It’s that time of year when Vancouver’s masses converge at the fun, family-friendly festival known as the PNE Fair (2901 East Hastings Street). The highly anticipated summer fete runs from August 17 to September 2, offering a range of attractions and activities like outdoor concerts, the famed SuperDogs shows, midway games, thrilling rides, and arguably its most popular feature, crazy fair food.
It takes organizers and vendors almost a full year to come up with those unique and outrageous bites, for which research includes looking at what other fairs are offering, trending food concepts, and the latest creations on food TV shows.
Besides traditional grub like mini doughnuts, caramel apples, and pastel-coloured cotton candy, PNE fairgoers this year will find a mix of “extreme” foods (pickle pizza and a deep-fried Snickers bar/pickle/hot dog combo) and an expanded roster of healthy foods (vegan bowls, vegetarian street food, and Beyond Meat burgers).
“This year, we decided to do plant-based [food] at the fair, because no other fair offers plant-based and vegetarian food,” Faizzal Fatehali, manager of exhibit space at the PNE, told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.
But if you’re there for over-the-top indulgence, the fair has your back. Expect to find everything from Bombay-style street food to fried chicken, from Mexican bites to a new bubble-tea stand. For the braver eaters, we suggest checking out Flamin’ Hot Cheetos corn dogs and bacon pancakes.
“If you’re going to eat a crazy meal in Vancouver, you’re going to come to the fair to have it. We have a lineup of everything from traditional burgers and hot dogs to the best pit masters cooking barbecue ribs in Canada…on our site,” Fatehali said. “You’re not going to get this type of food anywhere else, or you’ll have to wait another 365 days. There will be, guaranteed, something for everyone.”
Here’s our pick of 10 new and wild bites to try at the 2019 PNE Fair.
1. Funnel Cake Pizza
This isn’t your regular deep-fried sweet treat sprinkled with a blanket of powdered sugar. Instead, guests will find the twisted dough covered in savoury ingredients like melted cheese, pizza sauce, and pepperoni slices, and topped with some fragrant herbs. Bon appétit.
2. Flamin’ Hot Cheetos Corn dogs
We all know that this spicy, crunchy corn-based snack is also a hot trend (appearing in pop culture and fast fashion). When you pair it with a snack as well-known as the corn dog, it’s truly the best of both worlds. Grab one to share, or indulge on your own, and prepare a drink on the side if your spice tolerance is low—the Hot Cheetos heat hits fast.
3. Bacon Pancakes
Adventurous eaters have likely already paired these two breakfast staples together, but the PNE is going the extra mile by putting bacon inside the pancake batter as it cooks in the skillet. Drench it with some maple syrup and you’ve got all the major food groups in one bite.
4. Butter Beer Ice Cream
Last year, fairgoers faced smoking-charcoal soft serve, and this year it gets even better with this butterscotch-flavoured frozen treat. Certain guests may even say it pays homage to Harry Potter’s Wizarding World, but we’ll let you decide on that while you enjoy the ice cream.
5. Jalapeño Lemonade
Classic and refreshing lemonade now comes with a twist; its jalapeño flavour may give your tongue more heat than expected, but if you’re looking to try something unique, pull out your wallet for this beverage.
6. Foot-Long French Fries
Crispy, golden fries never seem to last long enough to satisfy our taste buds. But the fair’s foot-long French fries (available with various sauces and toppings) may give McDonald’s a run for its money. True to their name, these lengthy bites will take you double the time to finish.
7. The Tipsy Unicorn Dry-Ice Drink
If you thought the unicorn trend was over, think again. This rainbow-coloured libation paired with dry ice gives off a smoky effect, making it a highly photogenic item. (Once it does its job as an Instagram prop, you can even drink it!)
8. Pickle Pizza
In the PNE Fair food archives, some of the crazier items have been crickets and deep-fried chicken feet. This year, it’s going with a pickle theme, which includes pickle pizza: the pizza dough is covered in pickle slices, giving you the dill flavour you never knew you needed.
9. Pickle-Flavour Cotton Candy
This treat may be the wildest thing you’ll eat at the PNE Fair this year. This green, pickle-flavoured cotton candy may not suit everyone’s tastes, but that’s what makes it a standout item. Expect a combination of sweet and vinegary flavours.
10. The Snickly Dog
We take it back: this is probably the weirdest food on the fair menu this year. A combination of a Snickers bar, pickle, and hot dog (wrapped in a tortilla and deep-fried), it’s definitely a creative bite for the more courageous eaters.