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County fair food year round photo
(Justin Rude/The Washington Post)

County fair food year round

Justin Rude and Lavanya Ramanathan  |  Updated 01/08/2015

It's high season for county and state fairs, and while you have to be in the suburbs for the rides, demolition derbies and pig races, you can find the culinary traditions of the fairgrounds at city restaurants. Here are a few places to get your fix of corn dogs, cotton candy and fried candy bars. Or, explore a real county fair


District Commons

Washington, DC

It's easy to be intimidated by the funnel cake at District Commons, chef Jeff Tunks's upscale American tavern on Washington Circle. If you're used to the pedestrian powdered-sugar topped spider webs offered from most fair carts, you might be surprised when this massive, crispy, golden cloud hits your table decked with rich whipped cream and a generous drizzle of caramel sauce. It's a dessert you won't want to split, but probably should.



Washington, DC

At Wingo's in Georgetown, chicken wings aren't the only things that spend time in hot oil. For $3.49 you can get a pair of funnel cakes dusted with sugar. Pay 75 cents more for honey, raspberry or chocolate sauce.


Bayou Bakery

Arlington, VA

The "porkorn" that David Guas sells at Bayou Bakery, his Arlington Cajun cafe, isn't your run-of-the-mill kettle corn. Sure, each kernel comes with a generous coating of caramel, but the bacon, peanuts and a touch of hot sauce make the package sing. At once crunchy, smoky, salty, sweet and spicy, this popcorn preparation hits all the fairground-snacking high notes.


Founding Farmers

Washington, DC

The freshly ground seasonings on the popcorn of the day at Founding Farmers change regularly. On one day, the starter might be savory, flavored with all the spices of an outdoor barbecue (or the beach and Old Bay), and on another, it might be sweet, with cinnamon and sugar.


Woodberry Kitchen

Baltimore, MD

At Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore, Ladyfinger popcorn from Lancaster, Pa., has been on the menu since the restaurant opened five years ago. The bowl of tender kernels is adorned simply with butter and sea salt.



Washington, DC

The team behind DC-3 (which also owns the equally nostalgia-fueled Ted's Bulletin) knows that comforting classics are easily ruined by modern gimmicks and chef-driven innovation. DC-3's corn dog is a simple and straightforward delight: a flavorful, course-ground all-beef hot dog hand dipped (to order) in a cornmeal batter and fried to a perfect golden brown.
At DC-3, the cotton candy sticks to its roots, or in this case, paper cone. The sugar spinner is located next to the register, and $1.99 gets you both a neon dessert and the entertainment value of watching it made.


Stix food truck

Washington, DC

For more (and healthier) food-on-a-stick options, seek this food truck, which offers seasonal vegetables, grilled fruit and spicy marinated chicken and steak, all cooked and served on skewers.


Sugo Cicchetti

Potomac, MD

What cotton candy has to do with Italian small plates is anyone's guess, but when the Sugo Magica Martini arrives at your table at Sugo Cicchetti, authenticity no longer seems to matter. Inside the oversized cocktail glass, there's a round puff of fruity pink cotton candy. The "magica" begins when your server gleefully pours in a concoction of Bacardi Limon and mint-lime sugar: In seconds, the candy melts, leaving behind a cocktail that's pink and citrusy, but thanks to the mint and lime, surprisingly not cloying. "That was cool!" a salt-and-pepper-haired woman at the next table declared. It was.


Reba's Funnel Cakes food truck

Washington, DC

Hayes Greene, head chef at food truck Reba's Funnel Cake, doesn't deep-fry his sweets. He keeps the batter light and crunchy by flash-frying -- dipping into the oil for a brief moment any number of sweets, including Snickers bars, Twinkies, Oreos, lemon-cream cookies, brownies and whatever treats spark his fancy that day. Even for a refined palate, they are delicious fun.


Eamonn's/A Dublin Chipper

Alexandria, VA

At Eamonn's in Old Town, the fryer is no stranger to candy. The dessert menu includes fried Milky Way, Snickers and Mars bars.


A Bar

Washington, DC

And then there's seriously frozen candy: At A Bar at the Avenue Suites Hotel in Foggy Bottom, bar manager Brennan Adams has been making his own boozy take on Dippin' Dots. He squeezes drops of two tart and creamy cocktails into liquid nitrogen, then scoops the little frozen pellets into a extra-long shot glass. Take your time before diving in: The nitro delivers dots far colder than ice cream, and it's entirely possible that they'll stick to your tongue, lips, and face -- leaving you feeling anything but cool.


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