The smell of deep-fried oreos, pickles and funnel cake wafting through the autumn air can only mean one thing: the State Fair of Virginia is here! (Photo courtesy State Fair of Virginia)
The autumn air carries the smell of cotton candy through the fairgrounds. Carnival barkers call out: “Pop the balloons! Three tries! Everyone wins!” You skip past the games, the rides, the bales of hay and follow your nose to what you’ve been waiting for all year: the food. Corn dogs! Funnel cake! Fried Oreos! These are the bites — low on nutritional content and high on fun — that make the State Fair of Virginia a culinary destination. The grounds at The Meadow Event Park are quiet now, but on Sept. 25, the gates will open for 10 days of carnival classics and new fried favorites.
“Each year our team works hard to bring new, exciting, tasty and a little crazy food items to the fair,” says Sarah Hallett, marketing manager for the park. This year, you’ll find breaded-and-fried bacon, fried Swiss cake rolls, and even fried butter — a culinary marvel that defies explanation and tastes just as incredible as it sounds — in addition to classic fair fare.
But if you need your deep-fried fix year-round, the fair isn’t the only place in Richmond to taste the outrageous. Testing the scientific limits of fry-ability is something owner Chad Painter takes seriously at Wonderland (1727 E. Main St.), where he breads pickles with dill-pickle-flavored potato chips and binds mac ’n’ cheese with mashed potatoes before his creations take a spin in hot oil. Painter, who says he was inspired by state fair food more than 10 years ago, is apt to throw just about anything in the fryer, from Twinkies to watermelon.
Across the river, The Treat Shop RVA (6114 Jahnke Road) has your supply of funnel cake gilded with the traditional powdered sugar or one of 24 flavors of Hershey’s ice cream. The Fan’s Postbellum (1323 W. Main St.) serves it as “elephant ears,” but fried dough by any name tastes just as sweet, especially when it follows an order of Postbellum’s Carnival Fries, which come loaded with pastrami, charred peppers, melted cheese, dill and a special “drive-thru sauce.”
The appetizer menu at Honey Whyte’s All American Café (2116 E. Main St.) is full of fair favorites like jalapeño poppers, corn dog nuggets and spicy fried pickles, any of which would be apt accompaniment for the restaurant’s Heart Attack Burger, which substitutes two grilled cheese and bacon sandwiches for hamburger buns. If you still have an artery left to clog, mosey over to Galaxy Diner (3109 W. Cary St.), where deep-fried Oreos and Twinkies à la mode complete the meal.