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Krispy Kreme Triple Burger and fried Oreos find comfort at the San Diego County Fair

“No way the full-on fair, but gastronomically speaking, I think we did the place justice.”

Deep-fried Oreos: deeply delicious.
Deep-fried Oreos: deeply delicious.

I knew it was going to be a difficult day when I locked myself out.

“We have to be there by 12, remember?” yelled Tim. He was waiting in his car. The guy has a thing about fairs, and this County Fair was nearing its season’s end. So I climbed on a chair and kind of slow-dove through my open window. Ouch. Fell on shoulder. But I grabbed my keys anyway, ran out the back door, and within the hour, we were parking in a dusty Del Mar field.

Carny food stalls line the midway at County Fair

I came because I thought, what the heck. Carnies. Circus people. The fair’s kind of like a circus, I hadn’t been to one forever, and honestly, I was thinking of the food. All that exaggerated, indulgent, unhealthy nosh. Yeah baby! Carb carnival!

“Only happens once a year,” said Tim. “Ain’t gonna kill you.”

So there we were, looking at the signs above this way-big food stall on the main midway, just down from the “Grand Wheel,” their giant Ferris wheel.

“Krispy Kreme Triple Burger,” said one sign. “Oreos, totally fried,” said another. Alright! Diets? What diets?

Bacon-wrapped pickles, wicked, but healthy too.

First thing you noticed: not cheap. The coffee place (“Get Your Buns Over Here!”) had cinnamon rolls for $6. With pecans and cream cheese frosting, $7. A maple bacon cinnamon roll was $10.

But oh man. That coffee was da bomb. And I take back what I said about the cost. Only $3. Tim even split his cinnamon roll with me, and this being brekky, it was kinda vuelva a la vida. Back to life! Put me on track to enjoy this whole fair thing.

“We’ve got to have some serious food,” said Tim. “Those rides, you need something on your stomach.”

Isaiah rules the roost at Chicken Charlie’s.

I followed him over to this way-big stall which advertised basics like half-pound pork chops on a stick and also half-pound baked potatoes packed with bacon, scallions, cheese, sour cream, da works. “Yes, the skins are good and tough,” said the guy, “not paper-thin like you get in restaurants. These are done on the open grill.”

And he was good to his word. I love tough, gnarly-skinned baked potatoes. They were around eight bucks. You got to choose two fillings. Mine: butter and chili. It was an oozy affair.

So next, the Grand Wheel. Nice. Cost $8. Gentle up and around and down. Great ocean views. But nothing in this Ferris wheel prepared me for what came next: the Twister. “You are coming, aren’t you dude?” said Tim, like he did this every day. OMG. I should have said no. Jerked, twisted, max Gs. This one was a horror. And the controller was trying to impress a cluster of screaming ladies, so he kept his infernal jerk machine going, and going, and going.

“Never again, dude,” Tim muttered as we staggered out. I just nodded. Shoulder hadn’t appreciated all those forced Gs. Also, I was trying to keep my baked potato down where it belonged.

Don’t do this if you’ve just eaten - next to Chicken Charlie’s.

But ten minutes later, there we were, hungry again, lining up in front of Chicken Charlie’s, a way-big stall advertising every single way you could take good healthy food and turn it into Cholesterol City. And okay, I was starting to see the attraction. Bacon-wrapped pickle ($10.75) looked definitely worth trying. Bacon-wrapped chicken legs ($15.75)? Sure. “Totally-fried Twinkies?” A must at $4.75. Chicken IN the waffle, on a stick, $13.75? Original. Krispy Kreme ice cream chicken sandwich at $12.75. Mixing sweet with savory, a la Filipino cuisine? I definitely would have tried it…if it weren’t for the offer of frogs’ legs and fries for $13.73 ($18.95 at their other outlets).

Isaiah, who was behind the counter there, said they were pretty good. I was interested. It seems frogs’ legs are strong in Indonesia as well as France. Tim decided on the chicken kabob with fries ($15.75), and I must say, that was one big skewer of meat and onion. But no, it was frog legs for me. They looked kinda like quail legs. I had to ask why we don’t we eat the rest of the frog. Isaiah said the only place the frog develops real muscle is in those jumping legs.

