The State Fair of Texas has long been known for its mouthwatering, iconic and sometimes outlandish foods. From traditional corny dogs and funnel cakes to giant turkey legs and fried butter, there is something to appeal for every appetite at the fair. Many Texans attend the fair religiously every fall for a taste of the good stuff, requiring State Fair food vendors to be incredibly creative and innovative with their dishes. Not only must the dishes be extremely tasty, they must also be as close to portable and finger-food friendly as possible. Adding to traditional favorites, this push for innovative new fair food offerings has led to the creation of new classics, such as the fried taco cone, the fried chicken fettuccine alfredo ball and deep-fried Bayou fruit bites. Yet I dare you to find a better combination than a traditional corn dog, funnel cake and fresh squeezed lemonade. The State Fair of Texas is a Dallas institution for good reason.
But then COVID-19 happened and in July, after careful consideration by its Board of Directors, the 2020 State Fair of Texas was cancelled due to concerns related to COVID-19 and the feasibility of keeping fair attendees, workers and vendors at such a large, multi-week event safe and healthy. While the motives and reasons for cancelling are compelling and understandable, the collective outcry of the masses began immediately after news of the official cancellation hit social media – “But where will we get our corn dogs, funnel cakes and turkey legs now!?”
Upon hearing this outcry for fair favorites, several fair vendors and local restaurants used their innovation chops to create new kinds of fair experiences: in-restaurant specialty menus featuring fair favorites and on-demand mobile fair food service. In other words, food trucks. Once such local business that made the switch to mobile fair food service is Havin’ a Ball, a local mobile food truck and catering service owned by Kim Whiting.
After owning a series of other successful independent businesses, Ms. Whiting opened her catering service, Havin’ a Ball, in October 2019. She acquired her distinctive blue food truck shortly thereafter in February 2019, just before COVID-19 became a global pandemic, forcing many businesses, especially those in the service and hospitality industries, to close their doors, either temporarily or permanently. When Ms. Whiting’s contracts for corporate meal catering and delivery to businesses like Toyota, Ritz-Carlton and Amazon began drying up due to COVID-19 restrictions, Ms. Whiting turned the less-than-ideal situation into an opportunity to help others and give back to the community. She partnered with the North Texas Food Bank and turned her food truck into a force for good. Havin’ a Ball began feeding 300 to 400 National Guard service members and first responders each week during the thick of the pandemic.
But as community needs changed again, Ms. Whiting used her marketing background to pivot Havin’ a Ball from community service and corporate events to an on-demand food truck service with customizable menus. These days, you can hire Havin’ a Ball for any private, corporate or neighborhood event. Havin’ a Ball’s event menus are completely customizable, depending on what you and your guests require. Currently, the State Fair of Texas theme menu is one of their most popular.
I recently attended the Havin’ a Ball food truck pop-up at 3 Nations Brewery in Carrollton and had the opportunity to speak with Ms. Whiting about the business. She said that with fall quickly approaching, Havin’ a Ball’s State Fair of Texas menu is in high demand. From the truck, Ms. Whiting and her team offer all kinds of fair fare: savory corn dogs and tater tots, loaded Frito pie, bacon-wrapped corn, cinnamon sugar churros, fried Oreos and more. At the 3 Nations pop-up, I was very impressed with the food and Havin’ a Ball’s operation. The corn dog is a very tasty approximation of a state fair midway corn dog; slather on some mustard or ketchup and you’ve got a great dog! The tater tots were a nice compliment to the corn dog, turning this finger food bonanza into a nostalgic and satisfying fair-themed dinner. But the churro – let me preface this by saying that churros are a little out of my wheelhouse. I’ve tried several in my time but have never been all that impressed, until now! The Havin’ a Ball caramel-filled sugar cinnamon churro was a sweet delight.
To top off the experience, Havin’ a Ball’s fair food is served up in the traditional, no-muss-no-fuss fair style of disposable, checkered food trays with ketchup and mustard packets and an ice-cold soda on the side. Not only was the fair food outstanding, the service was as well. Ms. Whiting says Havin’ a Ball’s goal is to serve each guest within 30 seconds of them placing their order and they nail it. There’s no waiting around at Havin’ a Ball. At the 3 Nations pop-up event, an adult meal with entrée and side or dessert cost $15, while a kid’s meal ran $8. Additional sides and desserts were priced between $7 and $10. Additionally, in a time when cleanliness is of the essence, the Havin’ a Ball food truck runs a clean operation, with sanitized ordering and food pick-up surfaces and all team members wearing face masks.
If you’re not looking for an event but still want good food without having to cook it yourself, Havin’ a Ball is also your go-to for healthy meal deliveries. An expert in the art of pivoting, Ms. Whiting has begun offering home meal delivery service in addition to food truck pop-ups and events. Havin’ a Ball’s meal delivery service offers a variety of food choices each week, from the family-style comfort foods you crave, to gluten-free, low-carb, keto and vegetarian meal options.
Some home delivery dishes in the gluten-free, low-carb and keto categories include grilled Caribbean jerk chicken breast with garlic and herb tossed green beans, shrimp scampi with sliced garlic lemon zucchini and enchilada marinated baked chicken breast with grilled squash. Family-style comfort foods are always on the menu as well. Options include creamy gnocchi with crispy bacon, green peas, and shaved parmesan and ground turkey meatloaf with Dijonaise sauce. Side item options include roasted beet, English cucumber and red onion salad with raspberry vinaigrette; roasted garlic broccoli with quartered button mushrooms; cinnamon dusted sweet potato wedges, among many others. Desserts range from fruit cobblers and apple pie to New York style cheesecake with homemade blueberry compote.
These refrigerated meals are delivered right to your door each week, ready to heat and eat or to save in the refrigerator for a few days. Prices vary depending on which meals and how many portions you choose. For individual meals, the Triple Threat with three gluten-free, low-carb, keto meal combos is $31.50; the Pick Six (six meal combos) is $57; and the Twelve Pack (twelve meal combos) is $102. The family-style meals, which include entrée, side and dessert, run $51 for 2-3 servings and $69 for 4-5 servings.
Overall, I was very pleased with the food I received, the cleanliness of the truck and all the additional food items that I could purchase for my family. Even though the State Fair of Texas is not running like usual this year, my tastebuds are grateful for the delicious corny dog that satiated my fair food craving.
Find Havin’ a Ball on Facebook @havinaballfunfood or visit www.havinaball.com for food truck events, monthly theme updates and weekly home meal delivery menus and ordering.
Amy Kryzak is a wife, mom and blogger who loves connecting fellow moms, food in all shapes and forms and loves all things Frisco.