DALLAS - Judges at the State Fair of Texas’ big Labor Day food competition favored the back-to-basics approach: beer and Frito pie. Fried, naturally.
The Texas Fried Frito Pie won the top award, Best Taste. The Fried Beer was named Most Creative.
The sixth annual contest — decided by a three-judge panel – was announced Monday morning at The Dock restaurant in Fair Park’s Embarcadero Building.
The top prizes at the Big Tex Choice Awards bring not only glory but usually long lines of fairgoers willing to wait for sometimes an hour or more to sample the fair’s hottest fried delicacy.
Michael Thomas, one of the Texas Fried Frito Pie’s inventors, described this is as one of life’s monumental moments – at least in the life of a State Fair food connoisseur.
“It’s getting married, having a kid and winning the fried food contest at the State Fair,” Thomas said, listing life’s potential highlights.
He and business partner Richard Roznowski are first-time fair food entrepreneurs. But they came to the contest with an experienced backer. They are friends with State Fair food royalty Nick Bert, whose family has been feeding fairgoers since 1919.
The Texas Fried Frito Pie will be available exclusively at Bert’s Burgers & Fries in Cotton Bowl Plaza, near the Midway entrance.
The concept was a hit even with those who hadn’t sampled the less-messy version of the Texas staple. In a Dallas Morning News online poll, the Texas Fried Frito Pie was the preference of 45 percent of the nearly 1,200 voters. At 8 percent, the Fried Beer tied for third with the Deep Fried S’mores Pop-Tart.
Mark Zable, creator of Fried Beer, which resembles a brew-filled ravioli, said two and a half years went into the recipe for a dish that only takes a couple of minutes to deep fry. He said he thought a few times that the recipe would never work, but he refused to give up.
“I knew that it was too good of a concept,” he said.
One judge suggested the creation of a best engineering award just for the Fried Beer.
Zable said he’s never won one of the Big Tex Choice Awards so it’s hard to predict what this is going to mean for his Belgian Waffle stands at the southeast corner of the Esplanade and inside the Coca-Cola Food Court.
“Ask me again on the 23rd of October,” he said, referring to the week after the Fair ends.