane grouping of people. No matter what gender, size, race, age….everyone looks like a rabid jackass while devouring a cream puff. And maybe it’s that simple fact that brings everyone together in harmony. Could cream puffs be the key to world peace? Yes, yes they can! We can’t judge one another while we’re all covered a thin layer of sweat and powdered sugar.
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And speaking of powdered sugar…those food booth carnie’s really need to hire a proof reader before printing a giant sign that will be displayed prominently on the front of your booth. Unless of course, you are in fact advertising “POWERED SUGAR”, which does sound enticing.
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But, back to cream puffs, seriously, whoever designed these things was a real jerk. I already have a hard time eating messy things in public, but cream puffs take it to another level, by making you look like to just went on a cocaine bender. These reasons are why I choose to take my cream puff home and devour it in private.

Back to the beginning. We like entering the fair through the “Tunnel Entrance”, mostly because it’s the closest entrance to where we park, but I also like it because it’s such a grand and dramatic entrance.
IMG_7798_2 You have to walk down through this giant dungeon like tunnel, and then – wait! You see the light! You’re almost there! The humidity is gaining…and then…you’re there! You are shot into the fair crowd where you are immersed into a sea of B.O. and heat. I also like that this entrance has a GIANT sign that says “TUNNEL EXIT”, it’s like the fair personnel knew that hoards of people at the end of the night would be too drunk to remember where they parked, so they gave them a giant reminder.
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The fair this year was as perfect as ever. I always appreciate the fact that people look into their closets when choosing what outfit to wear to the fair, and they usually end up picking the one thing that should never see the light of day. I get that it’s insanely hot out, but there is a time and a place where you should wear nothing but extra tight bike shorts. And that place is hell.
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I was extra excited about the fair this year, because last year during the fair I was stuck in what seemed like an endless pit of morning sickness that wouldn’t quit. Not only could I not enjoy the delicious fair food, but I couldn’t enjoy any BEER. Sad. So, I made up for lost time by indulging in what could only be described as a “butt load” of beer. My favorites were beermosas at the Micro, and an Eastside Dark beer float at the Lakefront tent. I could go on about the the tasty food I enjoyed, but I’ll let Adam share his food expertise on that subject. My favorites though, were The ‘donut breakfast sandwich’, ‘truffle tots’, and ‘smoked gouda fries’.

Some other interesting observations I had at the fair this year are as follows:
CORN CAGE. Why do the workers at New Berlin corn sit in a cage whilst selling corn? Are they being punished? I feel like I’m the one being punished, because they can never hear me through the cage, and I’m forced to yell my order at them like a lunatic.
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WINE TASTING. Nothing quite says “high class wine tasting” than the light purple and beige color scheme they have goin’ on at the Wisconsin Wine Tasting building. Fine wine should only be enjoyed under harsh florescent lights. Except wait, fine wines are not called: ‘Hot Mess’.
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CREAM PUFF ZOO. I’ve always enjoyed how the cream puff workers are on display like zoo animals.
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I also like that when you see a “Team Cream Puff” employee out on the grounds, it’s like seeing an animal in the wild. You keep your distance, and proceed with caution.
SWEET SHIRTS. Seriously, I will pay someone good money to get my hands on one of the Giant Slide t-shirts that the workers wear. So simple, it’s perfect. If I wasn’t too scared to appear to be a creeper by asking one of the teenagers for his shirt, I would. So many booths have amazing shirts (Sheboygan Brat House, Fresh Fries, Hot WI cheese), why doesn’t the fair cash in on this? Am I the only one who wants one of these shirts? Anyone? Bueller?

