Food and the Iowa State Fair go hand in hand. This year's People's Choice Best New Fair Food is The Finisher from The Rib Shack. (Photo: Iowa State Fair).
Award-worthy new fair foods
August 18, 2022 | Kriss Nelson
Served in a basket, on a stick or sometimes in a bucket, 53 new fair foods debut at the 2022 Iowa State Fair. For fairgoers who enjoy the annual reveal of new culinary creations, it’s time to start planning the fair feast.
“Seventy percent of fairgoers mark food as the top reason they come to the fair,” says Mindy Williamson, marketing director for the Iowa State Fair.
The Iowa State Fair runs through Sunday, and there are a variety of food options that help to celebrate Iowa’s farmers.
“We know our food comes from the farm to the fair, and we celebrate this in hundreds of different ways,” says Williamson. “Iowa’s commodity groups play a critical role in providing that direct link and one-of-a-kind, top-notch Iowa food.”
2022 People’s Choice Best New Food
Each year, when the new fair foods are introduced, three are chosen to be in the running for the People’s Choice Best New Food.
The Finisher, a new food from the Rib Shack, takes top honors as the 2022 People’s Choice Best News Food contest.
The “OMG” Chicken Sandwich from Chicken City and Pork Picnic in a Cup from the Iowa Pork Tent were also in the competition.
Pulled pork, brisket, mac and cheese, and baked potato are a delicious meal. The Rib Shack combines this fantastic spread in The Finisher.
The Finisher, starts with an extra-large russet baked potato and is topped with bacon, chopped brisket, pulled pork, mac and cheese, barbecue sauce, queso, sour cream and seasoned butter.
“My favorite food is a potato,” says Joni Bell, owner of Great Caterers of Iowa and The Rib Shack. “I thought, let’s do something with all the great products we produce at The Rib Shack and make a meal out of it with a potato.”
-The Finisher. Photo courtesy: Andy Lyons/Iowa State Fair
Bell says the staff at The Rib Shack will work hard to keep up with the large crowds coming to try The Finisher and the concession’s other beef, pork and savory foods.
“We are always excited to be a part of the Iowa State Fair and showcase our great Iowa beef and pork products,” Bell says.
The Rib Shack, located west of the Anne & Bill Riley Stage, is a popular spot for fairgoers.
“We have many customers who can’t wait for The Iowa State Fair and The Rib Shack each year,” Bell says.
OMG Chicken Sandwich
When Matthew Hall, owner of Chicken City, shared his new creation with his friends, “Oh my God,” was the statement he repeatedly heard. He knew right then that the name of the entry into the 2022 Iowa State Fair New Foods competition would be the OMG Chicken Sandwich.
The OMG Chicken Sandwich is a chicken breast lightly battered and covered in sugar-coated corn flakes fried to golden brown and served on a glazed Krispy Kreme doughnut. Then, it is topped with bacon and drizzled with syrup.
“I was challenging myself to come up with something new and different that people would be excited about trying,” he says. “The possibilities for new and unique foods, especially for the Iowa State Fair, are endless. I love challenging myself every year.”
The OMG Chicken Sandwich – a top three new fair food finalist and in the running for People’s Choice Best New Food – can be found at Chicken City’s location near the Susan Knapp Amphitheater. Hall encourages fairgoers to indulge in all the sweet and savory tastes of his new creation.
“The sandwich has iconic fair food features – it’s deep fried, it’s bacon, it’s a guilty pleasure with doughnuts,” he says. “I tell people when the fair comes around, don’t calorie count. Enjoy the 11 days, and go back to counting calories after the fair. It’s a time to try something new, fun, exciting and different while having a good time.”
Hall anticipates serving 1,200 - OMG Chicken Sandwiches each weekday and closer to 4,800 during each weekend.
How is he planning to keep up with serving this many chicken breasts daily?
“No sleep, tons of staffing and implementing automatic coating machines to speed up the process,” he says. “I am a third-generation concessionaire. I know fair food.”
Hall says he is excited and proud to be a part of the top three new fair foods qualifying for People’s Choice Best New Fair Foods.
“I think it is great what the Iowa State Fair does with this competition,” he says. “It allows vendors to come up with something new and unique. I love the competition. To be in the top three with the other two is incredible. Winning People’s Choice would be amazing.”
Pork Picnic in a Cup
With entertainment on free stages blanketing the Iowa State Fair, the Iowa Pork Tent has found a way to create an on-the-go, picnic-style meal. It’s the perfect pairing for sunny days with blue skies.
The Pork Picnic in a Cup is filled with layers of Fritos corn chips, barbecued pulled pork, baked beans, creamy coleslaw and a drizzle of barbecue sauce garnished with a brown sugar pork belly.
Hannah Spurr, consumer outreach director for the Iowa Pork Producers Association, says the concept behind the Pork Picnic in a Cup came from the Pork Tent committee and members of the Iowa Pork staff.
