By Sandra Kraisirideja
Every Tuesday at the San Diego County Fair is $2 taste of the Fair where patrons can purchase smaller portions of some of the Fair’s best-loved treats for only $2.
While the concept is relatively new to the Fair, it’s already enormously popular and not surprisingly one of the biggest attendance days of the entire Fair. This year organizers once again paired $2 taste of the Fair with $3 Tuesday and traffic on I-5 was backed up for miles by 2 p.m. Even El Camino Real was terribly clogged. Tweets mentioning San Diego County Fair often contained gripes about how long it took to simply get to the Fair. Travel times of 90-minutes to two hours were not unusual.
I’m always on the hunt for a bargain, especially one that involves food. I wanted to see for myself if $2 taste of the Fair was really a good value or if paying a higher price to eat full-sized portions was the better deal. I brought $22 and only spent $15 before I couldn’t eat another fried food. I could have spent another $5 buying a souvenir cup at Orange Julius but I didn’t feel like drinking more sugar. Souvenir cup refills are only $2.50 and it appeared that nearly all of the food vendors honored the refill price. I try to limit how much soda I drink, but Orange Julius is something else. The souvenir cup is definitely worth the price for anyone who has a season pass or plans on going to the Fair multiple times.
What exactly is offered for $2? Some of the choices I saw included: half-sized hot dogs; a taquito; a 12 ounce blended mocha; a small funnel cake; a bite of cheesecake; one Australian beer-battered potato; a 2 ounce cup of pulled pork; three pretzel bites; a small serving of churros; and a half-slice of pizza.
Not every single food vendor has a $2 taste of the Fair special, but it’s probably close to 90 percent that do. I did notice in the Kiddieland area there were more vendors who were not offering specials. Those who were offering low-cost deals had signs posted indicating what was available. If the portion size wasn’t obvious based on the description, it was usually easy enough just to ask a cashier.
I used $2 taste of the Fair to search for unusual foods that are only available at the Fair. The most unusual dish I tried was the deep-fried corn dog dipped in chocolate. It was good and deceptively rich. I’m not sure I could have handled a full-sized portion without a glass of milk to wash it down. I couldn’t even finish the chocolate that had pooled at the bottom of the serving dish. Another advantage of $2 taste of the Fair is the serving sizes. I was able to try more foods since I wasn’t eating huge portions at each stop.
The $2 taste of the Fair special is not the only way to save money at the Fair. When possible, take advantage of the free shuttle service from one of off-site parking lots. In addition to being free the shuttles are also faster when it comes to exiting the parking lot. When I left the fairgrounds the parking lots were jam-packed with cars wanting to leave. The shuttle buses have priority access and can just zip out of the lot with no problem.
I plan on taking advantage of $2 taste of the Fair in the future and despite the traffic it is well worth it.
The San Diego County Fair runs through July 4. For more cost-saving information visit www.sdfair.com.