Chow down on the tastiest – and craziest! – carnival foods at this year’s Canadian National Exhibition
The Canadian National Exhibition (aka CNE or The Ex), is known for a lot of things: thrilling midway rides, prize-pushing games, crowd-pleasing dog and horse shows, vendor halls jam-packed with brilliant buys you had no idea you needed (I’m looking at you, icy-cool pillows)—and so much more! But we all know the real draw is the food.
This year’s Ex (August 19–September 5, 2022) boasts 134 guest food vendors, spread between the famous CNE food building and a food truck zone just inside the Princes’ Gates. The food trucks will change throughout this year’s Ex, as vendors participate in the Mardi Gras Meet-Up & Craft Beer Festival (August 20–23, 2022), Food Truck Frenzy & Craft Beer Festival (August 25–28, 2022) and the Celtic Celebration & Food Truck Festival (September 1–5, 2022).
For avid fair goers, a good day is all about planning your food intake for maximum enjoyment. Pro tip: start light, stay hydrated, work your way up to the gut busters, then cap your visit with desserts (plural)! Here are 10 items you’ll want to sip, sample or scarf down at this year’s fair.
MUST-TRY: Colour-changing Soda
WHY: Take a video of this refreshing soda as it changes from blue to purple. Butterfly pea flower soda isn’t super-new, but here it’s served in a light-up cup for a cool lava-lamp effect.
WHERE TO FIND IT: Eative, Food Building
MUST-TRY: 2-Foot-Long Taco
WHY: These machete-length tacos are stuffed with Oaxaca cheese and chorizo, beef or vegetarian-friendly mushroom, plus all the fixins’ for a street-food take on fair food.
WHERE TO FIND IT: Machette, Food Building
WHY: Pop a croissant into a waffle iron for the ideal flaky, buttery base for soft-serve ice cream dressed with tiramisu, Oreo crumbles, chocolate-banana or fresh fruit. Made by Fuwa Fuwa, an Annex eatery known for its souffle pancakes.
WHERE TO FIND IT: Fuwa Fuwa, Food Building
MUST-TRY: Deep-Fried Coffee
WHY: Deep-fried anything is a fair food fad that sounds sillier than it is. This is a deliciously straightforward coffee-flavoured funnel cake, topped with whipped cream, chocolate sauce and chocolate-covered cocoa beans.
WHERE TO FIND IT: Deep Fried Co., Food Building
MUST-TRY: Eva’s Mac & Cheese Cones
WHY: Created by a local fave that serves its ice cream in Hungarian pastry cones, Eva’s flips the switch at this year’s fair by stuffing their cones with savoury vegan mac and cheese. Choose between jalapeno/pesto and jerk versions.
WHERE TO FIND IT: Eva’s Original Chimneys, Food Building
MUST-TRY: Flamin’ Hot Cheetos Smash Burger
WHY: What would The Ex be without over-the-top burgers? This one layers Flamin’ Hot Cheetos (FHC) and thick-cut bacon overtop a cheeseburger. It’s all nestled inside a bun made with even more FHC.
WHERE TO FIND IT: Bacon Nation, Food Building
MUST-TRY: Squid Ink Korean Hot Dog
WHY: This creation puts an Asian spin on the familiar corndog. With the bottom spliced to look like a squid, it’s enrobed in mozzarella, squid-ink batter and panko crumbs before being deep fried to peak crispiness.
WHERE TO FIND IT: SaltSpring Concessions, Midway
MUST-TRY: Seoul-ful Taters
WHY: No visit to Canada is complete with poutine; this riff on the dish pairs tater tots with Korean-style bulgogi and kimchi. Other options on deck: pulled pork with mac and cheese, or Jambalaya sausage and shrimp.
WHERE TO FIND IT: Get Your Own Taters Food Truck, Princes’ Boulevard
MUST-TRY: Mac and Cheese Lemonade or Pizza
WHY: Mac and cheese is popular at this year’s fair. Try it one of two ways: in your Tabasco-spiked spicy lemonade (think: cheesy boba elbows) or piled on top of an authentic wood-fired pizza pie—or both, we won’t judge.
WHERE TO FIND IT: Real Fruit Drinks (lemonade), Wood Fired Pizza (pizza), both Midway
MUST-TRY: Tiny Tom Donuts
WHY: These mini donuts are a CNE tradition! They’re fried before your very eyes, then served up piping hot with a generous dusting of cinnamon sugar. The perfect snack to close out the visit and share on your way out of the fair.
WHERE TO FIND IT: Tiny Tom Donuts, Food Building