The Rodeo hosts 85 different food vendors each year, serving everything from ice cream–stuffed cupcakes and meat sundaes to salads (yes, you can get a salad at the infamously calorie-ridden Rodeo).
“You can do something different every day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” says Elizabeth Greer, the executive director of Exhibits and Attractions for the Rodeo. Now in her 10th year there, she’s tried just about everything there is to eat, rattling off her favorites effortlessly. “I love Sudie’s fried shrimp and fried pickles,” she begins. “I am a big fan of Fried What’s fried Snickers bars. I love Goode Company’s barbecue. And I always have a hamburger from Paradise Burgers.” Paradise Burgers is one of the most popular vendors, in fact, partly because their only Houston appearance is at the Rodeo each year, before the vendors hit the road again. “Some of them go from fair to fair to fair,” explains Greer.
For the past several years, the Rodeo has hosted the Gold Buckle Foodie Awards on the show’s first Thursday, in which all of the show’s food vendors enter their best dishes to be judged by a panel of expert eaters. Winners get bragging rights, but more importantly, their creations are sought out—and often sold out—as Rodeo fans come looking for the newest fair food each year. Last year, bacon was the theme to beat, with nods for bacon-topped cinnamon rolls, bacon-stuffed breakfast burritos, bacon-flavored cotton candy, chocolate-covered bacon, and even a bacon double cheeseburger with two glazed donuts as buns. (That salad sounds pretty good right now, huh?)
This year, two new vendors have managed to squeeze into the already packed Reliant Park: Polonia, the popular Polish restaurant, as well as another establishment slightly more in keeping with the Western theme. “We have a guy coming in who has a really cool stagecoach that he operates out of,” says Greer. “He does a variety of different popcorns.” Yes, but are any of them bacon-flavored?