 

In conclusion, the fair is a magical place. So magical in fact, that it’s the only time in which West Allis is the shining jewel of Wisconsin. And it’s the only place on earth that I don’t mind the stank of ripe cow dung baking in the late summer sun. Ahh, I can already smell it now, only 350 days to go…

2015 Wisconsin State Fair: Day 5 (Final Trip)

I’ve finally recovered enough to write and post this entry on our last trip to the fair. The weather tested our love for the fair on Day 5. It was hot. Hot and humid. Boooooo. Would we still go? How could we not? We didn’t even say goodbye the last time. But I hate heat and humidity. It makes me want to die. It makes me claustrophobic when I’m standing in an empty field – alone. So to walk into that fiery furnace of a fair on Sunday- shoulder to shoulder with people all shapes and sizes (some more prevalent than others) it literally took my breath away. Seriously, half way through our first food of the day – whilst enjoying beers at the Micro, I started having a mild asthma attack (not completely medically out of the question for me but mostly unprecedented). Maybe I was allergic to the Parmesan Truffle TotsIMG_5857(But they were too tasty to stop eating regardless of how my histamines felt.) Or maybe the scent of barnyard feces shrunk my breathing passages. I guess it could have been the heat, the humidity, possibly a panic attack wondering what I’d eat for the next 352 days; I don’t know what it was but it felt like a Clydesdale was standing on my chest. Tara kept telling me we should just go home – to which I replied something along the lines of, “what are you, stupid?” (through short shallow breaths). Instead of leaving, I did what any responsible adult would do, I rationalized. I figured I just needed to wash down whatever was doing this to me with some more food. One beer battered brat on a stick later (I had a coupon) and that theory seemed less sensical than it had a few minutes earlier – it didn’t work at all. But we pressed on and found respite from the heat in the oddly-less-crowded-than-usual and delightfully air conditioned expo center. I suggested to Tara that I lie down near this tombstone looking thing:IMG_2225But who knows what that black carpet is hiding…actually I feel like I do, I’m no stranger to the fair after all, and I didn’t want e coli or hep c. Anyway, I started finding my lungs somewhere between German Glue and Master Spas. Thank goodness. We passed by some interesting booths (as always) and I especially liked the salsa booth with dozens of signs telling passerby to “Ask 4 Chips!”

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Man how I wanted to see someone just walk up and stick their finger right in a jar – thereby completely justifying signs that should’ve gone without saying. On the other hand, why not just have chips out? Like everywhere else – ever. Were people stealing chips? Can you imagine? I could just picture dude with 18” corndog in one hand walking past and grabbing a handful. F@#$ salsa, I just really want some stale chips from that basket everyone else at the fair has had their hands in. Having to settle for imagining all these scenarios instead of witnessing them we moved on and back out into the inferno we went.
It had been 15-20 minutes since I last ate so I insisted that we hunt down some new eats ASAP. We remembered mention of “Beer Cheese” on a sign near the tunnel entrance and like a zombie searches out brains, we Walking Deaded ourselves over that way. That Miller Lite Pavilion was where it was at and you could get it on mostly anything on the menu (and believe me – I would have). We chose the loaded chips which turned out to be a nice variation of nachos – using crispy kettle chips as the base instead of the tortilla variety. They were tasty, filling and reasonably priced.
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We moved on with our New Foods list and State Fair Map in hand, trying desperately to find Fried Fruit on a Stick – I couldn’t even tell you what for anymore – but all that matters is that we didn’t find it. Instead we did find this banner of Tara eating at the fair (or so it appeared…weird!)
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Where’s the commission checks? Or at least that sweet shirt!?
My mind was torn about leaving at this point (just about as much as my shorts were about to be if I kept eating like this) but I thought – one last hurrah. So back to the Machine Shed for an ol’ reliable deep fried PB&J on a stick.
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We thought we’d get one last beer and give killing a keg one more chance. It didn’t happen but I did drink some delightful Leinenkugels special fair beer – not sure what it was called but it hit the spot.
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If things seem like they’re getting fuzzy at this point – they were (alcohol had nothing to do with it, but gluttony and oppressive heat did). We were both feeling the weight of the day on our sad shoulders. Our conversation turned slightly weird at this point,
Tara:  “I wish we had rascals to drive around in.”
Adam:  “I wish it was a tandem so you could just drive” (because at this point even driving myself around the fair would be apparently too much)
Tara:  “Yeah, we’ll do it when we’re old, then I can just bust into people so they get out of our way”
Adam:  “Then I can just shrug and say, ‘women drivers’ and people will think it’s kinda cute cause I’ll be old.”
It was somewhere around this time where we decided it was time to go to leave the fair and walk through that tunnel exit for the last time in 2015.
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As we walked out through the track I looked back and saw a few hundred people in the grandstand waiting to see Kenny Rogers – I wondered how they got their rascals up the bleachers and if Kenny Rogers would sing from one as well. I kind of wanted to stay. But then a fresh wave of heat and exhaustion fell over me and I thought to myself, it’s probably better that the fair is only 11 days long – to paraphrase the inimitable Rogers – I knew it was time to fold ’em. See you next year!
PS Check back tomorrow for a very special fair themed guest post by Tara

