Updated Aug 19, 2022 - Food and Drink

Iowa State Fair new food reviews 2022: What you need to know

A photo of a deep fried queso burger.
It’s OK to skip this new fair food. Photo: Jason Clayworth/Axios

Welcome to our special series this week, where we give you our honest fair food thoughts and let you know if it's "fair" for your money.

First up: The deep fried queso burger (pictured above) has beef chips mixed into what appears to be Cheese Whiz that is batter-dipped and fried.

  • It came with a side of cheese for dipping ($8).

Jason's thought bubble: It tasted like Hamburger Helper wrapped in corn dog batter.

  • This year is its fair debut and it should also be its farewell.

🧈 Butter ranking: one stick = ick; five = don’t miss it

Aesthetics: 🧈🧈

Creativity: 🧈🧈

Overall taste: 🧈

Try it: Waffle Bombs, southwest of the administration building.

We tried the BLT roll
A BLT Roll from JR's SouthPork ranch
A BLT Roll from JR's SouthPork ranch. ($15). Photo: Linh Ta/Axios

One of the most talked about new foods is the $15 BLT Roll at JR's SouthPork Ranch β€” home of the famous $30 lobster roll.

  • The new dish is advertised as a "cool, crisp refreshing option" with a sweet corn aioli mayonnaise.

Linh's thought bubble: It tasted good, but left more to be desired at its price point.

  • Crunchy bacon lovers can rejoice. There's tons of savory bits and the aioli made sure the sandwich wasn't dry. But the dainty tomatoes and lettuce were more reminiscent of salad bar toppings.

🧈 Butter ranking:

  • Aesthetics: 🧈🧈🧈🧈
  • Creativity: 🧈🧈🧈
  • Overall taste: 🧈🧈🧈
Fried olives on a stick
Fried olives on a stick
Photo: Jason Clayworth/Axios

Fried olives on a stick describes itself accurately.

  • Four batter-dipped green olives in the standard corn dog-like fair coating. ($7)

Jason's thought bubble: Skip this schtick.

  • Deep frying didn't enhance the fruit's flavor and β€” for nearly $2 an olive β€”it's not a good deal.

🧈 Butter ranking:

  • Aesthetics: 🧈🧈
  • Creativity: 🧈🧈🧈
  • Overall taste: 🧈🧈

Try it: Waffle Bombs, southwest of the administration building.

Reptilian corn dog
Alligator corn dog on a stick
Photo: Jason Clayworth/Axios

What could be better than a corn dog made of alligator meat?

  • A second one made of elk.

State of play: Get one of each in a two for $14 deal at Pioneer Wagon.

  • It comes with a side of avocado sauce.

Jason's thought bubble: Surprisingly good.

  • The alligator tastes more like a traditional corn dog. The elk is a little gamier.

🧈 Butter ranking:

  • Aesthetics: 🧈🧈🧈
  • Creativity: 🧈🧈🧈
  • Overall taste: 🧈🧈🧈🧈

Try it: Located near the front of the Grandstand

The 2022 People's Choice winner: "The Finisher"
A photo of the Finisher.
Photo courtesy of the Iowa State Fair

"The Finisher" is a russet potato covered in chopped brisket, pulled pork, mac and cheese, barbecue sauce, sour cream and garlic butter, all for $10.

Jason's thought bubble: Delicious but also a carb carnival.

  • I felt like I needed a nap after I woofed it down.

πŸ† Of note: This big dish won the 2022 Iowa State Fair People's Choice award for best new food.

Try it: The Rib Shack, south of Anne and Bill Riley Stage.

🧈 Butter ranking:

  • Aesthetics: 🧈🧈
  • Creativity: 🧈🧈🧈🧈
  • Overall taste: 🧈🧈🧈🧈
Spam deluxe cheeseburger
A photo of a Spam sandwich
Photo: Jason Clayworth/Axios

The Spam deluxe cheeseburger ($10) is a thick cut of fried canned pork with an optional topper of egg and cheese.

  • Ours was jalapeno-flavored but traditional Spam is available.

Jason's thought bubble: It was flavorful and far different than the spongy lunchmeat I recall from my childhood.

  • Sure, it was salty and greasyβ€” but in comparison with other fair eats I’ve had this weekβ€” it’s probably on the healthier side.

🧈 Butter ranking:

  • Aesthetics: 🧈🧈
  • Creativity: 🧈🧈🧈
  • Overall taste: 🧈🧈🧈🧈

Go get it: At the Spam stand, east of the Administration Building.

Wild Alaskan salmon sandwich
A photo of an salmon sandwich.
Photo: Jason Clayworth/Axios

The Wild Alaskan salmon sandwich is listed as a gourmet selection at Smokey’s Grill.

  • It comes topped with a slice of tomato and lettuce. ($11)

Jason's thought bubble: It was a nice reprieve from deep-fried food.

  • Yes, but: It is a pressed-meat patty β€” not what comes to my mind when I think of gourmet.

Butter ranking

  • Aesthetics: 🧈🧈
  • Creativity: 🧈🧈
  • Overall taste: 🧈🧈🧈

Try it: Smokey's is southwest of the Pioneer Livestock Pavilion.

A sweet fair ending: The Minty Moo v. The Puff
A photo of ice cream.
Photos courtesy of the Iowa State Fair

The Minty Moo parfait and The Puff sundae were finalists in the fair’s best new food contest this year.

Details: Both have a vanilla ice cream base and a cookie goodness mix.

  • The Puff: Graham cracker crumbles, a vanilla wafer, hot fudge and toasted marshmallows. ($7)
  • The Moo: Girl Scout Thin Mints crumbles and chocolate syrup. ($9)

πŸ’¬ Jason’s thought bubble: Both are worthy.

  • The Puff is more attractive. But I like mint so I give the moo a slight edge for taste.

πŸ’¬ Linh’s thought bubble: I enjoyed both, but the Puff was a creamier, richer ice cream.

  • Plus: The giant marshmallow epitomizes what the fair stands for β€” bigger is better.
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