Tuesday, July 24, 2012, I took a day off work to spend the day at the California State Fair, with a mission, which was to visit as many hot dog stands as I could. I managed to hit four hot dog stands, and each stand served a rather unique and different dog.
Photo: The first stop of the day was L&M Concessions, who have a booth not far from the main gate, in the general direction of the carnival. Garlic fries and jumbo hot dogs sound good, but I was after a bacon wrapped hot dog, and to my knowledge, this was the only restaurant at the fair who sold hot dogs wrapped in bacon.
Photo: The charming young lady behind the counter holds my bacon wrapped hot dog, and she readily agreed to allow me to snap her photo. Sweet! She asked me when I last had a bacon wrapped hot dog, and I told her the last time I was in Tijuana, a couple of months ago. Look at the price of these dogs, $5.50! Yikes!
Photo: I asked the counter gal to take my photo, as I'm not camera shy. It's 1102 in the morning, and the fair is practically deserted, but that definitely changed as the afternoon wore on.
Photo: This is what you get for $5.50: A grilled, regular hot dog, wrapped in bacon, on a fresh, regular-size bun, garnished with grilled onions and bell pepper slices, with a half-slice of jalapeno pepper on it. I added the mustard from a large gallon jug with a pump on it. The dog was very good, but quite pricey, as a bacon-wrapped hot dog, loaded with Mexican condiments, only runs a dollar in Tijuana, and a couple of dollars north of the border. I had to remind myself that I was at the state fair and pay the price...
Photo: After hiking around for a couple of hours, my hunger got the better of me, so at 1302, I stopped at Juicy's #19, as the billboard advertised a Giant Western Sausage, and that sounded good to me. This restaurant is located just east of the main bandstand, not far from the rodeo event grandstand.
Photo: Juicy's #19 sells other offerings beside hot dogs, such as burgers and turkey legs. Note the turkey legs cooking in the background, but look at those hot dogs grilling! Those are the main ingredient in a Giant Western Sausage, and those are definitely "Texas-sized" dogs any way you look at it.
Photo: The super-friendly girl behind the counter holds my Giant Western Sausage. Note the corn dog dogs under the heat lamp in the photo.
Photo: I hold my Giant Western Sausage... this photo clearly illustrates how big this thing is!
Photo: My Giant Western Sausage. The main ingredient is a half-pound premium hot dog, about 1-1/2" in diameter, after cooking. It's a premium dog of unknown origin, and it features natural casing, so it "snaps" when you bite into it. It's longer than the giant, sourdough roll that comes toasted, and lightly bettered. The dog comes stock with grilled peppers and onions, and I added yellow mustard and picked jalapeno pepper slices. At $9.25 this dog isn't cheap, but it was huge, juicy, delicious, and cooked perfectly, which made this giant hot dog worth every penny of the asking price.
Photo: Eric can't live by hot dogs alone, and the California State fair offers many fine places to enjoy a brew-ha-ha, with many choices in beer. Playa Tecate is located not far inside the main gate, about half way between the gate and the large water fountain.
Photo: Playa Tecate offers several different choices in Mexican beer, and in my case, I ordered a Dos XX, dark, which is one of my favorite Mexican beers.
Photo: I say "cheers" and toast to the California State Fair, and a happy afternoon of hot doggin'. Getting a tad tipsy wasn't an option for me, as I had to drive home - no d.u.i. on my watch, thank you - and at $12.00 for a 22-oz beer, you could go through some serious change in a hurry.
Photo: These charming ladies were tending a Heineken stand, and were happy to pose for me, and convey, using their thumbs, their love of the state fair, and their lovely beer stand.
Photo: I did so much walking around the fair that only a couple of hours after eating my Giant Western Dog, I was starting to get hungry again, so at 1623 in the afternoon, I stopped at Kelly & GG's Hot Dog Wagon, located in the carnival section, at the extreme west end of the amusement area.
Photo: Kelly's sells typical fare to carnival lovers, such as corn dogs, regular and large hot dogs, fries, drinks and other healthy choices.
Photo: This gal has just dressed her dog from the condiment station. Condiments included mustard, mayonnaise, sweet relish and barbecue sauce. The pickles in the jar are for sale separately.
Photo: I ordered a "regular" dog, and dressed it with mustard and sweet relish. A "regular" dog is a 1/4 pound premium dog, made with natural casing, so it "snaps" when you bite into it. It's served on a plain, regular bun; you can see the dog is large, and it dwarfs the bun. The "regular" dog sold for $4.00, which presents a pretty good value at the fair. All prices at the state fair include tax, so $4.00 means $4.00 even.
Photo: I really wanted something a bit different, so the last stop on my hot doggin' tour of the fair was Texas Tater Twisters, to enjoy a speared, twisted, tater dog. Note that on my hot dog tour, every dog is unique and different...
