Who knew there was a new way to make a sandwich?
Making its debut this year at the Illinois State Fair is the buca-wich, a 6-inch hoagie roll with filling stuffed into a grilled hole in the middle.
“It’s the only way to walk and eat,” said Shelly Newton of Des Moines, Iowa, a first-time vendor here who runs the stand with her husband, Terry. It’s on Illinois Avenue across from the Midway rides.
The Newtons have a handheld pole grill that toasts the inside of the hoagie. The roll is then filled with your choice of crawfish (with peppers and onions), Cajun steak, meatball (with red sauce), Italian sausage, peanut butter and jelly, tuna salad or chicken salad. A buca-wich with the first four fillings is $7; the cold fillings are $5.
“Buca” means “hole” or “pit” in Italian, Shelly said.
For fair-goers looking for gluten-free options, the buca-wich stand also sells gluten-free Cajun steak nachos and Italian sausage nachos ($7 each).
The buca-wich is one of the many new or unusual food items for sale at the 2012 Illinois State Fair. A few of the others:
* Deep-fried Thin Mint and Samoa cookies are on the menu at Coliseum Corner, next to the Coliseum.
“They’re the same cookies made by the same company that makes them for the Girl Scouts,” said owner Abbas Zolghadr of Springfield.
Each cookie is wrapped in thin dough and fried for 20 to 30 seconds. The Thin Mints are drizzled with chocolate and the Samoas (chocolate-caramel-coconut cookies) get a caramel and coconut garnish. A bowl of three is $3.
Zolghadr said he got the idea from a vendor at the state fair in Texas. They were popular there, so he added them this year to his longtime concession stand. “They taste wonderful,” he said.
* On Main Street, across from Ethnic Village, you can get freshly made churros from a booth called Xocoatl (pronounced “sho-ko-al”).
“It means chocolate in Mayan,” said Juan Covarrubias of Chicago, a first-time vendor at the Illinois State Fair. “We’ve done Taste of Chicago and other fairs. We want to see how it does here.”
Sometimes referred to as Spanish doughnuts, churros are long strips of fried pastry dough. At Xocoatl, they can be filled with strawberry or vanilla cream or served with the classic sprinkle of cinnamon. Price: $3.
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