Top 9 Iowa State Fair Food Favorites

By Cristen Clark, Food & Swine

The Iowa State Fair is the ultimate intersection of food, farming and family. If you have plans to attend the Fair, you’ll likely be partaking in some delicious Fair foods too! As a veteran Fair-goer, I wanted to share my Fair food favorites with you. You’ll find some classic tastes on my menu and others that you may not have thought to try. Have a taste of my trusty standbys like the Iowa Chop Dinner from The Pork Tent, Cattleman's Beef Quarters Cheeseburger and French Fries or some new fangled favorites like the Bacon Wrapped Chicken Wings from The Rib Shack.

#1: JR Donuts (located on the Rock Island Triangle across from the Administration Building, near the "Pepsi Clock")

Price: from $4 and up

If there is one food we can't live without during the Fair, it is JR Donuts. They are an anytime-favorite and a must-have on the mornings when we are going to show pigs. These cinnamon-sugary gems are soft and pillowy, their flavor is exceptional and they are made to order. In years' past, if the kids order, pay and use their manners, they can earn a bonus donut! (You have to get the right guy at the counter.)

#2: The Iowa Chop Dinner, The Pork Tent (North of the Ag Building)

Price: $10

You'll see pig farmer Derrick Sleezer holding this delicious meal that deserves all of your attention. You know you’re going to get the full pork experience with pig farmers manning the grills at The Pork Tent. This succulent Iowa Chop is grilled to perfection and flanked by baked beans, applesauce and chips. Have a seat inside, in the shade and enjoy the best pork at the Fair. They also have a new Cheddar Brat Burger that deserves the spotlight too!

#3. The Mixed Fruit Cup and Watermelon Cup, Beattie's Watermelon Stand (next to the Giant Slide)

Price: $3.50, $3.00

Sandy (Beattie) Vander Weerdt shows off the delicious fruit from Beattie's Watermelon Stand. Hands down, these generous cups of fruit are one of the must-haves for our family. This is the most refreshing treat on the grounds and you'll find the greatest family behind the counter to take your order. If you can't beat the heat, try these fresh, chilled fruit cups... you'll be cooled off in no time!

#4: Cheeseburger and Fries, Cattleman's Beef Quarters (north of the Horse Barn)

Price: $8.25 for the cheeseburger and fries

Dustin Driskill, a Union County Cattleman touts this Cheeseburger and Fries, "The best you'll ever have." I completely agree with him. This burger is always spot on, perfectly grilled with a gorgeous soft bun. My Dad will eat at least one of these, each day of the Fair, and he will specifically drive 30 miles, pay $8 to park, buy his burger and fries, eat it outside on a bench, and go home. Try it with ketchup and pickles. Bonus: The fries are the best you'll find anywhere.

#5: The Fresh Peach Shake, Bauder's Pharmacy (located on the Rock Island Triangle near the Ag Building)

Price: $6.00

This charming stand features delicious ice cream and my favorite shake of all time! The Fresh Peach Shake boasts delicious peach flavor and is smooth as silk. Katie Workman of Des Moines assures, "This is one treat you won't want to miss!" Make plans to have your own, I guarantee you won't want to share. Also try their "Peppermint Bar", it is unreal.

#6: Not Your Mama's Taco, The Iowa Turkey Federation "Turkey Grill" (east of the Varied Industries Building)

Price: $5.00

The newest creation, Not Your Mama's Taco is shown off by Iowa Turkey farmer Andria Volkmann of Jewell. You’ll find turkey farmers like her manning the Turkey Grill, cleaning up tables and chatting with folks about farming. This taco brings big time flavors in a scrumptious package. You'll find shredded turkey, slaw and mango salsa enveloped in a fried taco shell. Flavor. Explosion. This new offering edges out one of my favorite standbys: the Turkey Tenderloin Sandwich.

#7: Bacon Wrapped Smoked Wings, The Rib Shac

Price: 6 for $10 or the Brisket Grilled Cheese for $7

Joni Bell, owner of The Rib Shack will never let you down in the flavor department. These wings are phenomenal, just enough sweet, just enough heat, and the bacon completes the package perfectly. Take a trip to flavor town... just don't forget the ice cold soda, these have a bit of a kick!

#8: Cookie Dough Double Scoop, The Dairy Barn (immediately south of the Pavilion)

Price: $6 for a double, $4 for a single

Dairy showman Kyrnan Liske-Rochholz, from Waukon, steps out of the show ring to enjoy another Fair favorite, the double scoop Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream cone from the Dairy Barn. Her Ayrshire cow, Mocha was looking forward to a lick too! Find these and other generous servings of ice cream or milk, and walk around the corner to see cows being milked. If you eat ice cream slowly… have them serve up your scoops in a cup!

#9: Cherry Lemonade, Hoppy's Lemonade Stand (at various points around the Fairgrounds)

Price: $3.50 for a small

When I used to work at the Iowa State Fair, Hoppy's lemonade was the only drink that refreshed me. Cherry-anything is my favorite! You can also try raspberry or any other combination of their many flavors. If you are shooting for a true lemon shake up, have them hold the flavor. It is still the best lemonade shake up on the grounds and a must on show-day!

*Special thanks to Joe Murphy, or @jmurphpix as you'll find him on social media, for hanging out with the kids and I today, and photographing this special project!