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It's Not All 'Fried' at the OC Fair

Fairgoers indulge in healthier alternatives to traditional fair foods at the Orange County Fair.

Fruitbowls at Terri's Berries come with blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and grapes.
Fruitbowls at Terri's Berries come with blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and grapes.

County fairs are famous for over-the-top menus and never-ending options of deep-fried food, but some vendors at this year’s Orange County Fair are offering some healthier alternatives.

From the minute a fairgoer walks in, an eclectic variety of food stands line the walkways and the smell of barbecue fills the air.  If you’re a foodie, the fair is sure to have something for every palette, but fairgoers Steffany Hernandez and Eduardo Carrillo said they hope to see more healthy options at future fairs. 

“I used to be a vegetarian, it would be nice to see more options like tofu or even salads,” Hernandez said, chowing down on an ear of charbroiled corn on the cob. “This is the best thing we’ve seen.”

Some other spots are serving up other veggies too.

The Spud Shack offers baked sweet potatoes, sweet potato fries, charbroiled veggie kabobs, Priscilla chiles stuffed with peppercorn jack, and charbroiled broccoli and corn on the cob. Manager Penny Nicholson said unlike most veggie places at the fair, Spud's veggies are grilled and the sweet potato fries are cooked using sunflower oil.

“We don’t use batter, or add salt, seasoning or butter to any of our veggies,” Nicholson said. “But we do offer it.”

She said the Spud Shack’s veggie kabobs have been selling “really well” this year.

“We have been selling more than we usually do,” Nicholson said. “Personally, I get so sick of fair food. The first thing I figure out every year is where I can find some real food.”

One spot she visits frequently is Terri’s Berries, which has a $1 fruit stand with fresh peaches, plums, nectarines and bananas. 

Owner Terri Crutchfield, from San Diego County, has been selling fruit at the OC fair for 21 years. 

“Our focus is 100 percent on the customer,” she Crutchfield. “We have evolved from just offering produce.”

Terri's Berries also offers fruit plates topped with blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, grapes and strawberries, nine different types of caramel apples and fresh fruit smoothies.

“Most people just want to do a little fried and then get something that can sustain them," Crutchfield said. "Because they are out here all day long.”

Vegetarian food company Morning Star Farms , which finished its two week stint at the OC Fair Sunday as part of a nationwide promotional tour, said fairgoers were thankful to see their menu of Mediterranean chicken, spicy black bean and the grillers prime veggie patties.

“We have had people coming up everyday saying, ‘I am a vegetarian. Thank you so much for being here,” tour crew member Jarek Emasian said.

But if you are looking for the traditional fair foods to sink your teeth into, Chicken Charlies, which has two OC Fair locations, is popular for its deep-fried Oreos, Klondike bars and Twinkies.  The Krispy Kreme Sloppy Joe is Chicken Charlie’s newest menu item, and has the number three spot on the list of the OC Fair's “Top Five Crazy Fair Foods.”

Supervisor Justin Bunselmier said fair goers often call the sloppy joe “oddly-fantastic,” and refer to it as the “Krispy Kreme Doughnut“ because it is sliced and stuffed with a traditional Sloppy Joe mix of seasoned ground beef and onion.

What is your favorite OC Fair food item? Tell us in the comments.

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