The Drive-Thru Fair

“Here’s a map, have a great time.”

My best friend Allison and I pulled into the parking lot at the Rose Bowl and then immediately pulled over to take a look at the 11”x17” paper map we’d just been handed with no follow-up directions.

I’d heard about the “Fair Foodie Fest” in passing online, and had proposed the idea to Allison as we searched for a weekend activity that could get us outside. The concept was intriguing: a drive-thru fair that allowed you to eat the yummy, over the top treats without having to worry about large crowds and/or the restrictions brought about by COVID. Plus, the ticket was free and came with a pocket sized funnel cake, so it was really a can’t lose.

Looking at the map, our eyes got big, wondering, wanting, deciding maybe we should try absolutely everything. But then, noticing the prices, our wallets got small (not to mention our digestive systems got scared) insisting we might want a game plan.  So, we starred a handful of things we decided we couldn’t miss, then pulled back out into the main lane, and started our journey through the fair.

Set up in a kind of racetrack format, there were two lanes the led you through the course to each food stop. The right line was for ordering and the left lane was for passing. Pulling up to our first stop, we rolled down the window, ordered the BBQ pulled pork sandwich, and marveled when we popped open the container to reveal this:

It was an incredible start to our journey. One that could have easily pushed us to stray from our stars and our budgets and order absolutely everything to follow. And with the pressure that came from picking where to stop, what to order when someone approached the window, and then drive away, knowing you missed your chance to change your mind, I’m honestly surprised we did as well as we did—and that I didn’t end up getting coleslaw all over me or the car. But after about 25 minutes of maneuvering our way through the course, we exited the parking lot, food stacked on my lap, the center console and the dashboard, and pulled into a neighboring lot that overlooked a park perfect for people watching. It was there that we really got to evaluate our purchases and I would like to review them with you now—in the order that we tried them, which matters.

#1) The Krispy Kreme Cheeseburger

This was too intriguing not to try, making it one of the very first things we starred on our map. I will admit, the look of it was…questionable at first sight. A feeling of what have you done entered my mind, and my stomach, quivering in fear, seemed to agree. Nonetheless, I cut it in half with the handle of a fork—the only utensil we were given in our travels, and we cheersed before we took a bite. While chewing, I found myself wondering what on earth I was eating. My tastebuds were confused, my mind was racing, and everything I’d ever learned about a healthy diet wept. I did go in for a second bite, though it seemed only to be sure that it was as offensive as I thought. Also, they gave us two ketchup packets to go with it, which, in hindsight, somehow makes it worse.

Overall grade 3/10.

#2) The BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich

After the assault from the Krispy Kreme Cheeseburger, I was determined for a kind of meat redemption, so I insisted that we dive into our pulled pork sandwich. Again, I cut it in half with the fork—getting barbeque sauce everywhere—and then cheersed Allison before taking a bite. In one way it was just a pulled pork sandwich, but in another it was a drink of cold water after trudging through the desert for days. You know? I instantly felt comforted, redeemed, and at least partly healed from the, well, you know. It should also be noted that the waffle fries that came with the sandwich were arguably the best thing we had all day, and I will probably think about them for the rest of my life.

Overall grade: 8/10

#3) Curly Fries

Upon being handed this mountain of curly fries, I was both shocked, amazed and absolutely confused. “How?” we asked over and over. And this question covered not only the construction and design, but also the unbelievably hot temperature. Truly, I don’t think I’ve ever touched a food as hot as these fries. I also don’t think I’ve ever gone back for another bite mere minutes later, only to find something to be the absolute coldest a once hot food could possibly be. Ultimately, they were only pretty good, especially in the wake of the waffle fries.

Overall grade: 7/10

#4) Deep Fried Oreos

These were put on a pedestal going in because I’d tried deep fried Oreos before and knew they were a gift from the heavens. That being said, while they still made the two of us nod in silent agreement that yes, this is what dreams are made of, questions were raised on the authenticity of the cream filled cookie inside. Have the Law & Order music at the ready when I tell you that we believe they might have been…faux-reos.  *dun dun*

Overall grade: 8.5/10

#5) Deep Fried Lemon Bites

These were the last thing on our list and (aside from the Krispy Kreme Cheeseburger) the most wildcard item we bought. What exactly did “deep fried lemon bite” mean, we wondered. Were we biting into an actual lemon? Was there going to be lemon cream filling? What was in this ball of fried dough and was it going to be a nightmare to find out? As someone who hates surprise fillings in all pastries, chocolates and the like, I bit into my lemon bite with extra caution. However, after another bite, and then another, I was thrilled to discover it was merely a fluffy, delectable bite of fried lemon cake that I will store eternally in my memory right alongside the waffle fries.

Overall grade: 10/10

Overall, I thought it was a truly unique, fun and delicious way to spend an afternoon.

Some key lessons to take away are:

-the helpings are huge so, depending on how many people are in your car, you probably need at least one serving less than you think you do. Plus, you only have so many hands, it’s a 10 stop course, and there are speed bumps in the parking lot, adding perilous obstacles as you try to balance multiple giant sized items.

-ask for a knife

-bring extra napkins or perhaps a bib, tarp or poncho

-pretend you’re an Instagram influencer and take pictures of everything, if only to remember that one time you ate a cheeseburger in between two Krispy Kreme donuts and walked away traumatized.

-come hungry and leave full, it is worth it.


If you are (or will be) in Southern California, the fair runs until the end of February and you can grab tickets here.

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