If there are 47 different food purveyors in a single park, there should be something you want to eat there. This is essentially the mission statement of Pig Out in the Park, the annual end-of-summer indulgence dropping calories by the thousands into Riverfront Park for six days. We dropped the menu items into a supercomputer (we won’t bore you with any further scientific explanation; it’s all very high-tech stuff), which told us that the six words above were the most commonly used phrases found at Pig Out — but are associated with a wide array of cuisine.
There’s bound to be no shortage of fried food at a large-scale food festival like Pig Out. That’s just the American way. But what we found goes far beyond fries and chicken.
Deep-Fried Snickers — County Fair Foods
This is the fourth consecutive year you’ll be able to get a deep-fried Snickers bar at Pig Out in the Park, thanks to County Fair Foods, the Spokane-based company that expects to sell about 2,000 bars this year. The Snickers are dipped in funnel cake batter before hitting the fryer basket, emerging crispy on the outside and sweet on the inside. “People used to buy these because they were curious what they tasted like. Now, they’re buying them because they love them,” says County Fair Foods manager Tim McKay. (MIKE BOOKEY)
Fried catfish po’ boy and hush puppies — Gumbo Goddess
Joycelyn Kelly, the woman behind Vancouver, Wash.-based Gumbo Goddess, has been winning awards for her fried catfish since she was 15 years old. Working off a recipe she learned from her grandfather, Kelly’s po’ boy was so popular at last year’s Pig Out in the Park that she was going through 15 cases of fish a day just to keep up with demand. The Texas-style sandwich also comes with two hush puppies — which, in case you’re a clueless northerner, are deep-fried balls of cornmeal. (MB)
Chocolate-smothered fruit is always a big hit at Pig Out, but fruit isn’t all you’ll find dripping in deliciousness.
Frozen cheesecake, bananas or ice cream bars dipped in chocolate — Bloem Flowers, Chocolates, Paperie
For as long as Pig Out has been happening (34 years), longtime Spokane florist, chocolate and gift shop Bloem has set up in the same spot in Riverfront Park to offer delectable treats hand-dipped in melted chocolate and coated with crunchy nuts. On a warm, summer evening, what’s better than a slice of frozen cheesecake dipped in chocolate? Well, maybe Bloem’s popular caramel apples — a Pig Out exclusive — but if you start early there’s enough time to try all four desserts. (CHEY SCOTT)
Get your dairy on this week with grilled cheese, Philly cheese, or chocolate-dipped cheesecake.
Talkin’ Turkey — JB’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
For a twist on classic grilled cheese, visit Janet Bonser at her bright-yellow booth where the saying goes, “We make happy sandwiches.” Her Talkin’ Turkey combines smoked turkey and bacon crumbles, melted havarti and Gouda cheese, with ranch dressing and a special organic spread — all tucked between thick slices of sourdough bread. Served with a dill pickle for an extra smile. (BETH NOTTURNO)
The grills are fired up in the park, so follow your nose for summer sandwiches, meats and veggies.
Grilled Salmon Over Caesar Salad or Wrap — Leonardo’s Bistro
Influenced by Mediterranean and Caribbean cuisine, Leo has perfected his grilled salmon dish. He blackens fresh fish with oregano, basil, sugar, red pepper and rosemary, then sears it on the grill. To keep the salmon juicy and tender, it’s steamed to the finish. The salad version comes with chopped romaine, caesar dressing, homemade croutons and parmesan cheese, and the wrap sports Leo’s fresh salsa. (BN)
Pig Out in the Park, being outdoors, is an obvious target for the region’s barbecue purveyors. They can — and most do — prepare their slow-cooking meats on-site, letting the smoky scents do their advertising for them
BBQ Pork Ribs — Big Pappa’s BBQ
Chris Kassa at Big Pappa’s doesn’t discriminate when it comes to barbecue styles. He has family in several different barbecue-loving parts of the country, and has learned to make his spicy rubbed pork ribs with the sauce on the side. He serves pretty much any sauce you can think of — from a vinegary Carolina-style sauce to a more tomato-flavored Texas sauce. Last year Kissa sold nearly 200 slabs of ribs, which he sells for between $6 and $7 per pound. (MB)
Chicken BBQ/Curry Chicken — Mongolian Grill
Just because the letters “BBQ” appear in the name of a Pig Out item doesn’t mean it’s going to be something you’d find on a red-and-white-checkered tablecloth. This take on barbecue is another indicator of the wide-ranging variety of foods found at this event. Mongolian Grill does an Asian take on slow-roasted chicken to pair with some of the tasty sides they offer. If you want to get spicier, opt for the curry chicken. (MB)
New to Pig Out this year is the chance to sample smaller portions of food from the event’s 45-plus vendors during specified times each day of the six-day food festival. The new “bites” are being offered for the first time this year in response to event attendees’ requests for options to sample items at a lower price points and portion sizes, says Pig Out organizer Bill Burke. Vendors are offering the bites from 2-4 pm on Wednesday, Thursday and Monday, Sept. 2, as well as between 10-11 pm each night of the event, which runs from Wed, Aug. 28 through Mon, Sept. 2. “It’s kind of like a happy hour so people can try a few more things, because the number one suggestion of all time is smaller samples,” Burke says.
Vendors have creative freedom with what they choose to feature as their daily “bites,” available during non-traditional mealtime hours. Pig Out organizers will use this year to gauge the success of the snack-sized menu options to determine whether to continue or expand the “bites” offerings in the future.
— CHEY SCOTT