2015 Wisconsin State Fair: Day 3 & 4

Our 3rd and 4th trips to the fair came on Monday & Wednesday (and both were totally kid free – thanks Grandparents!)

I was going to defer these posts to my fairer half Tara to guest author but I told her she could do her real work instead (I know I’m a giver). I think watching me feed my face like a blue ribbon hog may have been in there somewhere for her although Monday we both left feeling like this:IMG_2176

 

Let’s rewind back to Monday morning and find out how we got there:IMG_2170 (1)Breakfast of champions. The breakfast donut in the foreground was awesome – like a bigger more complete brother to the donut grilled cheese I had on Day 2 – the only thing wrong with it was that we had to share it.

You might think deep fried cheese curds are a weird choice for breakfast but you’d be seriously wrong. Oddly this is our first year of fairing (out of 11 together now) that we have started going in the mornings and we discovered something. Morning cheese curds are especially magical (and extra addictive). Maybe it’s new fryer oil, squeakier curds, fresh dairy air – I don’t know and I don’t care – they are the best (Brad & Harry’s on Central Ave always).

IMG_2171 (1)Not a heart shaped cheese curd but Tara’s actual heart after eating so many of them.

With storm clouds brewing on the horizon we decided to camp out at The Micro for another round of Beermosas and whatever other food was nearby. IMG_2172 (1)Enter Siggy’s Wild Dog Saloon and a Pickle Dog. It was good enough but at $6 for a hot dog with 3 frickles on top I was the one who felt like a wiener.

It rained hard and heavy but 30 minutes later we were on the move. We made an obligatory stop in the expo center while I would have loved to check out the steam mops and super absorbent this and thats – that place is really infuriating. Walk on the right, don’t stop in front of me for no reason, there’s an empty Vitamix booth 20 feet away you don’t all  need to stop at the one right inside the door. Rant over.

IMG_7807_2With the fair grounds steaming from the rain and now hot sun, where better than Tropics at the Fair for our next stop. We went for their two Sporkies finalists:  Beer Battered Pretzel Coated and Cheesy Smoked Gouda Sidewinder fries. All those adjectives lived up to their hype. The cheese curds were different enough from our usual battered curds that they were worth getting. The fries were great; rich and tasty cheese sauce with nice thickness and crispiness on the taters. Well done Tropics at the Fair!

Feeling like we should shift gears from stuff with cheese a deep fried pretzel crusted brownie on a stick from Saz’s seemed like a good idea.

IMG_7808_2These were just ok. They were a little cake like and not as crispy on the outside as I had hoped. I prefer my brownies dense and my deep fried things crunchy.

 

IMG_7803_2How better to wash down all that brownie than with 4 milks.

IMG_7810_2Tara chose to wash her food down with a Beer Float (Lakefront Eastside Dark).

We got some deep fried mac and cheese for the walk back to the car. This may have been a mistake as we barely waddled back to the car in the hot sun.

After a day of rest and fried cheese withdrawal we headed back Wednesday evening for more fair fun. Turns out this was a great choice, cooler weather and smaller crowds meant happy times for us. IMG_2189No sharing curds this time around. Not as good as morning curds but nothing to squeak about.

