Eat this right now: cowboy corn crunch

Eat this right now: cowboy corn crunch

Ann Pinson

If you were to buy all eight Big Tex Choice Awards foods, you'd spend 176 coupons, or $88. Don't do that, folks! Take our tips instead. Your waistline and your wallet will thank you.

GuideLive's ranking includes seven of the eight Big Tex Choice Awards, plus one bonus item that is definitely worth your money. We ranked seven because the eighth item, the chicken-fried lobster, sold out on Day One. (More on that here.) 

Looking for each of these foods? Check out the fried food map.

Happy hunting!

1. The best: Cowboy corn crunch

Eat this right now: cowboy corn crunch

Eat this right now: cowboy corn crunch

Ann Pinson

What is it: sweet corn, jalapeño, cream cheese and bacon, "rolled up like a tater tot and fried," says Isaac Rousso, whose fried Cuban roll won "best taste" last year. Cowboy corn crunch did not win a Big Tex Choice Award title this year, but chef John Tesar considered it the best of the bunch.

GuideLive's ranking: 4.6 out of 5

Price: 14 coupons, or $7, for about a half-dozen bites

Why we loved it: Rousso's "tater tot" has corn and spice and everything nice. Most importantly, these little nuggets taste like real food. In one bite, we could see and taste the sweet corn, the diced jalapeño and the smoky bacon. The ratio of crunchy to creamy was just right, too. We fought over the last bite.

2. Lone Star pork handle

Lone Star pork handle

Lone Star pork handle

Ann Pinson

What is it: a fried pork chop with bourbon barbecue glaze

GuideLive's ranking: 4.1 out of 5

Price: 20 coupons, or $10, for one pork handle with a side of sauce

Why we loved it: The pork handle looks like caveman food, but it's the most delicate, tender caveman food we've ever eaten. If you're the kind who wants a turkey leg, ditch the stick o' meat for the Lone Star pork handle. It's a good value, too; one pork handle could constitute as a meal for one person. The sauce strays a tad too sweet, so go easy on it. The tender meat, lightly fried, doesn't need the extra help.

3. Pretzel-crusted pollo queso

Pretzel-crusted pollo queso

Pretzel-crusted pollo queso

Ann Pinson

What is it: a fried ball of shredded chicken, cream cheese, Monterey Jack cheese, bacon, cilantro and Sriracha

GuideLive's ranking: 4 out of 5

Price: 12 coupons, or $6, for several fried balls and a side of jalapeño ranch

Why we loved it: Imagine the best fried bar food you can think of, then imagine that it's located a few hundred feet from Big Tex. The dish goes heavy on the cheese, but we're not complaining. The mix of cheese, chicken and bacon tastes like a better version of every fried appetizer on a happy hour menu. Don't skip this one.

4. Fernie's Holy Moly Carrot Cake Roly

Fernie's Holy Moly Carrot Cake Roly

Fernie's Holy Moly Carrot Cake Roly

Ann Pinson

What is it: Judges named this "best taste" at the recent Big Tex Choice Awards. It's basically fried carrot cake, but there's more to it than that: This sweet treat is cinnamon bread, flattened and lined with carrot cake, raisins and carrots, then rolled. The pastry gets coated in cream cheese and finally breaded with sweet ingredients such as graham crackers and nutmeg.

GuideLive's ranking: 3.3 out of 5

Price: 14 coupons, or $7, for two carrot cake rolls and two dipping sauces

Why we liked it: We held Fernie's Holy Moly Carrot Cake Roly to a high standard because judges picked it as their very favorite. It wasn't ours; this dessert was moist and flavorful, but it wasn't better than most grocery-store bought desserts. Our team was split, however; while some of us found it run-of-the-mill, others compared it to delicious bread pudding. You aren't guaranteed a home-run here.

5. Fried alligator

Fried alligator with fries

Fried alligator with fries

Ann Pinson

What is it: a Cajun blend of alligator, cheese, jalapeños, onions and garlic, all deep fried in a ball, then served atop fries and drizzled in remoulade

GuideLive's ranking: 2.2 out of 5

Price: 20 coupons, or $10, for three small bites and fries

Why we didn't love it: There's a value issue here, and it's twofold: First, we didn't taste much alligator. Second, three bites of fried stuff and soggy fries aren't a good value for $10. If money were no object, each bite had nice zing and good spice. But each fried ball also tasted like a hushpuppy with remoulade drizzle, not a complex dish made with alligator.

6. Smoky bacon margarita

Smoky bacon margarita

Smoky bacon margarita

Ann Pinson

What is it: a wine-based margarita with fried bacon crumbles on top

GuideLive's ranking: 1.8 out of 5

Price: 16 coupons, or $8, for one margarita

Why we didn't like it: This simply wasn't a great margarita. It was like a lime Slurpee, but with every slurp we also had to chew off-putting pieces of bacon. The smoky aftertaste was liked by some, strongly disliked by others in our test group. No one seemed to appreciate the bacon bits, though; they didn't belong in a neon-green drink.

7. The worst: Fried beer-battered buffalo

Fried beer-battered buffalo

Fried beer-battered buffalo

Ann Pinson

What is it: buffalo coated in Pequin chili pepper, crusted in Corn Nuts and fried in Shiner Bock batter

GuideLive's ranking: 1.4 out of 5

Price: 20 coupons, or $10, for three pieces

Why we didn't like it: In a world of fried everything, this beer-battered buffalo is blasé. It's almost like a fried meatball, with a simple interior of relatively dry buffalo and a nicely-made batter crust. But it needs something, and not the chipotle cream it came with. One taster suggested he'd like it better with ketchup, mustard and between two hamburger buns. Others just wanted more flavor. Still others wondered if more tender meat would solve the problem. Skip this one.

UNRANKED: Chicken-fried lobster

Highest-priced State Fair food, chicken-fried lobster, sold out in a few hours

What is it: breaded and fried lobster tail served with lemon-butter Champagne gravy

Price: 60 coupons, or $30, making it one of the fair's priciest items

Why we didn't try it: Concessionaire Abel Gonzales sold out on Day One. He expects to have adequate supply for the rest of the State Fair of Texas.

BONUS: Deep-fried red velvet Oreos

Wow, these were good.

Wow, these were good.

Ann Pinson

What is it: red velvet Oreos, battered and fried

GuideLive's ranking: 4.4 out of 5

Price: 14 coupons, or $7, for three fried Oreos

Why we absolutely loved it: This could have been one of the best items we tried all day at the State Fair of Texas. Note that it is not a Big Tex Choice Awards finalist. But forget about that for a moment: These sweet bites are gooey inside, slightly crunchy outside, and just the right amount of sweet without sending you to to dentist. The concessionaires will sell the red velvet variety for the first week of the fair, then switch to deep-fried cookie dough Oreos, then cotton candy Oreos. 

Take it from us: You want those red velvet ones. 

GuideLive's Managing Editor Amanda Wilkins said it best: "Oh my gosh. Oh my GOSH, that's good."

The GuideLive tasting group was made up of Vianey Alderete, Sarah Blaskovich, Sara Frederick Burgos, Brentney Hamilton, Britton Peele, Ann Pinson, Tiney Ricciardi, Shannon Sutlief, Mandi Thomas and Amanda Wilkins. 

Methodology: Each participant ranked each dish, 1 through 5. The GuideLive ranking is an average of everyone's scores.

Going to the State Fair of Texas? Here's everything you need to know.

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