Rodeo Houston 2020
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RodeoHouston celebrates all the deep-fried goodness with Gold Buckle Awards

RodeoHouston celebrates deep-fried goodness with Gold Buckle Awards

Ken Hoffman Rodeo Carnival Midway 2020
This donut chicken sandwich won a Gold Buckle. Photo by Brandon Strange

The Rodeo's annual celebration of all things deep-fried has revealed this year's winners. Now in its 12th year, the Gold Buckle Foodie Awards invite a panel of media and foodie influencers to sample 83 of the carnival's most over-the-top treats. 

Prizes are awarded in eight categories: Classic Fair Food, Most Creative Food, Best Food-on-a-Stick, Best Value, Best Fried Food, Best Specialty Food, Best New Flavor, and Best Dessert.

Hot Cheetos ruled the day. Different vendors presented the snack food applied to turkey legs, french fries, corn dogs, and more. 

Other hits included "pregnant pickles" — fried pickles dipped in peanut butter and served with a peanut butter drizzle — as well as chocolate-dipped jalapeños. Turns out that a dish dubbed "Big Sticks," a two-foot-long stick wrapped with either chicken or pork, not only looks great on Instagram but tastes good, too. It earned a coveted buckle for vendor Big Bubba's Bad BBQ. 

At an event where a shot of Bloody Mary mix counts as a "specialty food," it's best not to take the results too seriously. After all, as CultureMap columnist Ken Hoffman pointed out a couple of years ago, turkey legs and corn dogs are still the top sellers — and deep-fried Oreos are still delicious, even if they're a little passe.

Still, the vendors' creativity keeps things exciting, and the roster of creative fare rewards multiple visits to the carnival. Get out there and eat.

Here's the full list of winners, via the Houston Press:

Classic Fair Food
1st: Ribeye Steak Sandwich, Burton Sausage
2nd: Big Daddy Cheetos Cheese Corn Dog, Biggy's BBQ
3rd: Harlon's All Meat Stuffed Potato, Harlon's BBQ

Most Creative Food
1st: Loaded Waffle Fries with Shredded Pork or Beef, Holmes Smokehouse
2nd: Flamin' Hot Cheetos Cheese Turkey Leg, Biggy's BBQ
3rd:  Nitro Cotton Candy Lemonade, The Float Saloon

Best Food-on-a-Stick
1st: Big Sticks (pork or chicken), Big Bubba's Bad BBQ
2nd: Foot Corndog, Holmes Smokehouse
3rd: Cookie Dough, Sweet Cheeks

Best Value
1st: Ribs and Sausage Platter, Saltgrass Steakhouse
2nd: Loaded Baked Potato, Yoakum Packing Company
3rd: Loaded Baked Potato with Beef, Burton Sausage

Best Fried Food
1st: Donut Chicken Sandwich, Get Fried
2nd: Fried Red Velvet Cupcake with Homemade Buttercream Icing, Sill's Funnel Cakes
3rd: Nashville Hot Chicken Tenders, Big Bubba's Bad BBQ

Best Specialty Food
1st: Big Bayou Bloody Mary Mix Original, Big Bayou Cocktail Sauce
2nd: Chocolate Cobbler, All of Us
3rd: Cattle Drive Corn Chip Casserole, PDQ Meals

Best New Flavor
1st: Deep Fried Cookie Dough Sundae, The Original Minneapple Pie
2nd: Pretzel Cheese Dog, The Float Saloon
3rd: Michelagua, Fruteria Cano

Best Dessert
1st: Deep-Fried Cheesecake, Granny's Cheesecake
2nd: Brookie, Totally Baked Cookie Joint
3rd: Brownie Ice Cream, Fried What!