Photo: I wait in line to order my dog, as you place, and pay for your order, at one window, and pick it up to the right. Check out the Tater Twisters, without the dog to the right of the young lady. By 1945, I was getting ready to leave, but I had to enjoy just one more dog...
Photo: This young lady pumps catsup on her Tater Twister. Condiments offered are mustard and catsup, and come in a large container that you pump. Note the container of mustard is twice the size of the catsup, which pretty much sums up my feelings of mustard vs. catsup.
Photo: You can watch the chef deep fry your Texas Tater Twister, and when it's ready, he calls your name, and hands it to you. You get your choice of having your twister garnished with seasoned salt, regular salt, or parmesan cheese; I chose the cheese.
Photo: I hold my hot dog on a stick after garnishing it with mustard. My hand will give you a good idea of how large this dog is. The dog is about a foot long and around 1-1/4" in diameter, and it, and the butterflied potato are deep fried. Deep fry cooking rules at the state fair!
Photo: Here's another view of my deep fried Texas Tater Twister, clearly showing the coating of parmesan cheese that was applied after the dog left the fryer. I spent most of the day hiking around the state fair, and my trusty G.P.S. said that I logged 9.89 miles, to it's a good thing I took in a few calories hot doggin', or I may have starved to death.
If you love hot dogs, Cal Expo is the place to be, as there are hot dog stands everywhere. I attempted to explore the different and unusual, and unfortunately, my stomach can hold only so many hot dogs, so there were many varieties that I had to pass on. Despite the fact that I didn't get 'em all, I had a blast "hot doggin'" at the California State Fair.
I just couldn't get enough hot dogs, and deep fried food at the 2012 California State Fair, so two days later, on Thursday, July 26th, I returned for another day of hot doggin', but in addition to a couple more delicious dogs, I branched out and enjoyed a soulful plate of chitlins, and a vegetable combo plate.
Thursday, August 26, 2012, I spent another fantastic day at the 2012 California State Fair, enjoying bratwurst, hot dogs, soul food and fried vegetables!
Photo: I opened up the California State Fair today, and walked around for an hour or so, trying to figure out which restaurant to visit. At 1237 on this Thursday afternoon, German Sausage and Chop House caught my eye, as the word "bratwurst" is pretty plain to see, and bratwurst just happens to be my favorite variety of sausage.
Photo: The sausage is cooked right before your eyes, as a colorful array of grilled onions and bell peppers warm on the griddle. German Sausage and Chop House specializes bratwurst, frankfurters, German and Polish sausages.
Photo: Of course when the cook asked me if I wanted the optional grilled onions and bell peppers on my brat, I replied with an enthusiastic "YES!!!" The condiment station is on the other side of the trailer, and if features three kinds of mustard, ketchup and mayonnaise. I hold my fully-dressed brat while I watch another diner cover his frankfurter with catsup... Oh my!
Photo: My fully-dressed bratwurst, ready to enjoy. The brat was cooked perfectly, and since it was enclosed in natural casing, it "snapped" when you bit into it, which is what any premium dog must do. The large bun was soft and chewy, and the grilled bell pepper slices and grilled white onions added to the flavor. I topped my brat off with spicy brown mustard. Delicious!!!
Photo: On my visit two days before today, I noticed Big and Tasty Ovations, as I'm always on the lookout for outdoor cooking, and Big and Tasty cooks turkey legs, hot dogs and hamburgers, outdoors on the grill. The turkey legs are cooked over a mesquite-fired grill, while the hot dogs and hamburgers are cooked over a propane grill. Big and Tasty Ovations is located at the extreme east end of the amusement park section, near the Raging Waters water park.
Photo: Here's a shot of Cindy, the counter girl, taking orders from a couple of customers. Photo shows their menu and the prices... ouch! Anyway, it's 1559 on this Thursday afternoon, and its time for another hot dog.
Photo: I ordered a "Giant 1/2 lb Hot Dog," (sic) as hot dogs and fairs go together, and as you may have gathered, hot dogs are among my favorite things to eat. Much to Cindy's chagrin, I asked her if I could take her photo, with dog in hand, and she turned away from my camera, much to the delight of her co-workers. What is it that beautiful women don't want their photos taken?