IMG_2190Another one off the new food list – The Hot Mess. Everything on this worked together to make a party in my tummy, so yummy, so yummy (this is what happens when you have kids, you use Yo Gabba Gabba songs to describe your life). Seriously though the honey, peanut butter, bacon, beef, cheese and pretzel bun were great together. It was a hot mess and so was I when this was all gone but it was sooo worth it.

IMG_2191Flight school at the Micro. No dead kegs for us though.

IMG_2192Lasagna on a stick! Again a winner. It’s what you think it is, wrapped in an egg roll wrapper and deep fried. No way for me not to like this.

IMG_2194Tara’s Cheesecake on a stick looked good to me. I may have finished the last bite when she asked me to hold it.

IMG_2198Tara ended her night with these deep fried pickles.

IMG_2197I ended mine with Grebe’s Bakery chocolate dipped crullers on a stick. Yes and yes.

So two full days of fair meant two full fairgoers. We plan on going back tomorrow for our last trip of the fair. With temps in the 90’s and humidity to match it might be rough – but we have to say goodbye somehow.

 

 

 

2015 Wisconsin State Fair: Day 2

Half of my wish came true for our 2nd trip to the fair – we left Ellis with the Grandparents and headed to the fair a lot lighter on baggage – with just 5 year old Beckett in tote. It’s the little things that make all the difference when you’re a parent.

But seriously, we took Beckett to the fair to see the pups from Paw Patrol! (Can you feel the excitement in my typing!?) We arrived to the Paw Patrol Trailer (straight from Adventure Bay) right at 10am – when things were supposed to get started.

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Every parent/kid in State Fair park was making a bee-line for the same spacious 20×20 alcove between the pigs and goats. Awesome. Amid the mass confusion we jumped right into line. Some further investigation determined the pups wouldn’t be out until 11:15 but never fear,some other stupid kid stuff would be happening ( Little Charmers, Chubby Puppies and Sick Bricks; whatever those are.) As much fun as that other stuff sounded, we told Beckett we’d come back in an hour for the main event…Poor kid reluctantly followed us away as I promised he could pick out whatever he wanted to eat.

But first, a little breakfast for mom and dad. Breakfast tots and Beermosa’s. Tara noted the presentation of the tots was nicely done.  They weren’t all show and no go either (they were really tasty). I went off script for my Beermosa and chose a Leinekugel’s Big Eddy series Royal Nektar – a strong mead style beer. It’s just what I needed to think about going back to Paw Patrol.

TIP: Visiting the Micro before noon is a great idea, not just for the Beermosa’s but for the serene, less crowded atmosphere as well. 

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Next we headed over to the WI Product Pavilion where I took Beckett to the apple stand to get a delicious treat. Caramel Apple? Apple Cider Donut perhaps? No, he wanted one of the normal real apples (natural-form food at the Fair???) from the decorative bushel of apples. I asked the girl if we could buy one and she said sure. It’s not often you try to convince your kid not to eat healthy.

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With some more time to kill before Paw Patrol, we stopped for some more healthy food – albeit dipped in butter and covered in salt this time.

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Isn’t she lovely?

Tara and Beckett headed back over to get in line for Paw Patrol while I detoured for a donut grilled cheese:

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By cutting the donut in half and grilling the inside, it not only keeps your fingers clean but also ensures the delicious glaze mixes with the melty cheese for sweet and cheesy delight (coincidentally that’s how I’d describe a date with me if I ever had to sign up for an online dating site. Please though Tara, don’t make that a reality as I’m suddenly doubting that line would work).

