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Best Food at the Sonoma County Fair 2015

What's are the best bets for food at the Sonoma County Fair 2015? We've got some faves you won't want to miss.

Behold, the Sonoma County Fair Food winner, 2015; The Lobster Corn Dog
Behold, the Sonoma County Fair Food winner, 2015; The Lobster Corn Dog

The 12 Things You Have to Eat at the Sonoma County Fair 2015

Fair Food Scramblers Jim May, Robb Sarmento and Dierdre Francis at the Sonoma County Fair 2015
Fair Food Scramblers Jim May, Robb Sarmento and Dierdre Francis at the Sonoma County Fair 2015

The Delicious Dozen at the Sonoma County Fair

1. Lobster Dog, Sharky’s Fish Fry

2. Torta Ahogada, Nuevo Sazon

3. Chili Pineapple Paleta (popsicle), Frozen Art

4. Fried bacon and cheese, Monster Grill

5. Dirty Greek Fries, Sleek Greek

6. Chips, salsa and ceviche, Pepe’s Mariscos

7. Pumpkin Curry with chicken, Thai Time Asian Bistro

8. Maple Bacon Funnel Cake, Pennsylvania Dutch Funnel Cakes

9. Jalapeno corn dog, Big Jim’s Dawg House

10. Fish Taco, Old Mexico

11. Ribs, Big Bubbas

12. Rocky Road Caramel Apple, DB Ventures

The Sonoma County Fair’s 2015 Food Scramblers have spoken, and this year’s Ultimate Fair Food is…Lobster Corn Dog on a stick.

On Friday, the opening day of the annual Sonoma County Fair, a hearty (and hungry) troop of six food fanatics raced to as many of the fairground’s 60-plus food vendors as $250 and two hours would allow them.

Chosen for their commitment to caloric martyrdom and fearlessness of odd and unusual fried foods, the team included Santa Rosans Jim May, Laurie Trainor, Robb Sarmento, Brad Calkins, John Hendrickson and Healdsburger, Diedre Francis.

Their mission: Grab corn dogs, fries, tacos, burgers and funnel cakes (among other deliciousness) as fast as possible, pile all the food on a single picnic table, grab a fork and get down to business.

“This is a fantasy come true,” said Trainor, a recent Los Angeles transplant and first-time Sonoma County fair attendee.

After an hour of eating and eating and eating and some more eating, the group came to a consensus of what visitors absolutely must put on their hit-list of must-eats at this year’s fair.

“It’s the fair on a stick,” said Francis, of Healdsburg, of the winning lobster dog ($10). The batter fried seafood-sicle from Sharky’s Fish Fry (on Magnolia St.) is drizzled with a lemon ailoi dressing, adding to the decadence.

Ceviche at the Sonoma County Fair 2015
Ceviche at the Sonoma County Fair 2015

Foodie Jim May defended the taste, saying, “it has a fresh, clean flavor.” Others found it “unusual” and “well cooked”, but it wasn’t the unanimous winner.

Coming in a close second was local newcomer Nuevo Sazon’s Torta Ahogada ($11). The “drowned” sandwich is a specialty of Jalisco made by dipping a baguette into a delicately-spiced tomato sauce and piling it with carnitas and onions. Located next to the Shade Area stage, Sazon is a first-time local entrant run by a small family, so give them the benefit of a few extra minutes if things are busy.

Carnitas sandwich from Nuevo Sazon, another front runner at the Sonoma County Fair.
Carnitas sandwich from Nuevo Sazon, another front runner at the Sonoma County Fair.

“This sandwich beats the lobster,” said Sarmento. “It just pops with spices. It’s a Sea Biscuit,” he said of the underdog favorite. Culkins, the executive director of the Santa Rosa Convention and Visitors Bureau, gave “Honorable Mention” to Nuevo Sazon’s lengua taco ($2.50).

Behold, the Sonoma County Fair Food winner, 2015; The Lobster Corn Dog
Behold, the Sonoma County Fair Food winner, 2015; The Lobster Corn Dog

Though many of the larger food vendors are from other parts of the country, a number of local purveyors have been added this year.

