Rodeo Houston 2022
Gold Buckle Winners

Fried jambalaya rolls, fried cupcakes, and more take top honors at rodeo's carnival food contest

Decadent dishes score top honors at RodeoHouston carnival food contest

Bonfire funnel cake Rodeo Houston
Bonfire funnel cake took the prize for Most Creative. Photo by Eric Sandler

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s celebration of its more decadent eats has new champions. The Gold Buckle Foodie Award winners have been crowned for 2022.

Now in its 13th year, the awards recognize the best bites sold on the rodeo grounds by vendors that range from corporate giants like Landry’s-owned Saltgrass Steakhouse to the sort of small, family-owned businesses that took a major hit when the rodeo closed early in 2020 and canceled 2021.

An online vote picked the finalists in each category, which may explain why some vendors had multiple entrants. A panel of judges that included media, influencers (including culinary creator Matt Pittman of the Meat Church Instagram feed), and some high profile Houston chefs — Aaron Bludorn (Bludorn), Dawn Burrell (Top Chef, Late August), Evelyn Garcia (Top Chef, Kin), Suu Khin (Masterchef), and Joseph Manglicmot (Masterchef) — picked the winners.

The categories are: Classic Fair Food, Most Creative Food, Best Food-on-a-Stick, Best Fried Food, Best New Flavor, and Best Dessert.

The creativity on display certainly impressed the judges. A stuffed turkey leg, a Monte Cristo sandwich, and a s’mores-funnel cake mashup that was flamed to order all had people reaching for their phones. More conventional eats like a chicken tender basket and steak-on-a-stick also drew attention.

While a Bacon Mac and Cheese egg roll may look exciting on Instagram, it’s worth keeping in mind that these dishes represent a relatively small fraction of the food consumed on the rodeo grounds. After all, as CultureMap columnist Ken Hoffman once pointed out, turkey legs and corn dogs are still the top sellers.

If nothing else, the awards remind rodeo visitors to explore the grounds and find something new to feast on. Go forth and eat.

Classic Fair Food
1st: Harlon's All Meat Stuffed Potato - Harlon's BBQ
2nd: Pulled Pork Baked Potato - Saltgrass Steak House
3rd: Brisket Cheese Fries - Spring Country Kitchen

Most Creative Food
1st: The Bonfire Funnel Cake - CornDog With No Name
2nd: Harlon’s Stuffed Turkey Leg - Harlon's BBQ
3rd: Steak Salad - Saltgrass Steak House

Best Food-on-a-Stick
1st: The Berry Racer Caramel Apple - Munch-oes Bakery
2nd: Beef K-BOB on a stick - Saltgrass Steak House
3rd: The Spice Corn Dog - CornDog With No Name

Best Fried Food
1st: Deep Fried Jambalaya Roll - Cajun Cowboy
2nd: Funnel Cake Monte Cristo Basket - Sill Concessions
3rd: Chicken Tender Basket - Holmes Smokehouse

Best New Flavor
1st: Bacon Mac & Cheese Egg Roll - The Finer Diner
2nd: Brisket Bacon Melt - Spring Country Kitchen
3rd: Island Slaw - Island Noodles

Best Dessert
1st: Fried Red Velvet Cupcake - Sills Funnel Cakes
2nd: Chocolate Turtle Cookie Sandwich - Munch-oes Bakery
3rd: Yellow Rose Funnel Cake - CornDog With No Name