The Miami-Dade Youth Fair is always challenging its food vendors to think outside the box and add something new that can stand out among the sea of turkey legs and funnel cakes. The more excitement these food items can create, the better.
Some new foods have proven to be hits. The Krispy Kreme doughnut burger has been a fixture at the Youth Fair since it was introduced in 2010. Others end up being a one-time deal, like the chicken wing-flavored ice cream that was offered in 2013.
The Youth Fair kicked off its 70th year last night at the Miami-Dade Fairgrounds and runs through Sunday, April 10. And with the rides, shows and games come all the decadent food options — ten of which will be new to the fair.
“We like to take the nostalgia that people have had for the fair since childhood and update it,” Youth Fair president Eddie Cora tells New Times. “An easy way to do that is with food. Food trends are always changing.”
The deep-fried cheese flan bites might be the most notable new addition to this year’s Youth Fair menu, owing to the popularity of flan around these parts. Plus, frying foods that have rarely, if ever, been fried has always been a good way to pique people’s interest. It’s a tried and true marketing tactic used by fairs across the country.
The fried flan comes topped with powdered sugar and a drizzle of dulce de leche icing, and it can be found at the Best Around, run by Jane Harris. “Mama Jane” is a bit of a fair food celeb for her appearances on Cooking Channel’s Carnival Eats,” according to Cora.
“She’s always coming up with something new,” Cora tells New Times. “I told her, ‘If you can deep-fry flan, people in Miami will love you.’ It took her a year to achieve the consistency that fried the best.”
For something a little more exotic, there’s the gator mac and cheese from Chester’s Gators and Taters. It’s the cheesy comfort food you know and love, only it’s topped with fried gator bites. Also new at Chester’s are the loaded fried pickle nachos.
Cora says both were inspired by foods at other fairs. The same goes for the giant mozzarella on a stick that’s new at Angela’s International. Picture a quarter-pound breaded mozzarella stick — on a stick.
Burger Bob’s has added a Brazilian hot dog that differentiates itself from standard wieners with a tomato topping made of onions and peppers.
Churro Mania is offering a churro s’more consisting of a marshmallow sandwiched between two churro spirals.
Eatery Huts sells a banana peanut pop shake made up of peanut butter and chocolate ice cream garnished with half a frozen banana covered in chocolate.
Rounding out the list of the Youth Fair’s new food items: Fair Expo Grille’s chili cheese corn dog, Tacos and Crepes’ fruit waffle, and Seafood/Fish’s shrimp tacos.
The Youth Fair has made it easy to find the new foods once you arrive. There’s a pamphlet specifically for new foods available at guest relations and a Youth Fair app to boot. The app is also where guests can vote for their favorite new food item — but only while they’re physically at the fair. The Best Around lived up to its name last year when its lemon poppyseed funnel cake was voted “Best New Fair Food.”
There will be 130 food concession stands in all at the Youth Fair. And despite the introduction of buzzworthy new bites each year, it will likely be the traditional options that sell the best.
“We’re always talking about new foods, and every marketing campaign includes the new foods, but the two best-sellers are always the roasted corn and elephant ears,” Cora says with a laugh. “It’s been that way for decades. People gravitate towards the nostalgia.”
And the chicken-wings ice cream — how well did that sell?
“It was well-received,” Mora says. “But I’m glad it was a one-year wonder.”
Miami-Dade Youth Fair. Through Sunday, April 10 at the Miami-Dade Fairgrounds, 10901 Coral Way, Miami; 305-223-7060; thefair.me. General admission is $5 to $14; kids 5 and under and seniors 65 and older get in free. Unlimited rides pass is $28 to $35.