RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Farm animals, rides, and games are all big attractions at the state fair. Over everything, food is often the biggest draw for NC State Fair visitors. The fair is home to all things deep-fried and on a stick.

CHECK THIS OUT: New foods you’ll see at the NC State Fair

Lenoir County fair begins Tuesday, other ENC fairs to follow

Monday was Media Day at the fair- a chance for members of the media to get a preview of the new food items at the fair and an opportunity to pick this year’s Best New Food.

Media’s Choice Best New Food

This year, Oak City Fish and Chips took home Media’s Choice Best New Food for their salmon pops. The win might have been destiny for the company.

“We started off as one food truck. It was 30 years old. It was a trailer. After we peeled away the concepts from the vinyl wrap, six concepts below, it was a corn dog truck from the North Carolina State Fair,” Isaac Horton, co-owner of Oak City Fish and Chips.

Salmon pops from Oak City Fish and Chips

The salmon pop idea came about during the pandemic. Horton said with limited food options, they wanted to spice up their menu. Under their Try it Fried specials, they wanted to make food that people loved but may not have never tried fried yet.

The salmon is a fresh filet, chopped up into eight one-ounce pieces, seasoned and deep-fried for two minutes. The result is a juicy, flakey inside with a crispy, flavorful outer layer. Horton says they use a secret spice blend to give the salmon its unique flavor. The pops are finished off with a honey hot drizzle.

“When people come to your restaurant, to your food truck, they spend their hard-earned money. They really want quality food and that’s something we’ve also tried to have,” says Horton. “That’s why our slogan is taste to love. We put a lot of love in our food.”

Horton has multiple food trucks and restaurants and will start franchising Oak City Fish and Chips in less than two months.

If you want to check out the salmon pops at the fair, you can find them between Gate 1 and Gate 2, beside the Ferris wheel off Hillsborough Street and across from Dorton Arena.

Honorable mentions

South Raleigh Civitan  Quesabirrias Tacos
South Raleigh Civitan’s Quesabirria Tacos seen on the left.

While salmon pops are an excellent choice for a fair meal, South Raleigh Civitan’s quesabirria tacos come in a very close second place.

Quesabirria tacos gained popularity among foodies over the last year. The handheld bites combine the cheesiness of a quesadilla with the flavor power of a birria taco. Birria is a slow-cooked, juicy beef made with traditional Mexican spices and peppers. The tacos are served with a side of broth known as ‘consommé’ for dunking.

You can find the quesabirrias near the livestock exhibitors and across from Sam Rand Grandstand.

Looking for something sweet?

The fair isn’t all about fried savory foods. You’ll also find fried sweets. ‘Tis the season for pumpkin spice and Hot Chix Hotcakes & Chicken got the message. This year they’re bringing their pumpkin spice mini pancakes to the NC State Fair. The itty bitty cakes are covered in pumpkin sauce, icing and pumpkin spice seasoning with whipped cream for dipping.

Fluffys Handcut Donuts is coming through with its banana cream pie donut. These fluffy, hand-cut yeast-raised donuts are filled with banana cream pudding, dipped in vanilla icing and topped with crushed Nilla wafers and a banana.

Chocolate lovers need to look no further than Kora’s Cookie Dough for cookie dough on a stick. They’re bringing a new chocolate chocolate chip cookie dough DIPPED in chocolate AND rolled in Oreo crumbles. Too much chocolate? Maybe. Delicious? Absolutely.

Click here to view a map of all three vendor locations.

Other notable bites worth a taste

There are several other items that made the list of must-tries.

  • Fat Boys BBQ's Smokin Bovine Roll
  • Golden K Dog's Korean Corn Dog(half sausage, half cheese) topped with Flamin' Hot Cheeto crumbs
  • Cool Runnings Jerk BBQ Pulled Pork Bow

Golden K Dog’s has a good twist on a fair classic this year. Their Korean Corn Dogs are filled with either sausage or mozzarella cheese(or both if you want to get crazy). They are coated and deep fried with panko breadcrumbs or petit potato cubes. For added taste, try it with Flamin’ Hot Cheetos crumbles on top.

Cool Runnings came with another solid item this year. Their Jerk BBQ Pulled Pork bowl has a layer of mac and cheese a base with jerk BBQ pulled pork above, topped with a sauce. Cool Running has won Media’s Choice Best New Food in the past. While not the winner this year, the bowl was a solid contender.