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 back in full-swing for its 144th year. It’s got everything from midway rides and games to shopping, live musical performances and even an ice skating and acrobatics show. But no doubt, the food causes the most buzz about the CNE, with vendors seemingly trying to outdo each other each year.

Whether you’re an adventurous eater or you’re just doing it for the ‘gram, here are 7 of our must-try, outrageous food picks available at this year’s CNE. 

Korean Fried Frog Legs

WHY: Frogs’ legs may sound extreme, but keep in mind that in some parts of the world, they’re an everyday snack, and in others, a delicacy. Here, the Korean Fried Frog Legs are served up deep-fried and coated with a Korean-inspired sweet chili sauce, sesame seeds and seaweed. As far as taste and texture goes, they’re similar to chicken—so if you can eat a wing, you can totally eat a leg.

WHERE TO FIND IT: From Farm to Fryer (Food Building)

Holy Moly Cannoli

WHY: Do you ever find yourself indecisive about what to eat? The Holy Moly Cannoli offers a little bit of everything in one bite: a veal cutlet stuffed in cinnamon cannoli, topped with cheese, garlic aioli, salty & sweet hickory sticks and sprinkles. Miraculously, all these flavours are balanced and work in perfect harmony. Dinner and dessert in every bite!

WHERE TO FIND IT: The Original San Francesco (Food Building)

Malibu Mac & Cheese

WHY: What better way to honour the Summer of Pink than with the Malibu Mac & Cheese, featuring a velvety pink-coloured cheese sauce and served in an edible bread bowl? Don’t expect unusual flavour combinations here—the sauce combines Parmesan, gruyère, and cheddar. But it’s done well, and if you’re looking for a substantial lunch, this is it. If you’re feeling decadent, they offer a caviar top-up. Because ketchup is so 1999.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Eat My Bowls (Food Building)

Watermelon Burger

WHY: Watermelon is in season, and what better way to make use of it than by using it as your burger bun! That’s essentially what Sam’s Grill has created with the Watermelon Burger: a beef hamburger hot off the grill with feta, spinach and mint, sandwiched between two slices of watermelon and topped with a balsamic glaze. It’s juicy, it’s messy, and it’s refreshing!

WHERE TO FIND IT:  Sam’s Grill (Midway)

Pickle Cotton Candy

WHY: Ketchup, all dressed, dill pickle—what is it with Canadians and our sour flavours? Luckily, Pickle Cotton Candy is still a mostly sweet treat with a hint of dill pickle flavouring that won’t turn your mouth inside out.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Candy Time (Midway)

Peanut Butter Pickle Dog

WHY: Corndogs are a staple of any fair,. The Peanut Butter Pickle Dog is the classic corndog, wrapped in a pickle, fried up in a crispy batter and then drizzled with peanut butter and a homestyle jam. Nostalgia in every bite! You just might want to share it with a friend, or a family of four. It’s a big one!

WHERE TO FIND IT: Coco’s Corndogs (Midway)

Cheese Burger Ice Cream

WHY: If last year’s Ketchup & Mustard Ice Cream wasn’t polarizing enough, this year we’re continuing on the theme with Cheese Burger Ice Cream! It’s a cheeseburger-flavoured soft serve delivered in a waffle cone with a cheese rim, and topped with a pickle. We’ll reserve our judgment, but caution that it’s not just a flavour, it’s an experience. If you aren’t as adventurous, they also offer Street Corn Ice Cream, which is just as cool.

WHERE TO FIND IT: So Cute Ice Cream (Midway)

There are a ton of other interesting creations this year, from deep-fried pizza to Thanksgiving poutine. Try them all for a limited time: The Canadian National Exhibition runs from August 18 to September 4, 2023.