My favorite local restaurant for the next 10 days is State Fair Park, during the annual Central Washington State Fair.
You’ll notice I didn’t say “best” but “favorite,” because the fare at the fair is decidedly not fine dining. But it is, in its tendency toward excess and indulgence, often just as creative.
Last year I ate nitrogenated cereal puffs that allowed me to blow “smoke” like a dragon through my nostrils as I ate them. I also had deep-fried peaches. Over the years, I’ve had several deep-fried oddities — Twinkies, Oreos, even Pepsi (which turned out to be deep-fried dough made with Pepsi syrup and which also turned out to be disgusting) — and I’ve had all manner of sugar-and-dough combinations, ice cream, greasy grilled sandwiches and something called a doughnut sundae.
The fair, which my gastrointestinal and cardiovascular health can only handle once a year, is a smorgasbord of over-the-top foodstuffs.
Counterintuitively, my favorite must-buy-every-year fair food is one of the most straightforward: the lamb burger, sold at a booth that’s been a fair institution since 1925. It’s not novel or sexy, but man is it good, especially with the vinegary slaw they offer as a topping. I usually start my fair day with one of those, then I can take risks with whatever else I eat, knowing that if I don’t like it (like the fried Pepsi) I’ve at least already had one good meal.
But that’s usually not an issue. Everything at the fair is usually pretty good, even if it’s good in that “dear lord what has become of us as a species” kind of way. And when you’re done eating, you can refresh yourself at the beer garden. They haven’t figured out how to deep-fry that yet.
If you go
What: Central Washington State Fair
When: Friday-Sept. 29; noon-11 p.m. Fridays, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturdays, noon-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sept. 29
Where: State Fair Park, 1301 S. Fair Ave.
Tickets: Adults Monday-Friday $14.50, adults Saturday-Sunday $16, ages 6-12 $9.50, ages 65 and older $11.50, military $8, first responders $8, military and first responder family members $9, ages 5 and younger free; admission specials throughout the fair, check the website