The Award-Winning Carnival Foods to Try During Rodeo Houston 2024

Chili Mac Attack Potato by Saltgrass Steakhouse, at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

Howdy! Houston rodeo season is back! Every day from February 27 to March 17, thousands of Houstonians get gussied up and mosey on down to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. During that time, NRG Park and NRG Center are home to a nearly endless variety of activities including concerts, shows, art exhibits, animal education exhibits featuring ducklings, rabbits, cows and even bees, rides, midway games, shops and children hanging onto runaway sheep for dear life. All of this creates a magnificent setting for the immense selection of unique, fun and delicious carnival foods.

With dozens of vendors, each offering a multitude of options, deciding what to try can be difficult. Fortunately, every year, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo invites several food writers (including yours truly), TV and media personalities, well-known chefs and influencers to sort out the best of the best at the Gold Buckle Foodie Awards. This is not my first rodeo, as the past few years have brought a few memorable favorites such as funnel cake-crusted Monte Cristo and deep-fried bread pudding. The award-winning carnival foods at the rodeo this year offer just as much fun and flavor. Below includes not only the winners, but also where to find them. 

Big Fat Bacon on a Stick by Big Fat Baccon at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
Big Fat Bacon on a Stick by Big Fat Baccon at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Photo by Ryan Baker.

The 2024 Gold Buckle Foodie Award Winners

Best Fried Food

  • 1st: The Ultimate Minneapple PieThe Original Minneapple Pie – Circle Drive 202
  • 2nd: Fried Dumplings & Shrimp Chips – Asian Streetness – NRG Arena 603
  • 3rd: Chicken Fried Bacon – Yoakum Packing Company – Rodeo Plaza 100/NRG Center Lobby 256

Best Food-On-a-Stick

  • 1st: Brunch PopsCornDog with No Name – The Junction 303
  • 2nd: Chicken in a Waffle on a Stick – Waffle Chix – Circle Drive 204
  • 3rd: The Cowboy Caramel AppleMunch-oes Bakery – Center Hall E 6113

Best Classic Fair Food

  • 1st: Big Fat Bacon on a Stick – Big Fat Bacon – The Junction 506
  • 2nd: Brisket Baked PotatoSaltgrass Steak House – NRG Lobby 63
  • 3rd: Chop Beef/Brisket SandwichHarlon’s BBQ – The Junction 507
Barbalicious Float by the Candy Factory at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
Barbalicious Float by the Candy Factory at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Photo by Ryan Baker,

Most Creative Food

  • 1st: The Barbalicious Float – Candy Factory – Carnival Kidland
  • 2nd: Chicharron Nachos – Texas Pride Grill – Rodeo Plaza 105
  • 3rd: Snake Bite Nachos – Pioneer Wagon – Circle Drive 2025

Best New Flavor

  • 1st: Chili Mac Attack Potato – Saltgrass Steak House – NRG Lobby 63
  • 2nd: Wonton Nachos – Asian Streetness – NRG Arena 603
  • 3rd: Paradise Maple Waffle Burger – Paradise Burgers – Rodeo Plaza 90

BEST DESSERT

  • 1st: Bacon Bourbon Caramel Cheesecake on a Stick – Big Fat Bacon – The Junction 506
  • 2nd: Lemon Cake Bar – FRIED WHAT!? – The Junction 302
  • 3rd: Caramel Apple Cowboy Churro on a Stick – Pioneer Wagon – Circle Drive 205
Brunch Pop by Corndog with no Name at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
Brunch Pop by Corndog with no Name at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Photo by Ryan Baker.

Some of the best dishes included The Barbalicious Float by the Candy Factory. It was a pleasant surprise, as the bubblegum soda topped with whipped cream, sprinkles and cotton candy sounded painfully sweet, but the soda had a citric quality that mostly balanced everything out. The Big Fat Bacon on a Stick the eponymous, savory treat by Big Fat Bacon, is the big winner. The gigantic, meaty cuts of skewered bacon drizzled with maple syrup is simple and a little messy, but delicious. 

Now, if you are hankering for an all-out, food coma-inducing overindulgence, Saltgrass Steakhouse is serving the Chili Mac Attack Potato, which comes topped with cheesy macaroni, chili, Fritos and more cheese.

I reckon this is a good time to thank all of the helpful and friendly volunteers that make the rodeo run — and it’s a perfect time for y’all to head over yonder and try all these great carnival foods. 

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