So back to Paw Patrol – as I approached I saw a frenzied line of parents and kids flanked by State Fair cops – this wasn’t going to be good. They were already blocking the end of the line telling people they’d never make it in time. Whaaaat? Well, Paw Patrol would only be out for 25 minutes and then again at 1:15. COooool. You’re there for 50 minutes out of the day to meet with 50000 rabid fairgoers – those stupid pups might as well join the other animals and take a giant dump right in front of us. But anyway, we told Beckett he’d have to settle for just seeing them and I hoisted him up on my shoulders for a decent view of Marshall and Chase. A promise of a new Paw Patrol toy from the store later seemed to satisfy him well enough (and we walked away as I felt oddly suckered by a bunch of fictional rescue dogs).

The rest of the fair included:

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More milk (of course)

IMG_2154Breakfast pizza and real cherry slush. Yum and yum.

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Cranberry cookie. Nice.

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Surf and Turf (beer battered, deep fried, bacon wrapped shrimp – I love when you have to describe it with multiple commas). Very rich, but delicious.

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Chocolate Banana (for Tara) and chocolate dipped, sprinkle covered, sugar cookie dough (for me – not pictured because I don’t have an x-ray machine).

A trip down to the midway for Beckett proved to teach him a valuable life lesson I learned only much later in life. Milk before rides, clears yours insides. Tara whisked him off the spinning bears just in time for me to get him to the cleanest stall I could find where he screamed “it’s gonna stink and it’s gonna hurt!” He was at least half right from what I could tell.

With that out of the way our day at the fair wound down.

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Come back soon for the Day 3 recap.

 

2015 Wisconsin State Fair:  Day 1

A fair day at the fair:

We had high hopes for the first day of the fair (see triumphant entrance below)

 Unfortunately hot, crowded, and stressed wasn’t just how I’d describe my intestines. Turns out having two kids along at the fair can put a real dent in previously well intended plans. And if you’re reading this someday kids; I wouldn’t trade you for all the curds in dairyland, but I might try to leave you home next time.

I can and should partly blame myself – leaving the diapers/changer in the trunk a couple Milwaukee Miles away wasn’t especially helpful to our situation. I might have been too caught up in fair prepping and excitement but that’s no excuse. Thanks to my wife (and props to mother’s everywhere) for constantly being on top of all that stuff. I can only blame the cream puff between my ears and/or the corndog between…well, let’s just blame my gender. Maybe if I identified as the fairer of the species I’d be better at that stuff (hell, maybe I’d even win an Espy).

But back to the fair. It wasn’t all bad. Starting your day w/ some pre-noon deep fried cheese curds and washing them down with Beermosas from The Micro is an excellent idea. We tried a Point Ciderboys Peach Country base and a Sprecher Grapefruit Raddler one as well. Both awesome.

Next, we headed over to the newly rebranded Bucks Milk House:

 On the way there I slammed my Beermosa to make room in the stroller’s limited cupholders for as many milks as possible. They’ve changed the lineup pretty significantly this year w/ the flavor lineup consisting of Banana Cream Pie, Strawberries & Cream, Orange Creamsicle, Chocolate Cream Pie, and Creamy Root Beer. We get it, milk is creamy – please ditch the cream in the names. That being said, they’re all still 25 cents and they all still taste good. Beckett continues to grow in his Milktitude (aptitude for milk drinking) and was very reluctant to share any of his 3 flavors with me.

 My disappointment was outweighed by my pride for him.

Being full of fluid but light on food we headed to the Machine Shed and I shelled out a crisp Hamilton for the top of the line 50/50 burger topped w/ a Deep Fried Bacon Wrapped Cheddar Nugget. This is the burger made of a half ground beef and half ground bacon.

 Unfortunately the cheddar nugget and pretzel bun were the only good things about this. I don’t know how you can make something worse by adding bacon but you’ve done it again Machine Shed! (1st time was the limp chocolate covered bacon) You should be ashamed of yourselves. The burger patty was more akin to one of the “premium” leather wallets you can buy all over the fair grounds than anything resembling meat. I swallowed my disappointment along with the last piece (it was $10 after all) and we moved on.

A disappointing cup (yes, inexplicably it was served in a little cup) of Duke’s Poutine – supposedly Quebec style – was the only other food of note from this 1st day of the fair.

