Best New Foods at the 2018 N.C. State Fair: What Not to Miss

Unique foods. Fried foods. Gourmet dishes with a twist.  All of these culinary sweet and savory fall fair food can be found as soon as you walk through the gates of the N.C State Fair in Raleigh.  This year's vendors will serve up some of the best fair food I've ever tasted to over a million people during this year's fair season of October 12-October 21, 2018. (Hurricane Michael pushed the opening by one day this year.)

What are the best foods to eat at the N.C State Fair? There is a Best New Fair Food of 2018 Winner, of course. The Cool Runnings Jamaican Jerk pork wrap with mango salsa got the most media votes at the 2018 Media Preview. This yummy dish balanced with the heat of the jerk and the sweetness of the mango will certainly be a crowd favorite.

But honestly, there were several dishes that were so good that it was hard to name just one for the media vote. In fact, I didn't. They counted votes before I even got mine in the vendor box. I was too slow to make a final choice because I liked way too many N.C. State Fair Foods this year.

2018 New Fair Food You Must Not Miss at the NC State Fair

Jerk Pork Wrap with Mango Salsa by Cool Runnings Jamaican.

Jerk Pork Wrap with Mango Salsa by Cool Runnings Jamaican.

It's spicy, sweet and perhaps a little messy, too. The heat of the jerk chicken balances very well with the sweetness of the mango. So grab some napkins and enjoy.  This booth will be located near Dorton Arena.

Arepa Burger by Arepa Loca

Arepa Burger by Arepa Loca

I had to learn to pronounce it (ah-reh-pah), but once the name rolled off my tongue and the taste of the new Arepa burger lingered, this dish became a favorite of mine. And if I had not missed the Media "best fair food" vote due to my slowness, I think my card would have been in this vendor's jar. An arepa is a handcrafted gluten-free white cornmeal bread. This burger is served tomato and onion then topped with matchstick potatoes and traditional pink and cilantro guacamole. You will find these burgers near Kiddie Land. Parents may need the burger to keep their sanity.

Fried Shrimp Tacos with Pineapple Salsa by Captain Neill's Seafood

Fried Shrimp Tacos with Pineapple Salsa by Captain Neill's Seafood

What's better than fresh North Carolina fried shrimp? Not much. But, put some cabbage slaw and the most delicious pineapple salsa then you've hit culinary fair cuisine. You will be able to find this booth near Dorton Arena.

SoJo Melt with Lamb by Neomonde Meditteranean

SoJo Melt with Lamb by Neomonde Meditteranean

This incredible dish reminded me of the look of a warm Philly cheesesteak. It's the Mediterranean take on a Philly hoagie classic. This dish is sauteed lamb with onions, soujouk spices, hummus, Lebanese pickles, melted provolone and mozzarella cheeses, Roma tomatoes plus spicy jalapeno/cilantro sauce on hoagie bread. You can find this food near Kiddie Land.

Crack and Cheese Waffle Cone by Hickory Tree Turkey BBQ

Crack and Cheese Waffle Cone by Hickory Tree Turkey BBQ

For those who like to keep on walking, this savory dish is for you. In one cone, you'll find macaroni and cheese, turkey bbq, deep friend turkey cracklings, creamy southern slaw, and special bbq sauce all in one waffle cone. It's a gourmet, southern delight with flavors that impress. You will find this food near the Education building.

Shrimp and Cheddar Cheese Grits Eggroll by Woody's Tavern

Shrimp and Cheddar Cheese Grits Eggroll by Woody's Tavern

Deep fried food lovers will rejoice over this new state fair food. It's a southern take on a fried egg roll and it delivers big time in flavor. Everyone I talked to loved this dish. I did, too. In this eggroll, you fill N.C. farm-raised shrimp, N.C. ground cheese grits and tasso ham. It's then topped with a red pepper remoulade sauce. The inside of the eggroll is soft and not crunchy like a traditional eggroll so it surprises you at first bite. You can find this food near the Grandstand ticket area.

