Test of intestinal fortitude: Fair vendors are going even bigger this year

Staff writerSeptember 6, 2013 

Fair food always has been enormous — and it seems to become more “gigantified” every year.

The calorie count of an Earthquake burger at the Washington State Fair in Puyallup probably could sustain an entire family for a day. (Add cheese and onions cooked in butter, and make it two days.)

As the staffer tasked every September to eat fair food and write about it (check back next week for the report), I try not to think about what all those giant burgers, bricks of fries and foot-long corn dogs do to my arteries. Let’s just say I spend the last half of September attempting to go vegan.

But calorie counting is just no fun, particularly at the fair, right? Let’s squish deep down inside us all those terrible things our mothers told us about eating fatty foods. The fair is about caloric splurging. And food oddities. And really big food. And grease. Lots of grease.

My tongue is planted firmly in cheek when I write this, but this year’s offerings at the Washington State Fair look bigger, better and more fried than ever.

BIG, GIANT GRILL

Brett Enright is a cook who knows his way around fair food. When he was 14, he borrowed money from his grandfather to set up his first fair stand selling corn dogs and lemonade.

Almost three decades later, his cooking setup roams the country, stopping at state fairs all over the Western United States. And it is so big, it has to be hauled on a custom Peterbilt truck.

Juicy’s Outlaw Grill, a 27-ton contraption, was created by Enright five years ago. It’s a combination gas and charcoal grill and smoker that can cook up to 1,000 turkey legs, burgers and sausages at once.

Enright got the idea for a mammoth portable grill while working as a food vendor outside a Texas stadium where tens of thousands of people would exit events en masse. He needed a grill that would cook a lot of food and had the capacity to feed hundreds of people all at once. He imagined something enormous, at least 100 feet long, and an oven big enough to hold 350 turkey legs.

The Outlaw Grill took months to design and came with a price tag of about $750,000. It debuted in 2008.

This week’s stop at the fair in Puyallup will be his first in Washington. The mammoth grill will be stationed near the southwest section of the Blue Gate Plaza between the ShowPlex and Centennial Building. The grill is attached to a semi rig with the word “Juicy’s” all over it. It’s 20 feet tall. Smoke and the smell of meat wafts from it. I’m betting you won’t need a map to get to it.

If you think the rig is big, wait until fairgoers see what’s cooking on it. Half-pound burgers, 1½-pound turkey legs and 1-pound sausages.

Told you it was big.

BIG, GIANT BURGERS

You know how it’s a competition to see who among you and your fair-going friends can find the biggest burger at the fair and eat it all?

There’s the Earthquake burger, of course, a longtime fair tradition. That monstrosity must be consumed with cheese and onions.

There’s also the Monster Burger, something that really is a monster amount of meat and cheese, dressed with onions and peppers.

Now, add Lady Luck Cowgrill Up to the list of big burgers to conquer at the fair.

That booth will offer what it’s calling a 50-50 burger — that’s a big burger made out of equal parts ground bacon and sirloin. If that’s not big enough, the booth will have a triple sirloin burger that sounds as if it could hurt you just thinking about it.

And then there’s this. Prepare yourself. It sounds like it might do heart damage. The folks at Lady Luck are grilling something called a BBQ Bacon Burger Dog. It’s a burger patty and sauteed onions, topped with a bacon-wrapped kielbasa dog, all on a hoagie. Oy. Bring the Tums.

BIG, GIANT CALORIES

If there’s a booth at the fair that your mother would warn you to avoid, it’s the Totally Fried booth, located near the Blue Gate.

At that booth, I’ve eaten deep-fried candy bars, deep-fried snack cakes and even deep-fried Kool-Aid. And there’s one thing at Totally Fried that I’ll never eat again, no matter how much you pay me: a chicken doughnut sandwich that squishes a fried chicken patty between two jelly-filled Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Never again.

Check out the menu of what’s frying at the Totally Fried booth this year. You won’t see me in line. Well, probably not.

The menu: Fried s’mores, fried Rice Krispies treats, fried Snickers, fried Reese’s, fried cake, fried PB&J sandwiches, fried mac and cheese, and, of course, the Krispy Kreme fried chicken sandwich and Krispy Kreme cheeseburger.

Sue Kidd: 253-597-8270

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