Well, the long awaited, much anticipated Hillbilly Days Food Guide is back! After the success of last year’s food guide we were excited to get to ‘Billy Days again and bring you a round up of the best food we could find!
An important note before we start: $$$$
Either decide how much you are going to spend beforehand and only take that much in cash and stop eating when it is gone OR simply ignore the large amount of money flying out of your hand with each stand you walk by. There is no middle ground.
However, take heart – If you decide on the latter approach, know that your money is going to a good cause. Hillbilly Days was started by the local Shriners as a fundraiser for their children’s hospital. Last year’s Hillbilly Days raised over $83,000 and the past 40 years of Hillbilly Days has raised over $2 million for the kids!
If you want to go to Hillbilly Days and get a hotdog and a plate of spiral fries, this is not the guide for you. Of course, there is a time and place for a good hotdog and some spiral fries, especially because a lot of the hotdog stands donate their profits directly to charity. But that’s not why you came to our blog looking for the elite food tour, is it? So without further ado, we proudly present…
The French Family Elite Tour 2016
To say we were excited to bring you the Food Guide this year only scratches the surface of the situation. Andy has only been talking about it every 10 minutes or so for the past few weeks. Initially in our planning we wanted to figure out a way to try everything but we quickly realized that our dreams were bigger than our stomachs (and wallets). So instead we decided to address this dilemma: You only have so much time and money to spend at the festival. What do you get if you are only able to get one Hillbilly meal? Well, here’s our take.
The loaded steak tip sandwich washed down with a lemonade followed by a donut chaser.
Lemonade: There are a lot of places to get fresh squeezed lemonade in Hillbilly Days but Andy has to get his from a truck shaped like a lemon. It just makes it better in his opinion. The lemonade truck vendor he went to is located in front of the parking garage. This year he even splurged for the refillable cup!
Loaded Steak Tip Sandwich: Ok, so this is going to be controversial, but we weren’t wowed by Mr. Beefy’s. Instead get your steak tips at the vendor with the “Sirloin Tip Dinners” banner. All Andy kept saying while he ate it was, “Wow, this is SO good!”
The way Andy likes to eat it: He likes to ask them to sub in potatoes instead of mushrooms and onions on his loaded sandwich.
Pro Tip: This vendor has two locations on Huffman Ave. (the road that runs perpendicular to UPIKE’s 99), one close to the parking garage and one close to the Expo center. Go to the one near the Expo center for the shortest line.
Donuts: Although last on Andy’s meal, these donuts certainly aren’t least. If forced to pick a Hillbilly Day’s favorite, would probably be his. He has been talking about this vendor’s donuts for months, possibly even since the end of last year’s Hillbilly Days. And Andy isn’t the only one who thinks so – I actually heard one person say after taking a few bites of his donut outside of this booth, “I will never eat another donut again.” So we’re talking seriously good. Their booth is on Hambley Blvd. a few booths down from Roasted.
The way Andy likes to eat them: Hot out of the fryer and as often as possible.
A macaroni & cheese grilled cheese with a black cherry old fashioned soda rounded out with a cinnamon roll.
Old Fashioned Soda: Normally I just stick with water at Hillbilly Days because I’m not a big lemonade fan, but I decided to try something new yesterday and I’m glad I did. Check out the Chuck Wagon Old-Fashioned Soda on Hambley Blvd. Friendly service and free samples if you’re not sure which flavor you want!
How I like it: Black Cherry is my flavor of choice, but I’ve also heard good things about the Root Beer. [Note from Andy: I had the birch beer-vanilla cream blend. Very good]
Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese: The first time I did a food scouting lap this year, I saw the sign on this booth and thought, “No way…” because I thought it listed a mac & cheese sandwich. After doing a double take I realized that it really was true, all of my favorite cheesy foods had combined and landed right here in the middle of Hillbilly Days. Well this sandwich did not disappoint. The bread was grilled to just the right level of crispiness. This vendor is located on Main Street just past the Expo Center stage. Make sure to stop by and give these nice people some support, it is their first Hillbilly Days!
How I like it: With a side of ketchup. Yes you read that right, I like to dip my grilled cheese in ketchup. Don’t judge.
Cinnamon Roll: Mmmm mmm, soooo good. Andy may say the donuts are first place but these Cinnamon Rolls will always be first in my heart. Everything about them is just right. No words really, just all tasty. One local even called them, “The best thing he’s ever had at Hillbilly Days.” You can find this vendor on Main Street right before you get to the old courthouse. This year we found out that they are readers of the blog, so please tell them hello for us!
Tip: They told us that they aim to have fresh cinnamon rolls ready to sell by 8:30 each morning… I think that sounds like something worth getting to Hillbilly Days early for.
Alright, we’ll be back later with some general food advice but I wanted to get the Elite tour out to you as soon as possible. Like our facebook page for more food reviews. Yesterday we did a live head-to-head donut comparison and we expect to do a live BBQ review tonight. You won’t want to miss it!
Mini Donuts: I know, they’re not quite the best donuts, but they were still very tasty (as mentioned in the Dueling Donuts video). Find these little gems on Huffman, near Roasted.
Roasted Cashews: Very good, and the proprietor offers free samples! Find them at We R Nuts, on the Huffman side of the parking deck.
Kettle Corn: A fair-food staple, the best kettle corn is located by BB&T.
Photo Credit: Leslie Colston
KYCOM Mission Trip Booth: Drop by the med school’s booth, on Main, just past the post office. They’re raising money for a summer mission trip to the Dominican Republic. I picked up some tasty-looking pistachio baklava. Also, best prices on drinks you will find – only $1 for bottled water!
Pulled Pork BBQ Sandwich: We did a live BBQ sandwich showdown on facebook. Click here to check it out. Short version: Our favorite was Ridge View BBQ on Huffman Ave near Big Sandy Community and Technical College.