Candid Bacon S'more by LaFarm Bakery

Candid Bacon S'more by LaFarm Bakery

It's pretty and it tastes good, too. What more information do you need? This is sweet a dish that you may want to share with a few people. My favorite part was the homemade marshmallow filled with applewood smoked bacon ganache.  It's one of those dishes that you take a bite and say, "Oh, that's good!" Then you take another one and another one and it's half gone. With this dessert, it also depends on what side you start nibbling. The chocolate bacon ganache dipped side is definitely richer and I personally ate more of the non-dipped side. But overall, I loved the flavors. It will be much bigger than what I tasted so I think it's definitely one to share. You will find LaFarm Bakery near the North Carolina Pottery Exhibit. LaFarm is a Cary, North Carolina bakery that I've featured many times on this blog.

Durty Bull Brewing Co.

There are 22 new foods at the N.C State Fair this year plus a Public House with NC Wine and Beer. Durty Bull Brewing Company in Durham will be one of than thirty vendors on tap. I loved their samples and am a fan of its Oak-Aged Blonde Sour.  Tickets to the Our State Public House is $10 and that price allows two sample servings. Beer and cider samples are in 8 ounce pours. Wine is in 3 ounce pours.

Admit it. You love NC State Fair Food. We sampled some of the best new food at the fair for 2018. Deep-fried Fair Food. Savory. Sweet. You name it and we've compiled a list of the best food to eat at the NC State Fair in Raleigh, N.C.

You can learn more about the rides, exhibits, and attractions at the NC State Fair, where to park when visiting the fair, where to get a shuttle in Raleigh where you can park and ride to the NC State Fair, ticket prices, and lodging options near the NC State Fairgrounds by visiting the N.C. State Fair website. 

An important date to remember for the NC State Fair is Thursday, October 18 is Food Lion's Hunger Relief Day. Bring in five cans of food and get one free fair admission ticket per person. 


Vacations in North Carolina After Hurricane Florence: What You Need to Know

North Carolina has four distinct seasons and as a result, we have people wanting to visit North Carolina 365 days a year. Unfortunately, In September, my home state took a gut punch with the arrival of Hurricane Florence. Like many tourists, she loved the Carolinas so much that she stuck around for days leaving a path of widespread destruction in many places in North Carolina.

Interstate 40 After Hurricane Florence
Interstate 40 flooded. That's not a river. That's a highway!

Raleigh N.C and West Toward the Mountains of North Carolina and Charlotte

If you have a vacation planned in Raleigh, Greensboro, Charlotte, Asheville, or Boone then you should be able to arrive at your planned destination without any issues. Some flooding and downed trees did occur during the storm, but tourism in these areas are back to normal.

chihuly at Biltmore

Our Mountains are one of the best places to experience fall. The Chihuly Exhibit on the Biltmore Estate will wrap up in October and beginning November 3, Christmas at Biltmore opens.

North Carolina Beach Communities

Figure Eight Island

Southeastern North Carolina was hit hard by devastation and flooding. Recovery will take time. Clean up is ongoing. Many North Carolina roads, including Interstate 40, toward Wilmington are still flooded in parts. Several inland counties remain flooded with washed out roads. If you are traveling to North Carolina, bookmark Drive NC.gov to see what roads are open for travel.  It is also advised that you call your hotel or vacation rental manager before heading on your vacation.

Brunswick County Beaches

Sunset Beach, Ocean Isle Beach, Holden Beach, Caswell Beach Oak Island--OPEN to Visitors
SOUTHPORT, NC: State of Emergency 
BALD HEAD ISLAND-State of Emergency

North Carolina's Brunswick beaches except for Bald Head Island and the seaport town of Southport, weathered Hurricane Florence better than expected. These beaches are open to residents and visitors, however, Brunswick County is currently under a travel warning. Inland roads remain flooded or washed out which makes it more difficult to get to the Brunswick beaches.  Neighboring Inland county, Columbus County is also under a travel warning which many people use roads in this state to get to Brunswick County.

The town of Leland, in Brunswick County, is still under a State of Emergency as is the cute little seaport town of Southport and beautiful Bald Head Island, only accessible by ferry.  Photos from Bald Head Island after the storm looked as if the entire island was flooded. All guests who were scheduled to visit Bald Head Island will be contacted.

New Hanover County Beaches and Wilmington, N.C.
Figure Eight Island, Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Wilmington, N.C. 

Hurricane Florence made landfall over this area. Clean-up and disaster recovery work is ongoing. If you have plans for this area, it is best to stay in contact with the New Hanover County tourism site. They are updating a lodging list daily.

The Wilmington International Airport is operational.