So I picked up a frog thigh, squeezed some lemon, added some of the tartar sauce they served along with the fries, and started gnawing. Mmm. Salty, chewy in the best possible way. Someone said frog reminded them of alligator meat. Fishy overtones. Not these frog legs. They were like chicken, for sure, but more tangy, flavorful. It made me think of the four basic flavors: salty, sweet, sour and bitter. I hate to overuse the word umami, but this had it — with the help of spices, plus the lemon and tartar.

Sure, these thighs were covered in batter, but that was contributing to the flavor, too.

Also, there was an interesting question: what were we eating here, meat flesh or fish flesh? A lot of people say frog legs are nearer to fish than animal meat. I mean, amphibian, in water their entire lives? I’d never thought about that. What I did know was that I liked the lightness like fish, but also the lack of fishy odor, and the fact that it was just as good without the lemon juice and tartar sauce.

So, confession time: that wasn’t the end of it. We added the bacon-wrapped pickles ($8.95, deeelish!) and fried Oreos ($7.95, not bad) to the gorging list.

“No way the full-on fair,” said Tim, “but gastronomically speaking, I think we did this place justice.”

N.B. The fair is now closed as of 4th July, but most items are available at Chicken Charlie’s in Rancho Bernardo and at Belmont Park, PB.

  • The Place: Chicken Charlie’s, 3146 Mission Boulevard, in front of The Plunge at Belmont Park, Pacific Beach. Also at 12457 Rancho Bernardo Road, 858-432-1202
  • Hours: 11am-9pm daily
  • Prices: Bacon-wrapped pickle ($10.75); bacon-wrapped chicken legs ($15.75); Chicken IN the waffle, on a stick, $13.75; chicken kabob with fries ($15.75; beef kabob, fries, $16.75; Krispy Kreme ice cream chicken sandwich, $12.75; . frogs’ legs and fries, $13.73; “Totally-fried Twinkies, $4.75
  • Bus: 8
  • Nearest Bus Stop: West Mission Bay Drive, and Mission Boulevard
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Deep-fried Oreos: deeply delicious.
Deep-fried Oreos: deeply delicious.

I knew it was going to be a difficult day when I locked myself out.

“We have to be there by 12, remember?” yelled Tim. He was waiting in his car. The guy has a thing about fairs, and this County Fair was nearing its season’s end. So I climbed on a chair and kind of slow-dove through my open window. Ouch. Fell on shoulder. But I grabbed my keys anyway, ran out the back door, and within the hour, we were parking in a dusty Del Mar field.

Carny food stalls line the midway at County Fair

I came because I thought, what the heck. Carnies. Circus people. The fair’s kind of like a circus, I hadn’t been to one forever, and honestly, I was thinking of the food. All that exaggerated, indulgent, unhealthy nosh. Yeah baby! Carb carnival!

“Only happens once a year,” said Tim. “Ain’t gonna kill you.”

So there we were, looking at the signs above this way-big food stall on the main midway, just down from the “Grand Wheel,” their giant Ferris wheel.

“Krispy Kreme Triple Burger,” said one sign. “Oreos, totally fried,” said another. Alright! Diets? What diets?

Bacon-wrapped pickles, wicked, but healthy too.

First thing you noticed: not cheap. The coffee place (“Get Your Buns Over Here!”) had cinnamon rolls for $6. With pecans and cream cheese frosting, $7. A maple bacon cinnamon roll was $10.

But oh man. That coffee was da bomb. And I take back what I said about the cost. Only $3. Tim even split his cinnamon roll with me, and this being brekky, it was kinda vuelva a la vida. Back to life! Put me on track to enjoy this whole fair thing.

“We’ve got to have some serious food,” said Tim. “Those rides, you need something on your stomach.”

Isaiah rules the roost at Chicken Charlie’s.

I followed him over to this way-big stall which advertised basics like half-pound pork chops on a stick and also half-pound baked potatoes packed with bacon, scallions, cheese, sour cream, da works. “Yes, the skins are good and tough,” said the guy, “not paper-thin like you get in restaurants. These are done on the open grill.”

