Three hundred fifty-five. That’s the number of days I have to wait every year to dine on the delectable cornucopia of sweet and savory goodness at the Central Washington State Fair.

I love fair food. By the time this story is published, though, it will have been five weeks since my last taste of it — and I’m already dreaming of next year’s event.

That’s a long time to wait. Could anything tide me over until then?

As it turns out, the answer is yes.

I’ve found a few local eateries that might help.

Let’s start with what is likely the easiest: the corndog. A staple of any fair, the corndog is something that doesn’t always get a lot of love. We can find them at various fast-food establishments, in our freezer, or corner mini-mart next to the burritos and jo-jos. None are the same, though. The key is hand-dipped and freshly fried.

The best I’ve found locally is Major’s Restaurant in Yakima and Union Gap. It’s a perfect hue of golden corn batter, bathed in oil like it was vacationing on the beach. Its light and almost flaky crust encompasses a truly great dog. Add a packet or two of mustard or ketchup, close your eyes, take a bite and I dare you not to think you’re sitting on a bench at the fair.

The next selection is something I didn’t add until recently. I love a good burger but had no idea what a fair could offer different than the variety I can find 52 weeks out of the year. Then I was introduced to the Harrah Grange’s Ultimate Burger. You start with a half-pound of beef, add four ounces of sliced ham, cheddar cheese, and your choice of veggies and condiments; bacon optional. This is a meal best shared with a spouse, a child or maybe the neighborhood.

Most local establishments can’t exactly hit the mark here, but there is one. And it just so happens to be the place where we found the perfect corndog … Major’s. The Homerun Burger pairs a third-pound patty with, sliced ham, cheddar cheese, bacon and their famous grilled onions. The main difference is the Major’s patty doesn’t extend past the edge of the bun like the original, but it is thicker and juicier.

Now, it can’t be all meat all the time at the fair. We do need pure carbs every once in a while. We need a potato, and it needs to be piping hot and dripping with grease.

A couple of local restaurants get close, few more so than the Lariat drive-in on Yakima Avenue. You can’t wring the grease out them, but everything else about them screams fair food. They are just thick enough to hold their temperature for the drive home, but delicate enough to only get lightly coated by your condiment of choice.

Sadly, in 2021, we missed the Lamb Burger. A sign said they would return in 2022, which means we will need to double our efforts those 10 days to make up for lost time. It’s a smaller patty of ground lamb covered with a slice of cheese and again, your opportunity to choose your own condiments.

Not everyone can taste the difference of lamb versus beef. If that’s you, and you need a quick small burger fix, add a couple Kemper Burgers to your fries while at the Lariat. If you tend to keep your Lamb Burger simple, the Kemper Burger (the same recipe from the original restaurant on South First Street) should meet your needs. The red relish is the perfect companion.

For dessert, it’s hard to get past fried dough and ice cream. Churros are something we can find pretty easily in the valley, but the elephant ear is what many desire most at the fair. I have spent countless hours making and eating this disk of fried dough over the years. Covered in sugar and cinnamon, you need a roll of paper towels to not get it all over your clothes and vehicle.

While it may not be fried, the Essencia Bakery beehive is a pretty good alternative. It is as chewy in the center as the thickest part of an ear, but delicate enough to crumble and cover your hands as you tear into it. The fact that it’s baked means it should be healthier than the fried version, at least that’s what I tell myself.

The Selah Heights Grange booth has delivered the finest soft-serve, I’ve even witnessed people carrying one away in each hand. Have no fear, Yakima does have a year-round solution for this one. Ron’s Tacos and Burgers on Lincoln can meet your need. People swear by both of these dairy towers, who am I to disagree with them.

My final serving of fair food to find in town was by far the toughest. This is the Young Life booth and their barbecued beef sandwich. It is my favorite meal at the fair. This year, a staff member of theirs actually wondered if there was something wrong with me since I hadn’t shown up in person to their booth until Monday, the fourth day of the fair.

I am a purist when it comes to this sandwich. A simple bun topped with sliced beef and their own barbecue sauce are all I require. And there is nothing like it anywhere else. People joke with me about Arby’s roast beef sandwiches but that’s all it is, a joke of a comparison. High school baseball and the majors might be the same sport, but definitely not the same league. These sandwiches are the same.

So, since there is nothing quite like a Young Life sandwich, I figured I needed to find something that meets my need for a sliced beef sandwich but is nothing like Young Life or a standard French dip. Enter the smoked tri-tip dip at Bill’s Place on Third Avenue. Covered in provolone and grilled onions, and served with au jus, this sandwich makes my mouth water just thinking about it. And that’s what the Young Life sandwich has always done for me.

So, while nothing can ever truly replace the culinary delights of the fair, maybe these few ideas can help tide us all over until next fall.

Bon appetit!

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