So as you can see, my sweat wasn’t the only thing leaving me feeling salty on Day 1. But, there are 10 days left and plenty of food yet to be tried. I’m hoping for better days ahead.

What day is it?

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It’s not just hump day, it’s Wisconsin State Fair Eve! Sing it with me:

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

They’ll be fried food a-flowin’

(Our hearts will be slowin’)

We’ll be drinking good beer.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

I could go on, but you get the idea – I’m full of cheer as the fair draws near. Our new not-so-little cheddar nugget (20+lb, 5mo old, Ellis) and a year in limbo (moving 3 times and building a house) has put a serious dent in my blogging efforts as of late. But nothing can keep me from sharing the fair with the world (or whomever happens across this tiny blog).

So you’ve heard of doomsday preppers? Well, I’m a fair prepper. How does one do that? Well, throughout the year, I make sure I eat a selection of foods that keep me in whatever the opposite of tip-top shape is. Here are some of those things:IMG_1999 IMG_1897IMG_1772 IMG_1509

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Meat stuffed donut, bacon bottom pizza, hot dog crust pizza, nachos on a stick, and an all you can drink milk tent were all part of my prep plan. As you can see, I don’t rest on my laurels (I’m not sure if I even have laurels).

Final prep steps:

  1. Good night sleep (Ha! says teething baby and recently faulty smoke alarm)
  2. Hydrate (fair foods are apparently high in sodium – weird!)
  3. Good beard and mustache trim, the flavor saver can only savor so much flavor -before it gets nasty.
  4. Apply Gold Bond liberally to my nether regions.
  5. Pack maximum daily dose of chewable Pepto (for on-the-go relief)
  6. Jump up and down with Tara (who’s last fair was tempered by morning sickness)
  7. Review the list below of my top new foods to try (see entire list here)
  • 50/50 Burger with a Bacon Wrapped Cheddar Melt
    • Machine Shed A10
  • Apple Pie Wonton, Deep Fried (Apple pie filling, caramel w/ ice cream or whip)
    • Leadfoots Race Bar & Grill F9
  • Bacon Bottom Porker Pizza (BBQ pork shoulder, gouda, cilantro & pork rind)
    • Brew City F9
  • Bacon Cinnamon Roll with Icing
    • Cinnamon Rolls E6
  • Beer Battered Pretzel Coated Cheese Curds (Pilsner, pretzel, &panko battered)
    • Tropics at the Fair B10
  • Cheesy Smoked Gouda Sidewinder Fries (Gouda sauce, bacon, green onion tops)
    • Tropics at the Fair B10
  • Donut Grilled Cheese (Grilled, halved donut w/ American cheese)
    • Siggy’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese D10
  • Grilled Breakfast Donut Sandwich
    • Siggy’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese D10
  • Gyro Meatballs (Gyro ingredients except pita in a meatball, deep-fried)
    • Apollos B9
  • Lasagna Sticks (Handmade filling wrapped &deep fried w/marinara)
    • Steak Stop B9
  • Maple Bacon Gourmet Mini Donut Bowl (With real bacon crumbles & maple syrup)
    • The Donut Family G5
  • Pickle Dog, Deep Fried (Fried pickles on beef hot dog, ranch dressing)
    • Siggy’s Wild Dogs Saloon D10
  • Poutine (French fries, cheese curds, & gravy)
    • Duke’s Poutine F7
  • Pretzel Crusted Brownies On-a-Stick, Deep Fried (Side of sea salt caramel sauce)
    • Saz’s Ribs E8
  • Surf & Turf , Deep Fried (Battered, bacon-wrapped shrimp w/chipotle BBQ glaze)
    • Joey’s Seafood & Grill E9
  • The Hot Mess (Cheeseburger w/ peanut butter, honey & bacon on a pretzel bun)
    • Tavern at the Park F11

It’s good to be back!  I’ll be posting updates of my thoughts on all the above and more soon.