And he was good to his word. I love tough, gnarly-skinned baked potatoes. They were around eight bucks. You got to choose two fillings. Mine: butter and chili. It was an oozy affair.

So next, the Grand Wheel. Nice. Cost $8. Gentle up and around and down. Great ocean views. But nothing in this Ferris wheel prepared me for what came next: the Twister. “You are coming, aren’t you dude?” said Tim, like he did this every day. OMG. I should have said no. Jerked, twisted, max Gs. This one was a horror. And the controller was trying to impress a cluster of screaming ladies, so he kept his infernal jerk machine going, and going, and going.

“Never again, dude,” Tim muttered as we staggered out. I just nodded. Shoulder hadn’t appreciated all those forced Gs. Also, I was trying to keep my baked potato down where it belonged.

Don’t do this if you’ve just eaten - next to Chicken Charlie’s.

But ten minutes later, there we were, hungry again, lining up in front of Chicken Charlie’s, a way-big stall advertising every single way you could take good healthy food and turn it into Cholesterol City. And okay, I was starting to see the attraction. Bacon-wrapped pickle ($10.75) looked definitely worth trying. Bacon-wrapped chicken legs ($15.75)? Sure. “Totally-fried Twinkies?” A must at $4.75. Chicken IN the waffle, on a stick, $13.75? Original. Krispy Kreme ice cream chicken sandwich at $12.75. Mixing sweet with savory, a la Filipino cuisine? I definitely would have tried it…if it weren’t for the offer of frogs’ legs and fries for $13.73 ($18.95 at their other outlets).

Isaiah, who was behind the counter there, said they were pretty good. I was interested. It seems frogs’ legs are strong in Indonesia as well as France. Tim decided on the chicken kabob with fries ($15.75), and I must say, that was one big skewer of meat and onion. But no, it was frog legs for me. They looked kinda like quail legs. I had to ask why we don’t we eat the rest of the frog. Isaiah said the only place the frog develops real muscle is in those jumping legs.

So I picked up a frog thigh, squeezed some lemon, added some of the tartar sauce they served along with the fries, and started gnawing. Mmm. Salty, chewy in the best possible way. Someone said frog reminded them of alligator meat. Fishy overtones. Not these frog legs. They were like chicken, for sure, but more tangy, flavorful. It made me think of the four basic flavors: salty, sweet, sour and bitter. I hate to overuse the word umami, but this had it — with the help of spices, plus the lemon and tartar.

Sure, these thighs were covered in batter, but that was contributing to the flavor, too.

Also, there was an interesting question: what were we eating here, meat flesh or fish flesh? A lot of people say frog legs are nearer to fish than animal meat. I mean, amphibian, in water their entire lives? I’d never thought about that. What I did know was that I liked the lightness like fish, but also the lack of fishy odor, and the fact that it was just as good without the lemon juice and tartar sauce.

So, confession time: that wasn’t the end of it. We added the bacon-wrapped pickles ($8.95, deeelish!) and fried Oreos ($7.95, not bad) to the gorging list.

“No way the full-on fair,” said Tim, “but gastronomically speaking, I think we did this place justice.”

N.B. The fair is now closed as of 4th July, but most items are available at Chicken Charlie’s in Rancho Bernardo and at Belmont Park, PB.

  • The Place: Chicken Charlie’s, 3146 Mission Boulevard, in front of The Plunge at Belmont Park, Pacific Beach. Also at 12457 Rancho Bernardo Road, 858-432-1202
  • Hours: 11am-9pm daily
  • Prices: Bacon-wrapped pickle ($10.75); bacon-wrapped chicken legs ($15.75); Chicken IN the waffle, on a stick, $13.75; chicken kabob with fries ($15.75; beef kabob, fries, $16.75; Krispy Kreme ice cream chicken sandwich, $12.75; . frogs’ legs and fries, $13.73; “Totally-fried Twinkies, $4.75
  • Bus: 8
  • Nearest Bus Stop: West Mission Bay Drive, and Mission Boulevard
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1

The San Diego County Fair is fun, but this food is a little too unhealthy for me. We have a "2/3" problem in America, and I'm more comfortable being a "minority." I like fruits and vegetables, and so does my waistline.

July 8, 2021

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