BiteClub, Events

Fair Food Scramble at the Sonoma County Fair

The first annual Fair Food Scramble

Seven eaters. One hundred dollars. Twenty minutes to gather up as much fair food as humanly possible. One hour to eat it all.

That’s the idea behind the first Food Scramble, in which five strangers (plus a reporter and her able assistant) run through the streets of the recently opened Sonoma County Fair collecting armloads of greasy, fried, sugary and no-doubt horrible for you foods that only come ’round once a year.

Then makes pigs of ourselves tasting it all.



With more than twenty vendors spread over several acres hawking
everything from sarsparilla to bricks of fried potatoes, it’s no easy
task to taste everything. But oh, is it impressive to load an entire
picnic table with the kinds of food that make doctors and gym trainers
shudder — barbecue sliders, fried zucchini sticks, spaghetti, two
kinds of corn dogs, fudge, cookies, donuts, tacos, gyros, turkey, egg
rolls on a stick — and that’s just for starters.

Why do we do it? Think of it as a community service to your waist and
your wallet. We’ve hand-picked our favorite fair edibles to help save
you time, wasted calories and maybe a little money. Plus, no one wants
those nasty post-fair funnel cake and corn dog regrets that will plague
you for the next 365 days should you miss out on the deliciousness.

On Team Fair Food Scramble: Stephanie Ansley, a phlebotomist who’s
partial to fudge; Santa Rosa Junior College student KC Crowell who
knows a thing or two about funnel cakes; Jason Shirk, who compares
himself to a crunchy corndog; Tim Meinkin, a man with a passion for
fish tacos and candy apples; and Holly Hansen, who’s all about the
cinnamon rolls; David Wood, a Portlander who found our secret shrimp
cocktail and Heather Irwin of the Press Democrat’s BiteClub food blog.

The results:
– Best Overall Food: We’ll call it a four-way tie between Pepe’s shimp
and octopus cocktail; Willie Bird’s turkey leg, Old Mexico’s posole and
Sleek Greek’s lamb and beef gyro. “Do we have to vote for just one?”
asked Hansen.

– Biggest Surprise: The incredible tzatziki sauce on the gyro. “I loved it,” said Crowell.

– Best Local Favorite: Tie between Willie Bird’s and Mom’s Apple Pie.
“I didn’t think I liked turkey legs,” said Meinkin. Nostalgia points to
Ibleto’s Spaghetti Palace’s half-and-half, spaghetti with half pesto
and half red sauce.

– Best Value: Posole at Old Mexico that’s family-sized and just $6. We
all agreed it was a major hit and plenty filling. “Is this just for one
person or six?” asked Meinkin.

– Best Sweet Treat: Mackinac Island peanut butter fudge and cinnamon
rolls (Country Fair Cinnamon Rolls). “It’s better without the spackle,”
said Hansen of the frosted cinnamon rolls. “Plus the cookies (Mom’s
Chocolate Cookies) when they’re hot,” said Ansley.

– Best Corn Dog: 5 Star Fish & Chips. “It’s just a better dog inside,” said Shirk.

– Best Healthy Choice: Roasted corn (minus the mayo and butter); and
the shrimp cocktail at Pepe’s. “So refreshing,” said Meinkin.

– Best surprise: Newcomer Chuck Wagon Old Fashioned Soda’s root beer. “This is really good,” said Ansley.

What’s your favorite fair food?

Subscribe Now!

Comments

42 thoughts on “Fair Food Scramble at the Sonoma County Fair

  1. Heather,
    As a lifelong horseplayer, I wait all year for the fair and live horseracing! I would love to try all of the fair food also, but since I am retired,
    I have to get my priorites right ! Thus, I cannot afford to pigout on all of the delicious food ! This would be the perfect day and I can guarantee that I am available should I be fortunate enough to be a part of your crew!!!!

  2. Wow- thanks for putting all this together! It’s a huge problem at the fair- wanting to try everything and only having so much cash and stomach space. I had planned on skipping the fair this year, but now I have to go!

  3. Thanks for all the great reviews and tidbits!
    Corndogs at the fish-n-chips place … eh?
    OK. If you say so. I will give them a try.
    Looks like the Pozole will be on my list of
    things to eat this weekend too!

  4. SOOO Saddd, 40+ years for my Dad and 31 years for me. Always our traditional first stop at the fair. (and everyday for the 4 years I worked at the fair)
    I searched everywhere and finally asked the Dipped-Ice Cream lady if she new…She said they didn’t come to Sonoma County this year.
    PLEASE come back!!! It’s just not the same without you!
    There are no other flavors like yours.