Photo: My "Giant 1/2 lb Hot Dog" (sic) looks a little silly, as its perched on a large bun. The dog is a foot long, and about 1-1/2" in diameter, after cooking, which makes this a monster of a dog. It was grilled a little too long, so it was overcooked, for my tastes, but the dog featured natural casing, for the desired "snap" when you bite into it. The bun is a fresh, large bun, but the large dog dwarfs the bun. Condiments offered were yellow mustard, sweet dill pickle relish, and ketchup. When it comes to hot dogs, ketchup is for kids, so I dressed my dog with mustard and relish. Then, how do you eat it? Using both hands, I picked it up, and was immediately rewarded with a cascade of relish and mustard on my shirt. Anyway, I then bit off both ends, and when they were eaten, I started working on the central part, enclosed by the bun. The dog cost $8.00, which represented a pretty decent value, considering the outrageous food prices at the state fair. As I mentioned before, the dog was overcooked, and the bun was too small, but the dog was good. However, there was no comparison between this dog, and the Giant Western Sausage that I enjoyed at Juicy's #19, two days before. Click on this link to see what I mean in the comparison between Juicy's and Big and Tasty's giant dogs...
Photo: The World's Largest Cocktail is located near the main gate, and they specialize in margaritas, which is my favorite mixed drink. At $10.00 for a regular drink - $15.00 of you care for a novelty drinking cup - the price of admission is a bit steep. Oh not to worry, as every day, they have Happy Hour between the hours of 1600 to 1800, and when this photo was snapped at 1650, Happy Hour was in full force, and the margaritas were priced at a reasonable $5.00 each.
Photo: The crew at the World's Largest Cocktail, with my $5.00 margarita on the counter. You can see the Happy Hour sign in the background. I neglected to ask the crew how the place got it's name, and if it is, indeed, the world's largest cocktail. I suppose I was too eager to enjoy my margarita.
Photo: World's Largest Cocktail is big - I'd guess about 20 ounces - and it's a great margarita, and well worth the Happy Hour price of $5.00. World's Largest Cocktail seems to be affiliated with Hussong's Taqueria, as there's a taqueria of the same name nearby, located on the artificial lake at Cal Expo. Is this the Hussong's Cantina of Ensenada, Mexico fame?
Photo: After wandering around the fair for another hour or so, by 1836 I was getting hungry again, and I decided to break out of the mold and order some soul food that was good for the body and the soul at Soul Burger.
Photo: Soul Burger is based in Stockton, and the counter guy told me they have plans to open an outlet in the greater Sacramento area. Soul Burger specializes in fried catfish, in a dinner or on a stick, and they also have hot links, buffalo wings, fried chicken, calamari, hamburgers, and... gasp... chitterlings, a.k.a. chitlins.
Photo: Mr. Cook "flames" a burger on the outdoor grill. Much of the food is cook outside, on the grill, but all of the deep frying is done inside.
Photo: Mr. Cook and Mr. Counter Guy at Soul Burger. When I ordered my dinner of chitlins, the counter guy asked me, "Do you really want to order chitlins?" ... Of course! Don't I look like the sort of dude who loves soul food? Especially chitlins?
Photo: Hey Mom! Hey Dad! It's your little boy, Eric, at the 2012 California State Fair, about ready to enjoy a fine dinner of chitlins.
Photo: Chitlins are good for the body and the soul, but not for the faint of heart, or the weak of stomach. If you can get past the smell, you'll do just fine. If you've ever enjoyed chitlins, you know that the smell, and taste, is unique, as there's nothing else like it. My delicious chitterlings dinner, featuring a large portion of chitlins, red beans, rice and sausage, coleslaw, and four deep-fried hush puppies. At $13.75, like all fair food, the dinner was on the pricey side, but it was good, unique, and the crew at Soul Burger are good people.
Photo: The chitlins left a "unique" taste in my mouth, so I headed over to the Honkytonk Saloon, near the goat barn, to enjoy a large Dos XX beer.
Photo: It was 2023 in the evening, and it was getting time to think about wrapping things up, but I had to make one more food stop for the evening, so a plate of deep-fried vegetables sounded good, so I stopped by Jeanne's Artichokes Etc.
Photo: You make your selection from the posted menu, place your order and pay for it at this station - they give you a ticket with your name on it - and when your order is ready, they call your name and you pick up your order at the pick up window to the right.
Photo: All thing fried can be found at Jeanne's Artichokes Etc., including French fries, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, zucchini, sweet potatoes, garlic fries and onion rings. They also feature baked potatoes, sandwiches and grilled turkey legs. You can see some of the fried vegetables behind the counter, in the center of the photo.
Photo: I ordered a vegetable combo plate, and I asked the pick up window gal to take my photo, which she gladly did.
Photo: My deep-fried Vegetable Combo Plate cost the unusual price of $7.01, including tax, but was beyond delicious, and represented a good value. The large combo plate includes deep-fried zucchini squash, mushrooms and artichoke hearts, with a couple of packages of ranch dressing for dipping. Jeanne's Artichokes Etc. makes one of the best deep-fried vegetable plates that I've ever had the pleasure to enjoy!
Cal Expo's food may anger the "Health Police," but for fun, creativity, and plain good eatin', it can't be beat. I'm already looking forward to next year's California State Fair for another culinary adventure!
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