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Wonderful – and sometimes wacky – San Diego County Fair food

Note: this article was published on June 30, 2022

As soon as I pulled into the parking space, I was welcomed by the scent of kettle corn drifting through my open window. As I approached the front gate portal, I was lured by a melange of enticing food scents. The portal proclaims the San Diego County Fair theme, which, this year, is "Heroes Reunite!" I thought of the many food vendors who survived the dark years of the pandemic and are now reuniting!

No one can say there aren't enough food choices at the fair. The entry pathway is lined with food stalls on the right, and food stalls on the left. Billows of smoke rise from monstrous barbeque grates lined with rows and rows of chicken breasts and turkey legs.

Fair food – it's wonderful, wacky – and ever delightful! Where else can you find a "Texas-Sized" smoked turkey leg, a foot-long corn dog, or "World Famous Sourdough Ten Pound Buns," all in one place!

Fair food engages all senses. Enticing aromas mingle into one pleasant, unforgettable scent. Then, there are the unusual textures, such as crunchy Australian battered potatoes, which are sliced potatoes dipped in batter and deep-fried. Experience the unique taste of Chicken Charlie's Kool-Aid slathered chicken breast, which combines the sweetness of Kool-Aid with a bit of spicy cayenne. Revel in a swirled funnel cake topped with a mountain of whipped cream, or enjoy the crisp crackle as you chew on a mouthful of kettle corn.

I appreciate the fact that most of the vendors occupy the same spaces year after year. I know where they are, so it saves time when I am hungry. One of my favorites is the Chuck Wagon Hickory Smoked BBQ. However, you won't find any wacky food here, just robust barbeque, including ribs and brisket. The warm cornbread is crumbly and delicious.

Chicken Charlie's is owned by Charlie Boghosian, a San Diego man who is known for wacky, but wonderful, food innovations. He is probably the only fair food vendor that offers fried frog legs! This year, Charlie introduced his Kool-Aid drenched chicken, and if that wasn't wacky enough, he topped it with a giant pickle!

Another one of Charlie's fair specialties is the delectable Naked Shrimp dish. It is as close to healthful eating as anything I have enjoyed at the fair. Naked Shrimp is presented in a half pineapple filled with sweet, tender chunks of pineapple, which tasted as good as any I have enjoyed in Hawaii! The pineapple chunks were topped with a generous scoop of white rice, and several large shrimp. The shrimp were flavorful, and not too spicy. A mild sweet and sour sauce (served on the side) added a flavor punch – especially to the rice.

Deep-fried Oreos are Charlie's invention and have been a fair staple since introduced years ago. If you are an Oreo lover – you need to sample this innovative concoction. Charlie improves the Oreo cookie, which I didn't realize was even possible. The "Totally Fried" Oreos are enveloped in batter, deep-fried, then sprinkled with powdered sugar and a smattering of confetti sugar sprinkles. A few bites of this delight is a festive way to end your day at the fair!


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