One of the most appealing aspects of the Houston Rodeo is the delicious food served up by vendors across the country — most of it is as tasty as it is unhealthy. This year brings the usual crop of familiar favorites along with a few can't miss newcomers. Here are a few suggestions beyond the usual turkey legs and ho-hum chopped beef sandwiches.
Start at the far end of the carnival near the big tents with all the restaurants. Once again, Fried What has returned for another year. It's offering new two dishes: A fried peach served with ice cream and fried red velvet Oreos. Sure, fried Oreos are all over the Rodeo grounds, but Fried What gets it right by frying to order. That prevents diners from receiving a soggy mess.
In a Rodeo complex full of mediocre barbecue, this local joint stands out with flavorful offerings like smoked boudin.
Just down from Fried What, look for the giant Belgian Waffles sign to find what's sure to be 2015's most talked about newcomer. That's where the 50-year State Fair of Texas veteran is serving Fried Sriracha balls. The orbs blend chicken, corn and tortillas strips that are soaked in the signature rooster sauce and fried. It's spicy to be sure, but the heat will be familiar to most people — and it serves as a balance to all the sweetness on sale around it.
Another savory option is the same area is Polonia. The well-regarded Spring Branch Polish restaurant is back for another year. At $7, the cabbage rolls provide a decent-sized, fairly filling meal. The mild ground beef and tomato sauce are a comfort classic.
For Louisiana comfort, turn to Triple J's Smokehouse. In a Rodeo complex full of mediocre barbecue, this local joint stands out with flavorful offerings like smoked boudin. The filling provides the appropriate level of livery-funk, and the smoker gives the casing a crispy snap.
One more treat for those who didn't fill up on boudin. Custom Confections is back. While it's primarily known for serving ice cream filled cupcakes, the three-time winner of the Gold Buckle award for most creative dish isn't resting on its laurels. This year's innovation is the U.F.O., aka the ultimate fried Oreo. In this preparation, the Oreo is baked between two sugar cookies prior to the whole thing going into hot oil.
It's a sugar bomb to be sure, but the sugar cookies come out of the fryer with the texture of cookie dough, and that's never a bad thing.
Finally, here's one to avoid.
Big Bubba's Bad B.B.Q may attempt to use the word "bad" as in "bad ass," but it really is a warning. The stand's rotisserie chickens look so tempting on a spit, but juicy meat can't save flabby skin — especially at $10.75 for a 1/4 chicken.