Essex Day offered some of the best food vendors in the region, but navigating the different sights, smells and tastes that the fair has to offer can be a tricky task.
Who serves the most tender pit beef sandwich? The most original crab dish, and the crispiest french fries? Let me guide you on your taste adventure around Essex Day.
My go-to meal at the many fairs my children and I attend throughout the year is the rare pit beef sandwich. A tradition born in Baltimore, pit beef is our region's answer to BBQ.
The top-round cut of beef is grilled, not smoked like Kansas City BBQ. The beef develops a dark char of bark on the outside but is juicy rare on the inside. Sliced paper-thin and heaped high on seeded rye bread – topped with horseradish and raw onions – it's heaven
The choice for pit beef at Essex Day has to be Big Al's Pit Beef of Rosedale.
“Our pit beef is fantastic,” said Jeff Swope, one of the pitmasters at Big Al's. “We slow roast it over open coals till it reaches the perfect temperature, slice it to order nice and thin and serve it on a kaiser roll.”
My pit beef sandwich came out medium rare, the perfectly cooked beef melted in my mouth in counterpoint to the crunch of the raw white onions. The horseradish added a kick at the end. It took me back to the fairs of my childhood.
“We do many different fairs and festivals throughout the summer,” said Swope, “but you can also get our beef at Longshots in Riverside and Boomers in Middle River.”
While looking for a side dish to go with my sandwich, I noticed Boardwalk Fries. Nothing comes as close to the Ocean City classic of Thrashers French Fries as Boardwalk Fries. Hand cut and cooked to crisp perfection in peanut oil, these crispy fries get covered in malt vinegar, not ketchup, and are devoured by the large, cardboard bucket full.
As I was searching for a refreshing snowball, I came across another Baltimore area tradition, Phillips Seafood.
Serving a unique twist on crab dip, the crab pretzel, a Philadelphia style soft pretzel spread with a mouthwatering blend of crab claw meat, cream cheese, hot sauce and seafood seasoning. A melted mixture of cheddar and monterey jack cheese tops this delectable concoction.
Essex Day offers many things to many people, but to me the food adventure tops it all.