Amid the funhouses and midway games of CityFair, a dozen booths sell Portlanders the exotic foods of America. This is classic state-fair cuisine, with a dash of Waterfront Park dust that regularly blows through the tents. Several Portland food carts are circled at the south end of the carnival, but you aren’t paying a $15 entry fee to eat something you can get on any workday. For that matter, while nearly every vendor offers a variation on the Brick o’ Fries, it is not difficult to find curly fries at many nearby dive bars. What follows is a sampling of dishes unlikely to be seen in these reaches until next June. All were consumed in one afternoon.
Loaded half tri-tip sandwich, $13
Vendor: Bates Catering, a Eugene-based smokehouse tent stationed on the east flank of the midway.
How is it? A steak hoagie smothered in bacon, griddled onions and a slice of American cheese, with a dollop of “Creole mayo” to almost hold it together, the sandwich is a sloppy jumble—the Roy children’s “meal fit for a king” if it were constructed on the Dutton ranch. I loved it.
Turkey leg, $20
Vendor: Hog Daddy’s, the most conspicuous booth at CityFair, emblazoned with a cartoon pig riding a motorcycle. It also serves an ear of corn coated in Flamin’ Hot Cheetos dust, for $9.
How is it? More tender than one would expect, almost juicy, although the skin is so heavily smoked it should be peeled away like a rind. I haven’t had a turkey leg in a dozen years, and it was better than I remembered. Also more expensive. Inflation is real, y’all.
Maple bacon elephant ear, $13
Vendor: You could visit the Jumbo Elephant Ears stand at the CityFair entry gate, with a cartoon Dumbo bravely defying Disney’s copyright attorneys. But 100 yards south, a pair of corn dog and curly fries booths, neither with a formal name, offer the same fried dough with a maple-bacon topping.
How is it? Almost identical to a maple bacon bar at Voodoo Doughnut, but sloppier. The maple frosting, squirted from a bottle onto the newly fried elephant ear, looks like overkill, and certainly requires a lot more napkins than the original recipe cinnamon-sugar ear. But the gooey syrup is an effective counterpoint to the deep-fryer crisp of the dough. Plus, it will remind you of downtown Portland, which is only a few steps away.