  5. That is the only reason my wife even goes to the fair ! ! ! ! ! She is a miserable wreck ! ! ! ! !

  6. That is the only reason my wife even goes to the fair ! ! ! ! ! She is a miserable wreck ! ! ! ! !

  7. As of Sunday, August 2, at the hands-on Mackinac Fudge venue in the very fun Hall of Junque, this eyewitness saw gloves being sometimes worn by the fudge-maker as the fudge is stretched out and cut. Sometimes. The servers at the counter, one of them with wild uncontrolled hair billowing out below the shoulders like a New Yorker cartoon, touched fudge with wax paper and then took filthy lucre. One wonders in an age of H1N1 about cross-contamination in this famously “hands-on” fudge venue which should be one of the cleanest stalls at the SoCo fair. Both the fudge-maker and the talent tending the till remain rather suspect. Where is the SoCo Health Dept in checking on this stuff? As a former Michigander, I love Mackinac fudge. But I just can’t buy it at this venue until it cleans up its act. Even if it’s just perception more than hygiene.

  8. I was so bummed when I found out no soft tacos this year. I have been eating them for 20 years. I hope they come back next year!

  9. Gloves are supposed to be changed whenever they are contaminated, either by dirty utensils or just plain filthy money. Its the cash that really makes my liver quiver. That is downright disgusting behavior deserving of a fine or closure.

  10. Yes, Papa Tavernas is still the best greek food in my book. I tried Real Doners and it was good, but more like Turkish Food, than Greek, it has a different kind of sauce on it.
    But, I never miss the chance to get a big plate of the Spaghetti King’s pasta, and then on to the Pan Puffs on the way out of the fairgrounds.

  11. oh my, I was so disappointed that this taco stand was not there. It is always my first stop at the fair and I was totally put out. Searched the whole fair and not there. So Sad.

  12. best fair food that I can remember from the years I lived in Santa Rosa was the Key Lime Calamari, but believe that was at the “Harvest Fair”, not the regular county fair…..my memories of regular county fair food was that it was all pretty bad….

  13. The gyro and posole were to die for, and I could definitely go for more of those cinanamon rolls and fudge (“partial to” is a huge understatement!!)! Had such a blast doing this with you guys, totally crazy redheads for life is right!
    Def. bummed that I couldn’t make the radio spot this morning, hope it was fun!
    Loves to the gang,
    Steph (the other crazy redhead)
    =]

  14. Jack, gloves are useless. They can be contaminated just the same as bare hands. In fact, gloves can be worse because they give a false sense of security.

    1. So True, I am GM for a fast food restaurant. Gloves do give false security “employees will do whatever they are doing with the gloves on,” then turn around and make your food you see the gloves and think its ok but you don’t know what they just did with the gloves on!!! If they were bare handed they would think quicker about washing their hands. Remember we live in a society where employees for the most part are lazy. They would have to take the gloves off wash their hands and put the gloves back on that is way to much work, just to make your sandwich. I saw a food prep person go from the dirty sink washing dishes to the table with gloves on the gloves full of water from the dirty sink. Hope that wasn’t your sandwich… No this wasn’t my restaurant I dont eat at this restaurant anymore Pay close attention to the person making your food with or without gloves

  15. There’s also Papa’s Taverna on Lakeville Highway. They have great Greek food, live music and bellydancers. 🙂

  16. Hello Kate,
    I’m from Los Angeles (live in Santa Rosa) and can relate re the gyro situation up here.
    There’s a new highly rated (both by Heather Irwin from the Bite Club and the other PD restaurant reviewer Jeff Cox) of a new Turkish Middle Eastern place at 305 F St. in Petaluma just off of D St. and Petaluma Blvd. S. It’s called The Real Doner (I believe the word doner means Gyro).
    Check it out, in the PD you can search for both Heather’s and Jeff Cox’s reviews, both though gave this place a very high rating. I went in there last week when down there in Petaluma for something, didn’t have time to eat; however, everything looked delicious, authentic and homemade.
    I enjoy going to The Pita Cafe on Commerce Blvd. across from the Safeway shopping center in Rohnert Park, they have delicious wraps, I always get the falafel wrap (has hummas in it, tahini sauce and pickles!), delicious, comes in 2 sizes, if you go get a “mini wrap” (smaller of the 2 sizes, still plenty to eat. You can get a salad w/it, ask for tabouli salad (vs. just green every day salad), their tabouli is delicious.
    Hope this helps out, two new leads for Middle Eastern food, wish they were both in Santa Rosa, but still doable to get to RP and on occasion down to Petaluma.
    Good luck!

