The Underrated Fair Food Andrew Zimmern Loves

When it comes to carnival food, it sometimes seems like sweet things get all the love: funnel cakes, cotton candy, snow cones and shaved ice, kettle corn, deep-fried candy bars...These are the things children's county fair dreams are made of. 

Understandably, the saltier types looking for savory eats may feel like there aren't many options for them. Not so — they just need to know where to look. There are the ubiquitous turkey legs, corn dogs, and cheese curds, of course, but the greatest treasures are oftentimes hyper-local items that appear at specific county or state fairs and nowhere else. Perhaps that's why New York-born, Minnesota-based Andrew Zimmern adores one state fair delight that many others miss. It's a hearty sandwich that was so popular at the Iowa State Fair that it came over to the Land of 10,000 Lakes, much to the "Bizzare Foods" star's excitement. What is this creation, so good that Zimmern refers to it as a "meat torpedo of delight?" It's called the Gizmo.

A meaty, cheese-covered masterpiece

According to Carla Wood, the current owner Carl's Gizmo Sandwiches, the Gizmo was invented in 1973 by her father, Carl Cardamon. It proved popular enough among fairgoers in her home state of Iowa that she figured new business would be worth crossing over into Minnesota as well. That's what brought this Italian sub (or grinder or hoagie, depending on who you ask) to Zimmern's attention. He likes it so much that he shared a video about it on YouTube.

What's in the official Gizmo recipe? It's seasoned ground beef and Italian sausage, doused in the inventing family's secret red sauce, blanketed with mozzarella, and baked until melted. And of course, the entire package is piled on to an Italian submarine roll, because how else could it be considered a torpedo? Zimmern is quite the Gizmo aficionado, but he's not alone. Other state fairgoers interviewed in his video echo his enthusiasm for the saucy, cheesy sub. One Minnesotan referred to it as "the first thing and maybe the last thing I get when I'm at the fair." A couple agreed, "The Gizmo's the best. Carla does it right."

The Gizmo may not considered the best state fair food in Iowa or Minnesota by everybody, but there's always next year — especially if somebody gets Zimmern a seat on the judging panel.