Thai Time, which has a brick and mortar restaurant in downtown Santa Rosa, is featuring the light Thai flavors of pumpkin chicken curry ($9), pork with basil, Thai ice tea and sticky rice with mango ($5).

Mexican Candy, including corn husk wrapped tamarind candy (a favorite) at the Sonoma County Fair 2015
Mexican Candy, including corn husk wrapped tamarind candy (a favorite) at the Sonoma County Fair 2015

The mostly-local Mexican Village was a favorite for simple, fresh dishes like pozole ($11) at Old Mexico, and Pepe’s Marisco’s Ceviche ($10) and fish taco ($3.75). Jorge Alcazar of Santa Rosa’s Frozen Art is a newcomer at the fair with a variety of freshly-made ice cream and palate-cleansing fruit paletas (chili pineapple is a favorite, $4).

Fried Cheese at the Sonoma County Fair 2015
Fried Cheese at the Sonoma County Fair 2015

If you’re all about the fried and battered, you’re covered. Dirty Greek Fries ($7) at The Sleek Greek are doused with feta and tzatziki. A twist on the usual corn dog? Jalapeño corn dogs from Big Jim’s Dawg House that “packed a kick” according to Scrambler John Hendrickson. Other break-out winners: Maple bacon funnel cakes ($10, Pennsylvania Dutch Funnel Cakes) and deep fried cheese on a stick (described by one eater as “molten lava on a stick”) from Monster Grill ($6.50).

Scrambler Robb tasting fried cheese at the Sonoma County Fair 2015
Scrambler Robb tasting fried cheese at the Sonoma County Fair 2015

“You can’t go to the fair without having some kind of corn dog,” said Culkins.

Of course, every year, vendors try to one-up each other with grease-tastic dishes that are usually more fun to laugh at than eat. This year’s “Oh, come on seriously?” foods included Cap’n Crunch Chicken (chicken breast rolled in crushed cereal), macaroni and cheese-stuffed burgers, fried shark and bacon cotton candy.

Making tongue tacos at Nuevo Sazon at the Sonoma County Fair 2015
Making tongue tacos at Nuevo Sazon at the Sonoma County Fair 2015

Holding their stomachs and tossing the melted, soggy leftovers into the trash, May spoke for the group, saying, “Nothing was terrible, which was surprising.”

Maple Bacon Funnel Cake at the Sonoma County Fair 2015
Maple Bacon Funnel Cake at the Sonoma County Fair 2015

More Fair Food Scramble Results:

  • Best Restaurant Quality Food: Thai Time Asian Bistro, chicken pumpkin curry and sticky rice with mango
  • Best Way to Feed A Family: Pasta King’s Spaghetti Palace Polenta with Marinara
  • Best Way to Cool Off: Fruit popsicles from Frozen Art
  • Best Lemonade: Phil’s Lemonade
  • Best Spot to Cool Off and Eat Barbecue: Barbecue Spot at Sliders Gastropub
  • Best Sugar Rush: Corn husk wrapped Tamarind Candy at Angel’s Candy
  • Best Lemonade: Phil’s Fresh Squeezed
Macaroni and Cheese Burger at the Sonoma County Fair 2015
Macaroni and Cheese Burger at the Sonoma County Fair 2015
Pumpkin chicken curry at the Sonoma County Fair 2015
Pumpkin chicken curry at the Sonoma County Fair 2015
Best Scramble Team Ever! The Sonoma County Fair Food Scramblers 2015
Best Scramble Team Ever! The Sonoma County Fair Food Scramblers 2015
Flautas at the SOnoma County Fair 2015
Flautas at the SOnoma County Fair 2015

Editor’s Note: Travel, dining and wine tasting can be complicated right now. Use our inspirational ideas to plan ahead for your next outing, be it this week or next year. If you visit restaurants, wineries, and other businesses during the pandemic, remember to call ahead, make reservations, wear a mask and social distance.

