MONROE — Having only one stomach is really inconvenient sometimes, especially when you’re a food writer at the Evergreen State Fair.
This year, the 11-day fair in Monroe welcomed 40 food vendors serving up Indian tacos, supersized corn dogs, cinnamon-sugar elephant ears and more.
The fair opened last Thursday and will run again from Sept. 1-5.
I decided to check out the fair on its first day — that is, eat a bunch of food and little else, despite the myriad of games, rides, music, animals and more. It’s my job! I reasoned with myself.
But as soon as the first waft of caramelized onions and funnel cakes filled my nostrils, I knew I was in trouble. Then I saw the signs: loaded carne asada curly fries, woodfired pizza, fudge, Indian tacos.
I panicked. I only had two hours to scout out fair food, and I had no game plan. I naively thought speaking to the fair’s organizers would be enough prep. I learned from them that the longest-serving vendor, Lodge Concessions, has been slinging burgers, fries and other fair classics since 1948, a year before Evergreen State Fair opened under its current name.
I learned that prior to Cinna-Rohls’ Evergreen debut this summer, the state fair hadn’t hosted a cinnamon roll vendor in 10 years. Owner Kyle Rohls opened the business in 2019. His cinnamon rolls were well-spiced, fluffy, not too sweet and just warm and gooey enough to melt the frosting to a perfect consistency. It turned out to be one of my favorite fair bites.
And I learned that last year, an Evergreen worker ate a grilled cheese from The Cheese Pit every day of the fair. The gourmet grilled cheese stand is back this year with its signature crusty sourdough bread and ultimate cheese pulls.
Luckily my coworkers helped guide me to old standbys like Fisher, a necessary fair stop. “Scones? At a fair? Really?” I asked. But as I watched the assembly line of workers rolling out and forming the dough for their butter- and raspberry jam-filled scones, this Washington newbie caught on to the hype quickly. You can buy a big bag of scones to go for $20, then enjoy a strawberry or peach shortcake right at the fair.
For lunch, my coworker, photographer Olivia Vanni, grabbed a beef and cheddar piroshky from the Kaleenka stand. This stuffed and fried hand pie is ideal fair food: The melty and meaty filling is self-contained, unlike a burger, meaning your arms are far less likely to experience beef juice leakage. I took a bite of hers, enjoying the fluffy fried dough, melty cheese and savory beef. Kaleenka also serves up their award-winning salmon and cream cheese piroshky. For dessert, enjoy their warm apple & cinnamon option.
Another coworker, reporter Jacqueline Allison, ordered a pork sausage roll with sauerkraut from Ziegler’s. It was juicy (read: messy), snappy and in her words, “solid.”
We watched nervously as a guy balanced two baby-sized baskets of curly fries from Ziegler’s, one topped with melty cheese, the other with chili. Down near the entrance to the beer garden (go here to get some shade), a customer ordered a Sweet Art cotton candy creation that I guessed was meant to resemble a chicken.
As for me, I wandered around aimlessly, struck by all the colorful signs and sizzling sounds and deep-fried temptations. I ended up grabbing my new favorite snack, samosa chaat, from the bright orange Indian Food Truck. Fair food is all about the frying, right? I got just that with the samosa. The stuffed veggie pastry was also swimming in saucy spiced chickpeas, cilantro, chutney and more — the perfect fair food when you’re craving a range of flavors and textures.
Then I stopped by a stand called “Road Dawg,” which sells veggie hot dogs, loaded tots, veggie corn dogs, onion rings and more. Hoping to avoid the meat sweats (I was already sweating through my shirt), I grabbed one of their veggie dogs with jalapeño, caramelized onions and mustard.
“At other events, customers would order a veggie dog from us, then get bacon on it,” co-owner Annette Pettit said. “And they’d tell us it was the best hot dog they’ve ever had.”
“I think they’re gearing toward better choices, instead of eating just all meat,” she added.
Everything in moderation, right? Especially when your veggie dog is as smoky and savory as theirs.
Onion lovers will be happy at Evergreen this year: Try Am-2-Da-Ber Concessions’ Walla Walla stand for their trademarked Walla Walla burger, a quarter-pound beef patty smothered in grilled onions with barbecue sauce on a sesame seed bun. For an allium-centric experience, head to Aussie Onion Burst for their bloomin’ onions (that’s right: You don’t have to go to Outback for this fried-and-true classic). Entertain yourself by watching heaps of onions sizzle and brown on the large griddles throughout the fair.
Plenty of self-operated lemonade jugs will help wash all that down. I ordered a prickly pear lemonade from the lemon-shaped DH Concessions stand. Super sweet, super pink and super refreshing. Bubble tea lovers should check out Ray’s Food, which also sells teriyaki, katsu chicken and more.
The beauty of fair food lies partially in its simplicity (fried, salty, naughty), but mostly in its ability to make you lay down for a long, long time. Not before you get dessert, though.
Snohomish County Dairy Women’s The Purple Cow is strategically placed near a fair exit: As my coworkers and I were walking back to our car, we spotted the ice cream stand, immediately turned into little kids and made a beeline. Jacqueline got chocolate and huckleberry ice cream, while I ordered their namesake: An Evergreen State Fair exclusive since 1960, The Purple Cow is like a root beer float in berry form, with a scoop of blackberry ice cream over blackberry syrup-infused lemon-lime soda.
By the way, they give away every 13th Purple Cow for free.
“One of the 4-H kids will sit there and monitor the line,” said Brenda Granstrom, the fair’s operations supervisor.
If you’re at Evergreen State Fair all day, pace yourself. Don’t hop on a stomach-churning ride if you just downed a footlong corn dog. Let your nose guide you to the right choice. And bring a crew along for the ultimate sample party.
I wrote this story to help you plan out an Evergreen food strategy, but reading it back I probably — hopefully — did just the opposite.
To see the full list of food vendors, visit: www.evergreenfair.org/212/Food-Drinks.
If you go
The Evergreen State Fair continues Sept. 1-5 at Evergreen State Fairgrounds, 14405 179th Ave. SE, Monroe. Live music, food, carnival rides, fireworks, monster trucks, auto races, equestrian and livestock shows and more.
Fair admission is $16 for adults on weekdays, $18 on weekends and $14 on Labor Day. It’s $12 any day and $10 on Labor Day for youth, seniors 62 and older, and active military with ID. Free entry for those younger than 6 or older than 89.
Parking is $10 on weekdays and $15 on weekends.
Fair hours are 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sept. 1-4 and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sept. 5. Carnival hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. The carnival closes at 7 p.m. on Labor Day, Sept. 5.
More information at evergreenfair.org.
Taylor Goebel: 425-339-3046; email@example.com; Twitter: @TaylorGoebel.