Figure Eight Island is a private island in Wilmington available to homeowners and renters only. If you have a vacation scheduled there then contact your homeowner or Figure Eight Realty about your rental. 

Topsail Island Beaches in Pender County
Surf City and South Topsail Island

Interstate 40 has lanes closed in Pender County and many inland cities remain flooded in this county. The beaches of Surf City and  Topsail Beach are closed to visitors until further notice. Only residents and contractors are allowed on the island. There is a curfew for the Pender County side of Topsail from 7 pm to 7 am.

North Topsail Beach in Onslow County

North Topsail Beach is under a 9 pm to 7 am curfew. The island is open to the general public, but use caution when traveling. All town parks including beach access are closed until further notice.

The Crystal Coast, North Carolina's Southern Outer Banks
Emerald Isle, Indian Beach, Pine Knoll Shores, Atlantic Beach, Morehead City, Beaufort, N.C., Harker's Island and Cape Lookout

The storm surge was extremely high in this area during the duration of Florence. Clean-up and storm debris removal are underway. Each beach is working hard and making progress daily. Curfews are lifted.

Cape Lookout is closed until further notice. To stay updated on this area, continue to visit the Carteret County Official Tourism website. 

New Bern, North Carolina 

The historic town of New Bern, N.C. experienced epic flooding in Craven County during Hurricane Florence and the historic downtown part of New Bern was hit very hard. Tryon Palace is currently closed as is many businesses, especially downtown. The tourism site is not operating with current information at this time so be sure to check the New Bern town website regarding updates.

North Carolina's Outer Banks

The coast is clear in North Carolina's Outer Banks. Businesses and hotels are ready to welcome you. The islands received very minor damage from Hurricane Florence. For more information on vacationing in this area, visit https://www.outerbanks.org/

Recovery will take time.

Donations The North Carolina Disaster Relief Fund is available for donations to support North Carolina’s response to Hurricane Florence. To donate, visit governor.nc.gov or text FLORENCE to 20222.


Raleigh's Morgan Street Food Hall Offers Diners 19 Restaurant Options Plus Retail in One Big Space

I was first introduced to the American version of a food hall in a historic City Market Building in Roanoke, Virginia in 2012. It was my first time in one despite the fact that food halls have been in larger, metropolitan cities for years.

When someone from Hotel Roanoke suggested the food hall to my family, my mind wandered to an original mall food court for the concept and I was a little puzzled as to why they would suggest a food court as a place to dine in their city.  But, as soon as I walked through the doors of this historic building, I knew this was different. This Virginia food hall felt hippier, trendier, more expensive than a  mall food court, and of course, there was not one Chic-Fil-A sign in sight.  

Raleigh, North Carolina now has its first food hall and it rivals some of the best European and U.S. Food Halls in the country. North Carolina has reached the big time when it comes to good, local food in one place. The Research Triangle Area is quickly becoming a foodie mecca, and it's an accolade I think residents are glad to embrace.

Morgan Street Food Hall has 19 restaurants in one building

My Facebook is constantly buzzing with excitement about Morgan Street Food Hall, located in a long-abandoned industrial space that used to be a pool hall when I moved to Raleigh in 1999.  A second food hall called Transfer Co. Food Hall will also open later in the year in a different part of downtown.

Blogger Tatiana Amador covered the media opening of the Morgan Street Food Hall for my OutaboutNC Instagram, She's sampled lots of local goodies and has the scoop on what you can find to eat and some important things to know before you go. 

MORGAN  STREET FOOD HALL LOCATION and PARKING: Morgan Street Food Hall is located at 411 West Morgan Street.  It is adjacent to the new Raleigh Union Station. You can find street parking or you can park in the Dillon Parking Deck.

MORGAN STREET  FOOD HALL HOURS: The food hall is open Sunday to Wednesday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m, and from 7 a.m. to  2 a.m from Thursday to Saturday.  Keep in mind that not all food vendors open right at 7 a.m. though. The majority of the food vendors in the building keep 11 a.m to 10 p.m as its set operating hours daily. Cocktails and Drinks are available until closing hours.

There is an assortment of seating at Morgan Street Food Hall in Raleigh, NC


By Tatiana Amador for OutaboutNC and HinesSightBlog

There are currently 19 food vendors and 15 specialty vendors, including a florist, barbecue sauces, and teas!