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Comments

14 thoughts on “Best Food at the Sonoma County Fair 2015

  1. Thai Time curry and sticky rice with mango were great, but, whoever thought lobster dogs for 10.95 were great must have gotten something that I didn’t get. The inside was some sort of mushy goo that was pretty much inedible. Not to mention, it didn’t taste anything like any lobster I’d had in the past. Only wish I had listened to my wife’s advice to just buy one to try first, so I would have only thrown away 10.95 instead of 21.90.

  2. Thanks for the vegan tips. Rose’s in the Mexican Village had a tasty veggie burrito with added guac. Wife loved the mango and sticky rice. I acted on Cyndi’s tip and ordered falafel from the Sleek Greek, hold the sauce, add a lemon wedge, skip the oil. We passed on the bucket of garlic fries this year. At the bruchetta tasting in the Greentivities tent, I asked for some samples without the cheese. Tasty! … and we got to meet the veggie farmer who provided the basil, tomato, onion, and peppers.

  3. I had the shrimp cocktail at Pepe’s Mariscos yesterday. Highly recommended! Nice amount of shrimp and perfectly ripe avocado with a tart and tangy tomato juice. Surprise bits of cucumber and tomato lingering at the bottom. Served with lime and saltines. Perfect for a hot summer day.

  4. I feel the very best food for the value at the fair are the Gyros. They are delicious and abundant, so best to share if you plan to sample other food, which is what the fair is all about anyway. Next would be the soft tacos, anything falafel, regular corndogs and of course, anything frozen on a hot day. I don’t care for greasy food so I’m sure I’ve missed out on a lot of popular items, which I am fine with.

  5. I and my sister each had a lobster dog first thing on Tuesday at the recommendation of this site. Yuck is all we had to say! The cornbread was over-cooked to the point of being burnt (a small boy even walked up to us and said “those look burnt!), the small amount of tasteless lobster was encased in what, at first site, we both thought was a latex glove that stretched and snapped back. I say don’t waste your $11 (not $10) on these! Içk!

  6. I should be more specific…I mean food I can eat that’s a main meal (i.e., has protein), not just vegan or non-dairy/non-meat. The falafel is fully vegan without that sauce.

  7. I know you had an “alternative” eater and I was really looking forward to hearing about fair foods for people with dietary restrictions. I haven’t been to the fair yet this year but, for the last couple of years, I’ve found exactly one dish I can eat other than plain bean tacos or ceviche (and I’m not 100% sure about those two). I am allergic to dairy and don’t eat meat (I eat fish). That one dish is a falafel in pita. I skip the sauce and they give me some olive oil in a little container and lemon slices to use instead. It’s on the racetrack side of the garden display, not far from the vendor building.

  8. So I never tasted the Lobster Dog personally (it got snatched up too fast), so I can’t comment.

    For VEGAN/VEGETARIAN and SAFE and SANE foods, I really think Old Mexico village is the best bet. They have fresh fruit, paletas that are vegan/vegetarian and corn for certain. I also love the ceviche for a “sane” choice –which used to freak me out because it was fish on a hot day, but it was super cold and delish. I’m with ya’ll on the greasy stuff…I just can’t do it anymore.

    Also, I LOVED the sticky rice and mango at Thai Time. So refreshing and yum. I think vegan, but double check. I’m sure its vegetarian.

    I really don’t do veggie burgers. They always disappoint. I’d rather just eat vegetables.

  9. I know it’s counter-intuitive, but maybe a Top 10 Safest/Sanest Foods might be a challenge to be met. As a low carb, low fat, low sodium person, that would be interesting.

  10. The lobster dog was tasty but more than one person has shared with me that they found something inedible in there. I hope they took care of that problem because it was disappointing

  11. Any vegan best bets at the fair? A review of the vendor menus online did not detect any veggie burgers. In past years, one grill vendor had a veg burger that seemed to sell out early.

  12. The Torta Ahogada from Nuevo Sazon was great. It’s huge! I ordered the spicy version and it was just perfect. Just enough heat, but not overpowering.

    The lobster corn dog was tasty, but the skin on the lobster dog was chewy. If they quick seared the lobster hot dog to crisp up the skin, and then made a corn dog out of it, it would have been much easier to eat.

  13. The cheese on a stick you reviewed was from big Jim’s dawghouse at fair not monster grill as published. Fyi

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