At the Washington State Fair, those who visit come in large part to try out different food options. Some go for traditional servings such as hamburgers, hot dogs, fries and scones. But others think outside the box.
Sharky’s Seafood, Juicy’s Outlaw Grill and Famous Ezell’s Chicken are three new vendors to the fair this fall, and they encourage guests to expand their palates.
Sharky’s, owned by Don Delahoyde, includes a variety of seafood dishes, such as fish and chips, calamari and its signature items: an original aioli-dressed lobster corndog and frilly fries. The company makes seven homemade sauces to complement its food.
Sharky’s is operated out of a brightly decorated trailer located toward the back of the fair near Sillyville. Fried pickles, artichoke hearts and fried zucchini round out the dishes.
Business has been slower than anticipated for Sharky’s, but operators anticipate using about a ton of fish and 2 1/2 tons of potatoes.
“We think we will come back for another year at the fair,” Delahoyde said. “Sometimes it takes a few years to create a following, especially in a fair that has set traditions.”
Delahoyde has been in the fair food business for 35 years but keeps mostly to the West Coast and California. In northern California, he built and opened seven restaurants before he turned 30. He now owns 18 food trailers, including Sharky’s, and he produces everything from burgers to funnel cake.
“You name it, we sell it,” Delahoyde said.
Delahoyde, a former president of the Western Fair Association, decided to take the seafood trailer to the Washington State Fair after family members from the area encouraged him. The company visits about 45 fairs per year.
Meanwhile, Juicy’s Outlaw Grill aims to hit all the senses of Washington State Fair guests for its debut. Juicy’s surrounds itself with thick barbecue smoke, loud classic rock and powerful colors that decorate the trailer.
“We’re here to give an experience,” said Brett Enright, chief executive officer for Juicy’s. “Our philosophy is, when you’re in line, and when the music is playing, you feel like you’re at the party, not going to the party.”
The prices range between $8 and $12 per item. Dishes include “Texas-sized” turkey legs, foot-long sausage on a stick, mountainous fry portions and fresh, thickly battered onion rings.
Juicy’s anticipates selling 8,000 turkey legs and 10,000 sausage during its stay in the Pacific Northwest.
The 100-foot-long barbecue boasts the title of largest barbecue in the world and is hauled from fair to fair with a custom Chrome Shop Mafia-designed Peterbilt 379. The massive barbecue on wheels was designed when Enright enlisted the help of an engineer who has worked with NASCAR.
Juicy’s holds the Guinness World Record for the largest commercially available burger. The 777-pound burger is available to be made for events but requires 48 hours to bake the bread and 14 hours to cook the meat.
“This is our first time in the Northwest, and we are super excited to be here,” Enright said.
Jerry Blank of Browns Point in Tacoma decided to give Juicy’s a try after he saw the barbecue featured on KING 5 Evening Magazine. Blank described his turkey leg as flavorful, but his wife Nancy had different plans.
“I had a scone and coffee,” she said. “Very traditional.”
Juicy’s Outlaw Grill is located just inside the Blue Gate.
Famous Ezell’s Chicken — already an established Northwest favorite in the greater Seattle-Tacoma area — is doing well in its first fair appearance. It’s located just inside the Gold Gate near the Big Foot Java coffee stand.
“We hope to sell tons of chicken,” co-owner Lewis Rudd said. “We’re kind of playing it by ear, since this is our first go-around.”
Famous Ezell’s Chicken started as a family-owned business on Feb. 3, 1984. Rudd remembers the day fondly. Since then, the company has opened seven locations from as far north as Woodinville to as far south as Seattle and Tacoma. In recent years, even Oprah Winfrey has enjoyed Ezell’s signature fried chicken dishes with side dishes like dinner rolls, homemade potato salad and barbecue baked beans. Winfrey event promoted it on her TV talk show.
For years, Rudd said the company has wanted to have a location at the Washington State Fair. It got its chance during the Spring Fair last April.
“We have already had a steady flow of customers getting chicken,” Rudd said. “A lot of people who have come have said they heard about our brand but have not had it before. We also have had repeat customers from other vendors (in the fair) buying product and coming back again and again.”
Rudd said Ezell’s is set up at the fair just like it would be at a standalone restaurant location.
“We set up here as if we were cooking out of one of our locations,” Rudd said. “We slice up the potatoes fresh here. Gravy is made from scratch. Chicken is fresh, never frozen.”
Ben and Jennifer Leeden of Covington tried out some chicken legs, mashed potatoes and gravy and fries at Ezell’s.
“It’s excellent,” Ben Leeden said.Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew. Elsy Pawelak is a freelance reporter for the Herald.