“The idea came from members who wanted something other than a pork chop or barbecue pork sandwich, so they grabbed a cup and started mixing everything for something new and different,” she says. “We all wanted to add a new menu item this year and said, ‘What about making our creation an actual menu item?’’’
-Pork Picnic in a Cup. Photo credit: Iowa Pork Producers Association
The Pork Picnic in a Cup will be available at the Pork Tent on Grand Avenue and is also a finalist for the top three fair foods, qualifying it for the People’s Choice Best New Food award.
“I believe people should vote for it because it is super delicious, and they would support their local pork producer,” Spurr says.
Not only is the Pork Picnic in a Cup unique, but it is also reasonably priced.
“At $10 a cup, you are getting an entire meal,” says Spurr. “Plus, it’s all the yummy goodness you typically find at a pork picnic.”
The Pork Tent is a popular stop for many fairgoers and keeping up with demand is something they are accustomed to doing year in and year out. They will sell approximately 48,000 pork chops on a stick throughout the 11 days of the fair and, since 1981, have served 2,595,710 servings of Iowa pork.
“It means a great deal to us to have a presence at the Iowa State Fair,” Spurr says. “It allows us to serve a delicious product to consumers and gives us the ability to talk to people about the pork industry and all that it’s doing to provide a safe and nutritious product.”
Learn about two other two foods who made the list of top 10 finalists this year. Be sure to try them during the Iowa State Fair, too!
A favorite breakfast staple with a kick, the Egg-O-Fuego will surely please spicy taste buds.
The Egg-O-Fuego came to fruition when Iowa Egg Council staff and Cluck’n Coop concessions manager and chef Jeremy Jessen were working to create a new “egg-centric” food for the 2022 Iowa State Fair.
“Fuego means fire, and this sandwich brings just a little bit of heat, resulting from the chorizo sausage and a pepper glaze,” says Kevin Stiles, executive director of the Iowa Egg Council and Iowa Poultry Association. “We think it adds just enough kick, but not too much for the Midwestern palate.”
The Egg-O-Fuego can be found at the Cluck’n Coop located on the east end of the Thrillville concession area off the main concourse near the Ye Ole Mill.
Egg-O-Fuego made the top 10 new fair foods for 2022. Coming off “Best New Fair Food” in 2021 with the Chicken and Egg Salad on Fry Bread, Stiles says this publicity is tremendous for Iowa’s egg industry.
“The buzz is building again, and we see this recognition as a great way to generate even more interest in eggs and egg items,” he says.
Serving egg-based foods at the Iowa State Fair makes sense. Iowa leads the nation as the largest egg-producing state, with more than 50 million laying hens. In 2022, one in six eggs consumed nationally came from Iowa. In addition, Iowa hens consumed nearly 550,000 tons of soybean meal and 58 million bushels of corn in 2019. With Iowa ranking No. 1 in corn production and No. 2 in soybean production in the U.S, eggs make a big impact.
“We think the Egg-O-Fuego will be a huge hit for not only breakfast consumers, but it also should be a great all-day menu item,” Stiles says. “Both eggs and chorizo sausage are on trend this year, and at $8 per sandwich, it is a great buy.”
Finalist: The Minty Moo Parfait
The new Minty Moo Parfait pairs a popular Girl Scout cookie with vanilla ice cream.
“It’s the perfect sweet treat, loaded with tantalizing flavors and ready to cool you down on a warm day at the Iowa State Fair,” says Alyson Fendrick, registered dietitian and marketing communications manager at Midwest Dairy. “The world may think cookies and milk are the perfect pair, but Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies and delicious vanilla ice cream have it beat.”
The Minty Moo Parfait is the product of the partnership between Iowa’s dairy community and the Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa.
Realizing the well-known brand of Girl Scout Cookies, the idea of incorporating at least one of the cookies into the ice cream booth, Fendrick says, was an easy choice.
“You can’t get the cookies anywhere else during the summer. With this partnership, we could bring together a perfect pairing of delicious Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies, chocolate syrup and creamy vanilla ice cream for fairgoers to enjoy the Minty Moo Parfait,” says Fendrick.
-Minty Moo Parfait. Photo credit: Midwest Dairy
The Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa jumped on board to provide labor efforts in the Dairy Goodness Barn.
“The Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa have been crucial to the dairy barn’s success and keeping up with demand,” she says. “They currently provide labor as a fundraising effort at both Dairy Barn locations at the Iowa State Fair. They’re hardworking, and their can-do attitude is hard to beat.”
The Minty Moo Parfait is just one way Iowa’s dairy industry has a presence at the Iowa State Fair.
“The Iowa State Fair is a great opportunity to connect with consumers and provide them with an excellent dairy experience,” says Fendrick. “Each year, the Iowa State Fair celebrates more than 850 dairy farmers in the state who are contributing 15,587 jobs and delivering an overall economic impact of $5.56 billion products produced and sold in Iowa.”
The Minty Moo Parfait will be available at the Dairy Goodness Barn on Rock Island Avenue, next to the Cattle Barn.