Illustration by Bob Aul"Delicious dishes" and "Orange County Fair" go together like George Bush and honesty, but we found five booths where famished fairgoers can exchange their sunscreen-soaked cash for meals that lend a gourmand's touch to the carnival's grimy vibe:
CHOCOLATE TORTILLA FACTORY, located in the Food Court. You'll swear you're in Albuquerque after resting here—and not just because a makeshift adobe houses an always-bustling kitchen. The Chocolate Tortilla Factory specializes in New Mexican cuisine—hefty carne al pastor tacos, juicy carne asada platters and super-cheesy enchiladas. Their best dish, unsurprisingly, is the eponymous entre ($6.50), a fried chocolate tortilla sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and topped with heroic amounts of vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup and whipped cream. Georgia O'Keeffe couldn't have imagined a more surreal combination of the sweet and oily. TEN POUND BUNS, located next to the Little Theater. As their name states, this stand bakes bread in pillow-sized buns, but for lunch order a slice of the sourdough topped with your choice of ingredients. Best is the barbecue chicken slice ($4.75), a square-foot hunk of the bread supporting melted mozzarella, a tart tomato sauce and peppy red onions. AH SO GOOD, located next to the Floral Building. Though it might be summer, a steaming bowl of saimin noodles ($6.50) at this Hawaiian food outpost is mandatory. The curly ramen noodles, soft beef bits and hard-boiled egg slices float in a super-hot broth that will make the sweltering sun seem Arctic. JEANNE'S ARTICHOKES, located next to the Little Theater. At the fair's center for all things artichoke, the entre of choice is the artichoke sandwich ($4.95). Served on a soft French roll, it contains deep-fried artichoke hearts minus the rough chewy parts; many other fresh veggies, like cucumber and tomato; and a delightful garlic mayo that will have tasters praise its glory for weeks. CHAR-BROILED CORN & BAKER BOY'S SWEET BAKED POTATO, located outside the Carnival of Products. These adjoining stands make good versions of corn ($3) and sweet potato pie ($3.75). Their best accomplishment, however, is translating their menu into Spanish—elote is corn, and camoteis sweet yam. Even the Mexican food vendors in the fair don't do that—and they're Mexican! — Gustavo Arellano, with the assisting palates of Drew Farrington and Angie Driskell
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