Nothing compares to the Iowa State Fair! And quite possibly one of the most iconic parts the Iowa State Fair food options. While visions of corn dogs and funnel cakes may immediately come to mind, there’s so much more to see — and eat — at the fair than initially meets the eye.
Hot Beef Sundae
While the name may sound a little less than appetizing, a Hot Beef Sundae is an Iowa State Fair staple. In fact, this popular menu item doesn’t include any ice cream at all. Instead, this savory sundae is made up of heaping helping of mashed potatoes topped with roast beef, gravy, cheese and a “cherry” (tomato).
After sampling all of these delicious fair delicacies, you may need something to quench your thirst. Head to the John Deere Agriculture Building to see the Butter Cow and then pop upstairs to the balcony where you’ll find the Iowa Honey Producers Association.
This group of passionate honey producers sells a honey lemonade that is a favorite of many fairgoers.
Pork Chop on a Stick
Even though a pork chop “stick” is technically the bone it’s attached to, this meaty menu item has fairgoers lining up year after year. Prepared by the Iowa Pork Producers Association, these lightly seasoned chops are a popular pick to balance out the fair’s sweeter offerings.
Bauder’s Ice Cream Bar
Bauder’s Pharmacy has been serving up ice cream since the 1930s and it shows in their sweet treat’s quality and passionate fan base. While their state fair stand serves a variety of ice cream items, some of their most popular are their ice cream bars.
Available in Peppermint and Mocha Latte flavors, these bars are a hefty helping of ice cream, fudge and other toppings.
Anything on a Stick
If you can find a type of food at the Iowa State Fair, chances are that it can be put on a stick. In fact, each year the fair boasts more than 70 foods served on a stick. From traditional picks like corn dogs and caramel apples to the more eccentric apple pie and salad on a stick, there are plenty of options for snacking while on the go at the fairgrounds.
Sure, the fair is full of fried options. But you’ll also find true culinary delights. One of them is Parlo Pizza. This wood-fired pizza vendor sets up at the top of the hill near the Iowa Wine Experience and craft beer tent. There’s always a high demand for these handmade pies.
In fact, Parlo Pizza is frequently voted a Fair Queen favorite during the annual event.
A “crescenti” is an Iowa State Fair classic like no other. Created using a piece of fresh, fried dough you can either enjoy a sweet or savory treat. Whether you opt for a breakfast or lunchtime sandwich, these handheld delights are worth the line.
Deep Fried Oreos & Twinkies
If you’ve ever wondered what would happen if you deep fried an Oreo or a Twinkie, you can stop wondering. At the Iowa State Fair, both of these deep fried delicacies are available for anyone with an adventurous sweet tooth.
If these items weren’t enough, there was also briefly a stand that sold deep fried butter at the fair. But ultimately its availability was short-lived.
Bucket of Cookies
Did you really go to the Iowa State Fair if you didn’t get a bucket of Barksdale’s State Fair Cookies? These crave-worthy chocolate chip cookies are a staple of the fair’s midway. And you don’t have to take my word for it.
In 2021 alone, Barksdale’s made more than 2.4 million cookies during the state fair. This fair treat is a great option for a big group — or to bring a bit of the fair home with you. Each bucket contains approximately 60 cookies.
New Iowa State Fair foods in 2022
There are 53 new foods at the 2022 Iowa State Fair. The top contenders vying for audience favorites have been predicted to be:
- “OMG” Chicken Sandwich consisting of a fried chicken breast (covered with sugar-coated corn flakes) and bacon served on a glazed doughnut. Oh, it that’s all topped with syrup. Find it at Chicken City.
- The Pork Picnic in a Cup is exactly what it sounds like: A picnic in a cup. Piled in a cup are layers of barbecue pulled pork, baked beans, and creamy coleslaw, that’s topped with barbecue sauce and a garnish of brown sugar pork belly. Find it at the Iowa Pork Tent.
- The Finisher is a jumbo baked russet potato topped with chopped brisket, smoked pulled pork, The Rib Shack’s famous Bacon Brisket Mac and Cheese, and let’s not forget the barbecue sour cream and garlic rub butter. Find it at The Rib Shack.
Those are the heavy-hitters but there are 50 other things on menus this summer. There are plenty of food on a stick (like a Chicken Bacon Ranch Waffle On A Stick), as well as weird stuff (like Sno Big Dill Sno Cone) and sweet stuff (like the Minty Moo Parfait).
About the Guest Blogger
Megan Bannister is a freelance writer and blogger at Olio in Iowa-based in Des Moines, Iowa. When she’s not sampling and writing about food, Megan enjoys visiting unique destinations, roadside attractions, and “world’s largest” things across the Midwest and beyond. Her book, Iowa Supper Clubs, highlights classic eateries past and present from around the state.