Jul 20, 2022 - Food and Drink

Iowa State Fair food 2022: We tried the good, bad and ugly

Pork Belly Bao Buns
Pork belly bao buns from Saigonais Cuisine, a new food at the fair ($6). Photo: Linh Ta/Axios

Here's the scoop: We all know who the real queen of the Iowa State Fair is β€” the food.

Driving the news: With the 2022 fair just around the corner, I got the chance to judge some of the new foods on Tuesday.

This year has every type of dish, from gluttonously greasy to fresh, healthy plates.

  • Below is a sneak peek at the judges' three favorite foods, some of which are my personal favorites.

Of note: Everything I ate was sample size, so expect way more if you buy the real thing!

"OMG Chicken Sandwich" β€” Chicken City
OMG sandwich
"OMG Chicken Sandwich" from Chicken City ($12). Photo: Linh Ta/Axios

This over-the-top sandwich has "OMG" in it for a reason. It's a chicken sandwich breaded and fried in Frosted Flakes and served on two Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

  • Add on some bacon and drizzle it with syrup and this takes savory and sweet to extreme levels.

Jaw-dropping food like this is why you go to the fair, and I appreciate the creativity and gusto.

  • But two glazed doughnuts plus fried chicken was a tad bit too much (boo on me.)

Linh's rating: 🧈🧈🧈 (3 out of 5 butter sticks)

Pork Picnic in a Cup β€” Iowa Pork Tent
Pork Picnic in a cup
A sample size Pork Picnic in a Cup from the Iowa Pork Tent ($10). Photo: Linh Ta/Axios

I don't know if "whimsical" has ever been used to describe pork, but The Pork Picnic in a Cup is just that. It takes a classic Iowa barbecue and stuffs it all into a cup.

  • The cup has pulled pork and baked beans topped with creamy coleslaw. The piece de resistance is the tent's famous brown sugar pork belly.

It's filling, creative and fun. A part of me wishes it was mashed potatoes instead of coleslaw, but then that steps dangerously close to beef sundae territory.

  • The pork belly on a stick is hands down my favorite fair food, so I like this twist.

Linh's rating: 🧈🧈🧈🧈 (4 out of 5 butter sticks)

The Finisher β€” The Rib Shack
The Finisher
The Finisher ($10) from Rib Shack. Photo: Linh Ta/Axios

This is where my sample size doesn't do the whole dish justice β€” The Finisher is a gigantic, smothered baked potato that ensures you get the best bang for your buck at the fair.

  • It's an extra-large russet, topped with chopped brisket, pulled pork, mac and cheese, plus sour cream and butter.

When everything is getting expensive at the fair, this is a must try not only because of the price-value ratio, but it tasted like great barbecue as well.

Linh's rating: 🧈🧈🧈🧈 (4 out of 5 butter sticks)

And special shoutout to my favorite new fair food that I tried β€” Egg-O-Fuego ($8) from The Cluckin' Coop. It's a spicy egg sandwich, loaded with chorizo, pepper jack cheese on a brioche bun.

  • 🧈 It gets all my butter sticks.
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