  17. Hello Kate,
    I’m from Los Angeles (live in Santa Rosa) and can relate re the gyro situation up here.
    There’s a new highly rated (both by Heather Irwin from the Bite Club and the other PD restaurant reviewer Jeff Cox) of a new Turkish Middle Eastern place at 305 F St. in Petaluma just off of D St. and Petaluma Blvd. S. It’s called The Real Doner (I believe the word doner means Gyro).
    Check it out, in the PD you can search for both Heather’s and Jeff Cox’s reviews, both though gave this place a very high rating. I went in there last week when down there in Petaluma for something, didn’t have time to eat; however, everything looked delicious, authentic and homemade.
    I enjoy going to The Pita Cafe on Commerce Blvd. across from the Safeway shopping center in Rohnert Park, they have delicious wraps, I always get the falafel wrap (has hummas in it, tahini sauce and pickles!), delicious, comes in 2 sizes, if you go get a “mini wrap” (smaller of the 2 sizes, still plenty to eat. You can get a salad w/it, ask for tabouli salad (vs. just green every day salad), their tabouli is delicious.
    Hope this helps out, two new leads for Middle Eastern food, wish they were both in Santa Rosa, but still doable to get to RP and on occasion down to Petaluma.
    Good luck!

  18. Hehe. One of my friends who works on the presses for the PD texted me last night… “hey, I think you’re on the front page… eating a turkey leg?”

  19. Wish I could’ve made it for the radio spot Heather!
    Had a great time chillin w/you and the “gang”
    Ahhhh….Fair Food…gotta love it!
    BiteClub RULZ!!
    Jason

  20. Sanitary? In an age of flu? Am I just a clean queen? Mackinac Fudge has always been a fave, but not for the last two years because the fudge makers were working bare handed. They touch various equipment, and the cash register, and they were not wearing gloves. Are they wearing gloves this season? If they are, this family goes back to ordering fudge this year.

  21. Couldn’t agree more about the wonderful Gyro. To say that the portion is generous is an understatement, and that could be the best tzatziki sauce I’ve ever had. Definitely gonna return for another of those!

  22. To Kate, there is a wonderful little place in Rohnert Park called the Pita Cafe, really good food, very fresh and very yummie!

  23. PS. ON the radio show this morning I kept saying that the posole had beans in it. Duh, it’s hominy, which is corn. Sorry, I’m still a work in progress. THanks for the correction!

  24. I am dying for a gyro. I know what I will be eating at the fair this year. I’m originally from the Chicago-area and you just can’t find mom-and-pop Greek resturants in the North Bay like you could back east. Unless anyone can reccommend something other than Daphne’s????? (I am hopeful…)

  25. Very cool guys. Thanks for doing the legwork for us. I wish I could have “tried out” to be on your team, darn work. As a long time fair/market goer I’m ashamed to say I have never tried a Willie Bird’s turkey leg. That’s going to be first priority at the fair this year (after my corn dog, natch). The posole sounds awesome too.

  26. RE: the greatest Fair food tragedy in the history of the world?
    The soft tacos that I have had every since I can remember – at least for 40 years – are not at the Fair this year. The booth that was a couple of slots down from the Johnny
    Garlic’s booth that was run by the same family forever, is not at the Fair this year. Sad faces and bewilderment could be seen by those who came to eat those tacos and came up empty.
    It is the end of the Fair food world as we know it.

  27. can you tell me why uncle Bill’s world famous corn dogs are not selling at the fair> they are the best ever,they wouls do great there. and they are from sonoma county…thank you

  28. The pasta king still wins hands down. But the pickle place is also very good. the pickle concession at the wisconsin state fair had a great pickle bread. it’s made with a dill dough.

  29. For two dollars extra they’ll add the meat of your choice to the greek salad at the gyro place—lots of fresh lettuce was the perfect antidote to an afternoon of greasy fair food.

  30. We ate at the usual Johnny Garlics. Yummy. Thought about getting the BBQ one on Mesquite near where the Fondettes were playing but we shared the creamy chicken cajun penne pasta.
    We also tried Funnel Cakes. The taste like waffles with sugar, whipped cream and jam on them if you like that.
    I also love the Dill Pickle place. Love Dill pickles! I had the Old Fashioned Soda as well – very nice! Made with real sugar! They were from Oregon!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read previous post:
Pizzavino 707 opens

Pizzavino 707 reopens in former West County Grill space. Pizzas are the heart of the menu and Sebastopol seems willing...

Close