The Best Fair Foods at Houston’s Rodeo 2023

At the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo carnival, fair food gets adventurous. There are funnel cakes covered in gooey concoctions, fried rice with Fruity Pebbles, and Nashville hot Cheeto chicken on a stick. 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 Sunday, March 19.

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

Now in its 14th year, the Gold Buckle Foodie Awards held a contest, judging 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, Rodeo-goers narrowed it down to the top three best dishes for each category. And on Thursday, March 2, Eater Houston joined other local media and celebrity and chef judges like Top Chef Houston contender chef Dawn Burrell and Musaafer’s chef Mayank Istwal, to help choose the winners. Here are the winning eats:

Loaded with fried food entries galore, the deep-fried cookie dough from the Original Minneapple Pie won first place in the Best Fried Food category, with its crisp, golden shell and moist and doughy center.

Three fried cookie dough balls.

Deep-fried cookie dough takes home the win for best fried food.
Megha McSwain

2nd place: Deep-fried lasagna roll by Southern Fried Saloon

3rd place: Original chicken tender basket by Holmes Smokehouse

It’s not enough that this dish from Swain’s Pizza on a Stick is a playful combination of pizza and pickles — it gets extra points for being on a stick, making for a convenient carnival handheld snack.

Pickle pizza-on-a-stick.

The pickle pizza-on-a-stick is a fun alternative to other carnival handhelds.
Megha McSwain

2nd place: Apple pie candy apple by Much-does Bakery

3rd place: Big K-dog by Asian Streetness

Bun B’s OG Trill burger, a cheesy smash burger with two patties, offered at the rodeo for the second year in a row, wowed the judges, and took home first place for the Best Classic Fair Food.

Bun B and his Trill Burgers team accepting the award for Best Classic Fair food.

The wins keep coming for Bun B and Trill Burgers.
Megha McSwain

2nd place: Southern fried chicken wings by Southern Fried Saloon

3rd place: Rib-eye sandwich by Spring Country Kitchen

In lieu of bread, this dish from Texas Sized Pizza/Burger & Chili Shack sandwiched lettuce and tomato together with deep-fried bacon for a double dose of fried fun.

A small square of the fried BLT.

Deep-fried BLT uses fried bacon in lieu of bread.
Natalie Harms

Tied for 2nd place: Un-pho-gettable burger by Asian Streetness & rattlesnake corn dog by Pioneer Wagon

Brad’s BBQ sundae from Saltgrass Steakhouse, a welcome alternative to a traditional sundae, won first place in the Best New Flavor category. The eye-catching dish is built with chopped meat, cheese, pickled jalapeños, sour cream, and green onions that’s topped with a cherry tomato.

A barbecue built like a sundae topped with sour cream and jalapeños served in a plastic cowboy hat.

Brad’s BBQ sundae is a fun alternative to the classic dessert.
Megha McSwain

2nd place: Viet taco by Asian Streetness

3rd place: Loaded pork belly fries by Blue Ribbon Grill

The smell of this decadent dessert from Cajun Cowboy won judges over before anything else. Warm and fragrant with a crisp shell and soft and gooey center, the deep-fried bread pudding is hard to resist.

2nd place: S’mores pie by Cajun Cowboy

3rd place: Ultimate Minneapple pie by the Original Minneapple Pie

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

Editor’s Note: Eater Houston editor Megha McSwain participated in the judging of this contest.