NEW SERIES: The Patriot Tries

Yasmeen Khalifa • Managing Editor

The Talon is launching a food series, highlighting, reviewing and critiquing the wide range of cuisine in East Texas. From fine fare to greasy fair grub, The Talon will try the best, and worst, of what the region has to offer so you don’t have to. College students don’t always have the biggest budget, so expect to find plenty of “on a budget” compilations. To spice things up, we’ll be trying things that aren’t so edible, like dog food and CBD dabs. We know it’s hard to figure out where to eat or what to do on a quiet weekend in Tyler, but we’ve got your back. First stop on the tour: the East Texas State Fair! (Critiqued by: Yasmeen Khalifa, Zainab Ansari, Esra Malim, Kaitlyn Wilkes and Ally Bonsall)

Texas Twister

Parched beyond belief after a mere ten minutes at the fair, the critics headed over to a stand claiming “The One & Only Texas Twister.” When prompted, the cashier declared they had two items, fruit punch with real sugar and punch with Splenda, containing three simple ingredients: orange, lemon and lime. We ordered both, and the first sip of the original punch was heavenly. Critic Esra Malim described it as the “perfect blend of sour and sweet,” with no one flavor overpowering the other. 10/10! Later, we tried the Splenda version, and it was no match for the first. According to critic Zainab Ansari, the Splenda just “didn’t compliment the sourness of the drink.”

Bloomin' onion

Seafood Cajun Express

The second stop was disappointing, to say the least. Personally, I’m a huge proponent of Bloomin’ Onions, but this one just didn’t hit the spot. Ansari says it would’ve been more satisfying if the slices were thicker, and Malim says there was “too much batter and not enough onion.” The batter drowned out the sweet onion flavor I was searching for. 5/10

McKinney Food Services

Turkey legs are a fair must, and from the moment we stepped foot on the fairgrounds, the delectable scent of smoked turkey pulled us in. Now $12 is a lot for a single food item, but it was worth every penny. The meat pulled apart easily, and it was super tender. Not only was it perfectly smoked, but it was FULL of meat. Every time we thought we were close to getting to the bone, we were mistaken. However, Ansari says she wished it was seasoned a smidge more. 9/10

Concessions Plus

Gator and shrimp and crawfish, oh my! This food stand stood out in a sea of deep fried corn on the cob and meaty turkey legs. A sprinkle of seasoning, if you will. This cajun-based food truck caught Ansari’s eye, and before she knew it, she was ordering crawfish nachos. She says it was exactly like normal nachos with the addition of a fishy flavor, as well as pleasant kick of spiciness. Unfortunately, it was underwhelming and needed more crawfish bits. 7/10

McKinney’s Food Services

After stuffing ourselves with a slew of various dishes, we needed a palette cleanser. Malim ordered a “fresh” cherry limeade. She was shocked to find there was nothing fresh about it, as the server retrieved lemonade and Sprite from an ordinary fountain and poured cherry syrup over it. The result was an overpriced Sprite with a faint hint of cherry flavor. We were thoroughly unimpressed. 3/10

Winkle Concessions

After searching for fried brownies to no avail, I gravitated towards a blue blip in the crowd: Winkle Concessions. We decided on fried oreos, and the second I bit into one, I forgot I ever wanted a brownie. These were the best fried brownies I’ve ever tasted. The dough had a slight crunch, but the inside was exceptionally soft and fluffy. Malim doesn’t like chocolate or fried food, but even she agreed that they were delicious. Ansari described the dessert as the “perfect balance of richness and sweetness.” Ratings varied from 7/10-10/10

Jessica’s Funnel Cakes

Wanting to try something a little different, we settled on taste testing an elephant ear. Wrong move. I expected it to be a flat funnel-cake like dough sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, but it was nowhere near as fluffy as a funnel cake. Crunchy on the outside and mostly hollow on the inside, this dessert was lacking volume and was far too greasy (even for the fair). However, Ansari loved it and described it as a “true classic.” Ratings varied from 2/10- 9/10

Fluffy funnel cake

McKinney Food Services

Critics Kaitlyn Wilkes and Ally Bonsall headed straight to everyone’s favorite state fair staple: the funnel cake stand. Fresh out of the fryer, the two say the funnel cake was “nice and hot.” Topped with powdered sugar and chocolate syrup, the treat is a little difficult to eat, but on the plus side, it’s big enough to share with friends. 8.5/10

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