When you walk into Morgan Street Food Hall you won’t know where to go first. There are so many options to pick from, that makes it the perfect spot for that special person in your life that can never decide where to eat, or that picky eater, or for someone that just wants to try multiple styles of food! Here’s what you can expect:

What you Should Expect at Morgan Street Food Hall in Raleigh, NC
Bella’s Wood Fired Pizza & Tapas: Small plate tapas and wood-fired pizzas made with fresh ingredients.

Boba Brew: Authentic Bubble Teas, non-GMO added smoothies, and monthly menu changes keep Boba Brew refreshing and unique.

Carroll’s Kitchen: A non-profit restaurant trying to end homelessness for women, Carroll’s offers up freshly baked sweets and comfort classics like chicken noodle soup.

Cocoa Forte: A two-year-old chocolate business with desserts from waffles on a stick to chocolate dipped cheesecake bars.

Cousins Maine Lobster: As seen on “Shark Tank,” this nationally known truck brings fresh Maine seafood to a brick and mortar location in the Triangle.

Cow Bar: Handcrafted patties with a unique spin on the “traditional” burger. *Kimchi burger is part of their secret menu (shhh)

Curry in a Hurry is inside the Morgan Street Food Hall

Curry in a Hurry: (Tatiana's personal favorite) Alaksha, the owner, brings love and passion into her dishes. Explore the tastes of India at the Curry in a Hurry booth.

Iyla’s Southern Kitchen: Iyla’s is one of the only residents bringing Southern cuisine to the food hall and rises to the challenge with a unique twist on Southern classics like their barbeque sundae.

Makus Empanadas: Two brothers have been sharing their Argentinian roots with NC for the past couple of years. Now at the food hall with the same menu as their truck, its a must try!

Mama Bird’s Cookies + Cream: One of two ice cream shops in the food hall, Mama Bird’s stands out because of their distinct, frozen spin on classic desserts like tiramisu and cheesecake.

MKG Kitchen: Selecting fresh ingredients daily, MKG is looking to bring the highest quality to a menu featuring homemade Vietnamese recipes that focus on the less commonly known elements of the Southeast Asian country’s cuisine.

MKG Kitchen has a Vietnamese influence for the Morgan Street Food Hall

Morgan Street Java & Creperie: Rotating seasonal offerings will take advantage of local ingredients to provide a variety of made to order crepes and a diverse coffee menu.    

Oak City Fish & Chips: Oak City Fish & Chips uses their two proprietary spice blends to give a unique spin on a classic dish and help their fish and chips, and other seafood dishes, stand out among the other fish in the sea.

Oak City Fish and Chips serves up Seafood in Morgan Street Food Hall

Raleigh Raw: After enjoying a few of Morgan Street Food Hall’s less than healthy options, a trip to Raleigh Raw may be just what the doctor ordered with their focus on providing healthy, organic, bottled juices.

RAleigh Rolls will satisfy your sweet tooth in Morgan Street Food Hall

Raleigh Rolls: The employees of this Thai inspired ice cream joint make a show of preparing your order by pouring cream directly on to an ice grill before adding in a wide variety of toppings and rolling the flash frozen cream up like a tiny, edible sleeping bag.

Sassool is in Morgan Street Food Hall
Sassool: With locations already in Raleigh and Cary, Sassool offers Mediterranean and Lebanese favorites such as chicken and beef shawarma, and falafel.  

The Bowls: Expect a tour of various East Asian cuisines at this vendor, which names each of the rice bowls on its menu after different East Asian cities.

The Broth: The Broth brings Japanese style comfort food and street food favorites to Raleigh with their carefully crafted bowls of ramen, steamed buns, and other dishes.

Wicked Taco: This well-known taco establishment brings its popular tacos and salsas to the patrons of Morgan Street Food Hall.

There are two full-service bars inside the building and one on the outside patio where Raleigh Raw is located. You can hang out inside in the shared space booths and tables or lounge in their sitting room with comfy couches. Morgan Street Food Hall is the place you can go into at any time of day and feel at ease. There is something for every foodie at Morgan Street Food Hall.
Morgan Street Food Hall puts 19 restaurants and 15 specialty vendors under one roof to serve up some of the best local food in Raleigh. The Food Hall is open Daily.
What vendor are you most wanting to try?

*Please note pictures show sample sizes received by media
*All pictures were taken by @timewithtati for @outaboutnc

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