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The Best Bets for Fair Food at Houston’s Rodeo

Bonfire funnel cakes, bacon mac and cheese egg rolls, and stuffed baked potatoes are among the Rodeo’s award-winning eats

a man fires a torch over a marshmallow-loaded funnel cake.
The Gold Buckle Foodie Awards saw extravagant fair foods, like the winning bonfire funnel cake, which was topped with chocolate and marshmallows before set ablaze.
Brittany Britto Garley

At the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo carnival, fair food gets adventurous. There are funnel cakes covered in gooey concoctions, sodas mixed with Hot Cheetos, and potatoes of every kind loaded with piles of smoked meat. Deciding on which dish to try and how adventurous you want to get can be overwhelming, and even if you attempt to sample them all, there’s only so much time and stomach space before Rodeo season ends on March 20.

Luckily, a group of judges has narrowed it down to the most delicious treats so visitors can focus on the best of the best.

In its 13th year, the Gold Buckle Foodie Awards held a contest, judging a total of 52 entries in six different categories, including Best Fried Food, Best Food-on-a-Stick, Classic Fair Food, Most Creative Food, Best New Flavor, and Best Dessert. Open to the public for the first time, Rodeogoers narrowed it down to the top three best dishes for each category. And on Tuesday, March 1, Eater Houston joined other local media and celebrity and chef judges like Top Chef Houston contender Evelyn García, chef Dawn Burrell, and Bludorn’s chef Aaron Bludorn to help narrow it down. Here are the winning eats:

Best Fried Food: Deep-fried Jambalaya

A cross between what tastes like a mozzarella stick and a bowl of chicken and sausage jambalaya, this Cajun Cowboy concoction won first place out of seven entries.

two deep fried jambalaya egg rolls with a dipping sauce.
Cajun Cowboy’s deep fried jambalaya egg rolls are bursting with flavor.
Brittany Britto Garley

2nd place: funnel cake Monte Cristo Basket by Sills Concessions, Inc

3rd place: chicken tender basket by Holmes Smokehouse

Best Food-on-a-Stick: The Berry Race Caramel Apple

A spin on your traditional caramel apple, Munch-oes Bakery created a unique and sweet addition to a meat-driven lineup.

a pink candy-coated apple on a stick.
Munch-oe’s berry-flavored caramel apple was enough to entice judges to make it the top winning entry in the Best Food-on-a-Stick category.
Brittany Britto Garley

2nd place: beef K-Bob on a stick from Saltgrass Steak House

3rd place: The spice corn dog by CornDog With No Name

Classic Fair Food: All Meat Stuffed Potato

Though it was a close call, with only a one-point difference, Harlon BB’s All Meat Stuffed Potato — a baked potato loaded with sausage and topped with a rib — took the top spot.

A baked potato topped with sausage, pulled pork, a rib, and barbecue sauce.
Harlon BBQ’s All Meat Stuffed Potato is a meal (or two) in one.
Brittany Britto Garley

2nd place: pulled pork baked potato by Saltgrass Steak House

3rd place: brisket cheese fries by Spring County Kitchen

Most Creative Food: Bonfire Funnel Cake

Set afire in front of the judges by CornDog With No Name, this flaming funnel cake — topped with s’mores — stole the show, earning the most creative title.

a plated funnel cake, topped with marshmallows, powdered sugar, and a chocolate drizzle with two graham crackers on the side.
CornDog With No Name turns an average funnel cake into a campfire-esque dessert by topping it in chocolate and marshmallows and then scorching it for a s’mores effect.
Brittany Britto Garley

2nd place: brisket bacon melt by Spring County Kitchen

3rd place: Island Slaw from Island Noodles

Best New Flavor: Bacon Mac and Cheese Egg Roll

Unassuming on the outside, these fried egg rolls from the Finer Diner are filled with mac and cheese goodness, bacon, and a dash of spice — earning the title of best new flavor.

five fried bacon and mac and cheese egg rolls.
What can make a mac and cheese egg roll better? Bacon.
Brittany Britto Garley

2nd place: brisket bacon melt by Spring County kitchen

3rd place: island slaw by Island Noodles

Best Dessert: Fried Red Velvet Cupcake

Drizzled in a creamy frosting and dusted with powder sugar, this fried red velvet cupcake from by Sills Funnel Cakes should be on your carnival dessert list.

a fried red velvet cake ball covered in icing and powdered sugar.
Sills Funnel Cakes fries a red velvet cupcake and drizzles it in icing and powdered sugar for a perfect carnival dessert.
Brittany Britto Garley

2nd place: chocolate turtle cookie sandwich by Munch-oes Bakery

3rd place: the “Yellow Rose” funnel cake by CornDog with No Name

Results for the Gold Buckle Foodie Awards should be public on their website soon.

Editor’s Note: Eater Houston editor Brittany Britto Garley participated in the judging of this contest.

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