As I wrote last year, and it's the same thing this year, the food options seem oddly short...every year they get a little bit smaller. Hey, does anybody else remember the ring of food vendors across from the north beer gardens
But I digress: it's time to talk turkey. Disclaimer: there is no turkey
Alberta's Best Kept Secret Philly Cheesesteak: An interesting selection of philly cheesesteaks: the original is oddly authentic, what with the Cheese Whiz and all. Yes, that's right, in a real Philly Cheesesteak the cheese is...Whiz. They also have a peppercorn variety that looks/tastes just like you would imagine it would if you picture a peppercorn cheesesteak in your head, but not oddly enough what it would look/taste like if you ready the description on the side of the truck what it contains (hint: no meatsauce). A bit pricey but that's about to become a theme here so you might as well just grin and bear it. $9 eat.
Papa's Brazilian Steakhouse: Previously, the only hot Brazilian things at the fringe were the bikini waxes on the girls in those super-tight shorts that their ass hangs out of. Now, the famed "all you can eat if you have enough money to buy a Keg franchise" restaurant food truck is at the Fringe. It was previously at Porkapalooza, where it served severely overpriced pork. Now it's expanded to also serve extremely overpriced steak. For a mere $9 you get a tiny little wisp of meat on a stick, over a bed of either potato salad or pasta salad: whichever you choose, it's more peas than anything else. Not fun
Trent's BBQ: There was a Trent in the group on Saturday, so obviously we had to check this out. Whether you get the brisket burger or the pulled pork, $8 later you're wolfing down a nice scrumptious burger adequately but not slatherly sauced. Either option works well, I have yet to try any of the more elaborate fare.
Pizza 73: We couldn't get Funky Pickle to come back to the Fringe grounds, they've been gone for years now. Boston Pizza used to pop by, and I thought Rosebowl was working on a mobile unit. Sadly, we're left with Pizza 73 to provide decent but uninspired pies. Even in the busiest time of the day they only have cheese, hawaiian, and pepperoni. It's okay if you need a quick bite...almost alone on the grounds this is food you can eat while you walk, making it a decent choice if you're off to the ATB phone museum or Trinity Church. $5/slice
Poutine World: I'm not sure if this is the same poutine place from last year, or just a similar concept. Delicious poutines ranging from the $7 traditional to the $10 international specialties. Highlights are the Mexican and the Albertan. Avoid the Japanese.
Donair: This is the yellow donair truck over by Trent's BBQ and the Green Onion Cake place.
Arizona Fry Bread: I can never figure out if this good ol' food trailer, seen everywhere from the Rainmaker Rodeo to the Calgary Stampede, is named "Fresh" or "Arizona Fry Bread" or "TACOS" or what. All I do know is that if you desire a yummy treat that you only have to shell out $8.50 for and then realize you could have made it at home for $1.25, there's only one option for you there: Taco in a Bag. Oh, don't pretend you don't know: they take a bag of doritos and slit the top open, dropping in some salsa, sour cream, cheese, lettuce, and taco beef. Then they give you a fork and let you go to town. Again, it's a guilty pleasure but that doesn't mean you can't be pleasured by it.
Quick Meal: Attached to the north beer gardens, there's a decent if not particularly incredible selection of Lebanese food...the previous big winner is of course still there: donair poutine, though for $9 the portion is a lot smaller than it was in previous years and the price more expensive...it's still donair poutine and therefore it's still delicious, but it's hard to justify a repeat visit at that price...bearing in mind, of course, it *is* attached to the north beer gardens.
New Asian Village: A few years ago New Asian Village had lost it's mojo. Sure they still had all the fare, but the quality had diminished. Then last year they moved from their traditional digs at the corner of 83rd Avenue and Gateway, and it was looking dangerously close to vanishing entirely. Well they're back in their old spot again, and while they aren't where they were at their peak they also aren't where they were at their trough either. Your basic Indian fare is of course still around: you can be tempted by the curry if you like, but the best dish going is still the butter chicken. Be sure to pair it with your favourite naan bread. By favourite I obviously mean either the traditional or the garlic: the coconut is okay if you're sharing with friends (the taste wears on you fairly quickly), and the cinnamon is more of a snack naan or a dessert naan than a meal naan. Also caution: the sign says $10 for a combo, but the $10 is only for the plate of butter chicken: so if you want naan and a drink be prepared to cough up a whopping $16. It's pricey, so only do it once as a treat. It's also affixed to the wine tent so that comes in handy now and again.
Fat Frank's: The famed hot dog and smokie vendor has setup right on the grounds again, even more funny considering they are almost exactly a single block north of their Whyte Avenue location: if festivals were held year-round and city-wide, they would probably rival Tim Horton's. Unlike some of their other stalls like the one in front of Canadian Tires on weekend afternoons, this one has the full gamut of selection too: if you want a double smoked farmer you aren't out of luck. The condiments are all out in force, and somehow they manage to do a better job of their neighbour one block south at keeping them all fully stocked. Don't ask me how in the name of Kevin Taft that works. $5
Zaika: The...other Indian place...slightly cheaper than New Asian village, this place has some pretty weak-sauce food. No, that's not just talking clever like the kids do these days, it's literally weak sauce: the butter chicken sauce is watery and has little taste. Two separate times friends have bought food from them, been unable to finish it, and asked me to finish it off...and unappealing every time. Seriously, New Asian Village is just a quick walk away.
Wood-fired Pizza: Another regular offering, they offer a variety of delicious yet atrociously priced little pizzas ready in just a couple of minutes, so don't be scared if a few people are ahead of you in line. $15
The other places: I haven't eaten everywhere on the grounds (yet...). I'm reluctant to try "Thai This" despite the clever name. Like Zaika next door the majority of their signs read "no sampling" and while I don't know what EDM DJs have to do with any of this... Just kidding folks, we know what it means: "if you want to see how bad this tastes, plop down $11". I haven't had elephant ears yet, nor deep fried oreos. There's a fruit truck that I'm sure is good for the hippie crowd checking out beads down the street, and I've never liked green onion cakes but they are there in full force too. There's also ice cream and lemonade, but judging by the forecast their sales are about to nosedive. I never ate at either place. They sell beer.
So there you have it, a little food rundown of this year's Edmonton Fringe festival. Again not as exciting as in previous years and definitely another sign of the oddly shrinking Fringe Grounds. But we get what we pay for I suppose, and here's what you pay for. (In some cases, overpay for)