RALEIGH — You’ll find just about everything available wrapped in bacon and deep-fried at the North Carolina State Fair, but as vegetarian and vegan diets have become mainstream, there are plenty of fair vendors ready to accommodate.
Here’s a look at some of the vegetarian and vegan offerings at the 2021 fair. Don’t conflate meat-free with “healthy,” though, unless you’re talking about bringing a healthy appetite. Everyone wants to indulge at the state fair, regardless of dietary choice.
Sassy’s Sweet Potatoes
A new arrival for this year’s fair, this stand serves a variety of stuffed sweet potatoes. While they do serve pulled pork and bacon-topped potatoes, the rest of the menu is meat-free, including a version topped with vegetarian chili. For those looking for a sweet treat, there’s a s’mores potato, another topped with pineapple guava relish and toasted coconut, and other served with cranberry-orange compote and chopped pecans.
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Ethio-Indi Alkaline Cuisine
Also new to this year’s fair, Ethio-Indi Alkaline Cuisine is totally vegan, with an innovative menu of plant-based burgers, hot dogs and fried fare that conform to an alkaline diet, which promotes eating fruits and vegetables and cutting out meat, dairy and gluten. If you’re vegan, but can’t complete your trip to the North Carolina State Fair without a chili dog, then this is your spot.
A state fair favorite for omnivores and non-meat eaters alike, roasted corn can be found throughout the fairgrounds. Some spots keep it classic, others give the ears a spicy sprinkling of crushed Takis or Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. The ears are typically dipped in melted butter right before serving, so just skip the dip to keep it vegan.
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Pickle Barrel Sirloin Tips
Based on the name, it’s not exactly the first place one might think of when looking for a meat-free meal, but this stand, with locations near the midway and Jim Graham Building, serves up a tray of mashed potatoes, caramelized onions and mushrooms that’s so good and filling that you won’t miss the meat. And at $5 ($6 for the pita), it’s also one of the best deals at the fair.
Is it true that the vegetables balance out the batter and oil in these deep-fried treats? Maybe not, but any little bit helps. Pictured above is the Veggie Patch stand, but there are several vendors serving platters of fried broccoli, eggplant, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, zucchini and other vegetables. Can’t pick just one? Go for the sampler platter instead, which offers a little taste of everything.
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Meat-free Middle Eastern
Neomonde and Party in a Pita are among the Middle Eastern stands at the fair where meat-free items are aplenty. Neomonde, located across from Restaurant Row, serves quinoa tabouli, falafel and both original and cilantro jalapeno hummus. Party in a Pita serves Lebanese cuisine, including baba ghanoush, hummus and stuffed grape leaves.
Have you ever wanted to eat pineapple soft serve out of an actual pineapple? You can do it at the fair, where Tropical Delights serves up its vegan pineapple Dole Whip in a cup, cone, as a float with pineapple juice and inside an entire cored-out pineapple. It’s a snack built to share, though eating at the state fair is rarely a show of moderation.
Jacob Pucci writes on food, restaurants and business. Contact him by email at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @jacobpucci or on Facebook. Like talking food? Join our Fayetteville Foodies Facebook group.