Irish ayes: Potato O’Reilly is one of the perennial treats found only at the State Fair. MICHAEL DAVIS PHOTOS
The established State Fair classic
known as Potato O’Reilly, for instance, is a traditional yearly treat
for salivating visitors. While the proprietor of that famed side dish,
Bosco’s At The Fair, got a makeover with a shiny new stand for 2008,
their busy corner location and their famed specialty item remained
The Irish pub-style fries compete as
one of several varieties of deep-fried spuds presented in creative
ways. All in all, it makes for a hot competition among Fair vendors,
each with their own appeal and loyal munchers. Stand after stand tries
to attract Fair diners with its own creation to carve a niche in the
annual tater stakes. (Prices cited are from 2008 menus.)
Bosco’s slices their famous fries into
discs rather than strips, resulting in a really thick chip. They don’t
come out of the fryer as crispy as a lighter fry, but they’re firm when
drained. The cook doesn’t season Potato O’Reilly except for a
sprinkling of parsley, so no worries about them coming out too salty.
Salt, vinegar and other condiments are available. A generous helping is
One fairly new State Fair vendor takes
the fried potato in a different direction, paying homage to the
historical origins of the dish at a trailer near the Agriculture Museum
selling Belgian Fries. Customers came back in 2008, the second year the
reddish spuds were fried up and served in a big, paper cone, the same
way they’re sold on European streets.
The secret of their appeal, their
creator confided last year, is the method of splashing par-cooked fries
back into the oil after a 20-minute rest, so their crispy shells encase
a fluffy center. Condiments on hand to dress the rusty russet include
mayonnaise, an old-world fry shack staple. A large-enough-to-share
serving sells for $5.50.
Potato lovers who prefer theirs with a
spicy kick lined up for the Cajun Fries at Hebert’s (pronounced
“a-bears”) Louisiana Cajun Kitchen. There white potatoes are molded
into a cube shape while they’re fried under pressure. Diners can season
to taste, including garlic salt and a spicy, bayou-style powder, before
picking the cube apart as they eat. The big Cajun Brick of Fries sells
for $6 with a smaller serving available for $4.
Another French-accented choice is
Poutine, Canadian fries, at Daniella’s. Strips of deep-fried taters are
layered with cheese curd and beef gravy for a really unique dining
experience. Enough patrons were willing to overlook the cholesterol
spike and enjoy the exotic dish to induce Syracuse celebrity chef
Charlie Roman’s crew to pronounce sales “phenomenal” in poutine’s
initial year on the Fairgrounds. The rich potato treat is priced at $5.
The colorful theme of the Hawaii
Five-Nine stand inspired another french fries twist with sweet potato
fries served with a tangy raspberry dip, priced at $4.50. Just a few
steps down the road, the Bucket’s chicken shack smothers their fries in
a creamy cheese sauce for $3 a serving, while spiral-cut curly fries
are the menu star at a green-striped trailer. A jumbo order is $6 with
cheese available for an extra buck.
The fried tater parade is essentially
endless, not unlike the craving of the State Fair guest for one or
another version of the ubiquitous and tasty side.
Red alert: Belgian Fries present a colorful alternative to their French counterparts.