by Jon Draper - Tuesday, February 9, 2016
Yes, there are eight halls full of guns, bows, boats, shooting, fishing and hunting gear. Yes, the celebrities are here, including Lee and Tiffany Lakosky, wrestling legend “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and the Duck Commander Jase Robertson. And yes, you can find more bargains on quality outdoor and hunting and fishing products than you would at Dick Cabela's garage sale. That’s all well and good, but how about the food, man?
Though not the top of the ticket, there’s some quality eats and some hidden gems to be found if know where to look. Luckily, I’ve spent a few days at the show and my taste buds can be trusted. So when the dogs are getting tired and you need to refuel, here’s the food you shouldn’t miss at this year's Great American Outdoor Show.
While I saw and tasted preserved meats from no less than three vendors, my money goes to the jerky from John's Market. This is one of the hidden gems I was talking about. Located in the back of the outfitter hall, John's Market sports an entire wall of meat-made goodies. So pick a summer sausage, or go bold like I did and ask the meat man for some suggestions from the dozens of meat stick and jerky flavors available, you won’t be disappointed. And while the standards are amazing—the elk stick was one of the best I’ve ever had—I implore you to go off the beaten path and taste something new. I suggest the Cajun Alligator, Wild Boar and Ostrich sticks.
Nobody’s saying don’t eat the staples, well, I’m saying it actually. Why would you go for the standard burger or pizza when there may be a tastier, albeit stranger morsel available around the next bend? But in case you’re not fearless when it comes to your food, I’ve found something that should please even the most bland of palates—hot dog anyone? Well, an elk dog with venison chili to be exact. And it’s darn good. The chili is a hearty, home-made style with ingredients you can actually see and recognize, beats the canned stuff hands down, and the dog itself, surprisingly, actually tasted like a wild-game dog, delicious. As to where you can find the best dog at the show, well, that's kind of tricky. It’s a small vendor, located in one of the hallways between the showrooms, and unfortunately, I don’t remember which one. Just be on the lookout for the sign that says “Elk Dogs,” and be ready to stop.
Speaking of being ready to stop at a moment’s notice, when you pass a sign that reads “fried steak on a stick,” stop immediately. One of the many vendors crowding the official food court, the Agin Cajun offers the Creole regulars like Po-boy sandwiches with chicken, shrimp, or steak and a gumbo that many seemed to enjoy, but the real treat here is the fried steak on a stick. It’s basically a chicken fried steak wrapped in bacon, served with a side of county gravy, which means it’s essentially the food of the Gods. Words to the wise, though, grab a knife, because while its stick gives the impression of easy eating, this little guy is anything but.
Alright, I’ve saved the best for last; Rachel’s Pretzels, again, located in the food court. And though they serve some of the best, hot from the oven, glistening in butter and salt crystals, sweet pretzel goodness that exists on this earth, the reason they make this list isn’t their standard pretzel. It’s their selection of stuffed pretzel wraps. You can choose from a variety of fillings; hotdog, buffalo chicken, and more, but the two that’ll have you coming back at least once again before you leave are the ham and cheese, and the BBQ Steak and Cheese. Think of it as a “hot pocket,” that you’d actually want to eat. The ham and cheese is the safe bet, it’s everything you think it could and should be, only better due to it’s soft pretzel shell, and the BBQ Steak and Cheese is meaty, gooey, and surprisingly sweet. Trust me, a stop here is a must. and for the price, one of the best deals at the show.
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