Aug 18, 2022 - Food and Drink

Five fabulous Illinois State Fair dishes

Photo of a sandwich wrap in a basket.
A horseshoe wrap. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

👋 Hey, it's Monica. My stomach hurts.

What's happening: I went to my first Illinois State Fair yesterday and tried to jam as much interesting fare down my gullet before heading to the Governor's Day speeches.

Eating the news: I tried 10 things, including sirloin on a stick, pork chop on a stick and a pork twister featuring grilled tenderloin wrapped in bacon at — where else? — the Pork Patio near the Swine Barn.

  • But only five dishes make my must-try list:
  1. Walking Deep-Fried Horseshoe ($9): The portable version of Springfield's signature dish of ground beef or chicken, crispy fries and house beer cheese sauce gets wrapped in a flour tortilla and deep-fried with a final flourish of, um, more cheese sauce.
  • It's served at the fair's Motorheads Bar & Grill booth, but don't try to find it at their regular restaurant — it's a fair special.
Photo of a hamburger with cheetos on top.
Flamin' Hot Cheeto Burger. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

2. Flamin' Hot Cheeto Burger ($12): Even if the meat patty looked a little gray, this burger was bursting with cheesy, corny, spicy flavor boosted by hot liquid cheese and pickled jalapenos.

Photo of a woman eating a cheesy breaded item on a stick.
Swiss on a stick. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

3. Swiss 'N Rye ($7): This offering from the Wisconsin Cheese wagon features a hunk of Swiss cheese on a stick dunked in rye batter that's then deep-fried like a corndog and served with a little tub of German mustard.

Photo of a sandwich on a napkin.
The rainbow grilled cheese. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

4. Rainbow grilled cheese ($5): Brian Harrison, the owner of Springfield's 1DK, debuted this at the fair this year. Featuring layers of colored colby jack cheese on crispy Texas toast, Harrison says he first made it for his nephew, who refused to eat other cheese.

Photo of a cart at the fair.
Kandymellons offers an array of choices. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

5. Kandymellons ($5): If watermelon is not sweet enough for you, this treat from Biloxi Mississippi douses chunks of it with flavored syrup.

  • After trying a sample with Jamaican rum syrup, I opted for the plain watermelon, and it made a refreshing finish to a long hour of eating.
  • Oddly enough, this stand also sells amazing gumbo that we sampled, bought and took back to the hotel for later.

The big picture: Our state fair holds its own when it comes to creative chow, but I don't recommend eating everything in a single hour.

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