Best And Worst Things To Eat At A Renaissance Festival

Renaissance faire food
Renaissance faire food - Static Media / Shutterstock / Getty Images

Besides the trinket fairies and inticate period costumes roaming around, the food is arguably the best part of a Renaissance faire. Compared to every other type of festival (except maybe the best food festivals in America), the food at ren faires is superior. You can pretty much follow your nose to find food that's made right in front of you. Save up some dough for your trip — you'll no doubt want to try as much as you can on your next visit, and this food can cost a pretty penny.

Despite your desire to try everything, your belly can only handle so much. That's why we've scoured Renaissance festivals (and fair-goers' opinions) for some of the best and worst food options found there. Find out which festival staples to load up on and which famous fair foods you might want to avoid.

Before planning your next ren faire to a tee, you should know that not all of them are created equal. Though many vendors do travel, every faire is going to be a little different, and your local festival may not have certain options available. Take this list with a grain of salt, and keep your fingers crossed that you can find some of the goodies listed here.

Read more: US Foods You Surprisingly Can't Find In Canada

Best: Anything On A Stick

Pork chop on a stick
Pork chop on a stick - hosieiv / Instagram

Fairs have mastered the art of putting meals on sticks, but the ren faire does it best. We're not talking about your run-of-the-mill corn dog here — after all, creativity is what ren faires are all about. Some options for snacks on sticks include fried mac and cheese, steak, cheesecake, and pork chops. These foods are already great by themselves, but loading them onto a stick gets their delicious scents right into your nose, upping the good-smell factor and takes them to a new level.

The legendary stick serves a couple functions. First, it transforms a sit-down meal into a handheld one. You've got a faire full of chain mail vendors and bard performers to explore, so food on a stick allows you to walk and eat at the same time. The stick also helps the hardworking vendors cook or prepare your food quickly. Flipping meat on a grill and dipping sweet treats in chocolate or toppings is made simple. The stick allows for efficient preparation and a clean handoff.

Cheesecake is instantly elevated when put on a stick because this allows for an even chocolate coating. Steak and pork chop on a stick are perhaps the greatest kinds of kabobs out there — there's something powerful and innately human about tearing into a hunk of meat with nothing but your teeth. Fried mac and cheese is a ren faire favorite as well, with the stick adding a touch of novelty.

Worst: Outside Food

Person stacking glass food containers
Person stacking glass food containers - Filadendron/Getty Images

If you don't eat strategically, the cost of ren faire food can really add up. Festival goers on a budget may try to cut costs by bringing their own food to the event, but for the most part, this is frowned upon. Not only is outside food typically prohibited at Renaissance festivals, it can also ruin the aesthetic.

Sure, ren faires aren't exactly authentic, but a lot of work goes into making costumes, designing sets, and hiring character actors to create an immersive experience. Is the vibe going to come crashing down if a backpack of grocery store snacks makes it through the gate? No, but the tension of a jousting match could certainly be cut by the crinkle of a Doritos bag.

There's a little wiggle room here if you have dietary restrictions. If you're allergic or sensitive to certain foods, you may want to pack something that you know you'll be able to eat. Vendors can't provide or guarantee a contaminant-free environment — though they're medieval in theme, ren faires generally try to avoid famine and the need for EpiPens. Those who eat kosher may encounter similar problems here. Vegans and vegetarians, however, should have plenty of options to choose from within the faire.

Best: Anything Pickle-Flavored

Woman holding fried pickles
Woman holding fried pickles - melissamn/Shutterstock

The culinary marvel of the pickle dates back to ancient times when Mesopotamians steeped their cukes in a vinegar-like substance. These days, a trip to the ren faire isn't truly complete unless you visit the pickle vendor. Usually armed with tongs and a bucket full of wares, the vendor slings the pickles whole — often with clever innuendos.

In addition to the cheeky pickle merchants, pickles' tangy dill flavor pops up in many places throughout the faire. Pickles on a stick are, of course, a solid choice; however, more adventurous options await those who are daring enough to try them. Dill-flavored fudge is one strange food combination that's actually delicious. Strawberry-infused pickles are also a thing, as are pickle chips. Really, anything that tickles your need for a pickle can be found in the labyrinth of a Renaissance faire.

Maybe it's the added experience of in-character vendors speaking suggestively over a hulking pickle, or maybe it's the apparent reverence for all things dill. Whatever it is, pickles just taste better at a ren faire.

Worst: Turkey Leg

Festival woman eating turkey leg
Festival woman eating turkey leg - Tristan Savatier/Getty Images

Wait, what? Are we really saying that people actually shouldn't be eating one of the most iconic fair foods in existence? Kind of, yes. If you want the novelty of eating a large hunk of meat by hand, go for it. Many festival goers, however, are majorly turned off by the overhyped, wildly popular turkey leg.

When asked about their favorite go-to ren faire food, some Reddit users circumvented the question altogether and noted the turkey leg as something to avoid. "Unpopular opinion....NOT the turkey leg," one user wrote. Considering its top-comment status and slew of upvotes, perhaps this isn't such an unpopular opinion after all. Other thread participants wrote that while they used to enjoy the iconic meal, the quality has seemingly dropped, and prices have gotten out of hand. Plus, there are all the tough tendons you're forced to eat around.

By all means, if you're going to your first Renaissance faire, feel free to tear into the hunk of meat. If you do it for the plot, we promise not to say, "We told you so," when you're left disappointed by a dry, overpriced meal. (Pro tip: A steak-on-a-stick vendor will give you a tasty and somewhat similar novelty meal that's packed with protein and actually tastes delicious.)

Best: Scotch Eggs

Scotch egg cut open
Scotch egg cut open - Gmvozd/Getty Images

Ever wish a full breakfast could fit in the palm of your hand? Enter the Scotch egg. It may look like a large ball of fried batter, but it's actually more like the breakfast version of a turducken. The Scotch egg starts with the soft-boiled egg at its center. The egg is then encompassed in sausage before it's coated in breadcrumbs and fried. As the sausage cooks around the egg, a truly magnificent meal is born. The Scotch egg is something like a Renaissance faire's Egg McMuffin, but somehow, it's even better.

What's so great about the Scotch egg is that, while each ingredient works by itself, they also all work together to elevate one another. Your first bite will be that of crispy sausage, and the outer layer of fried-breadcrumb goodness gives the sausage a new, superior texture. Your second bite will likely be both crispy and gooey, incorporating the slightly running egg yolk in the center. Before you know it, your Scotch egg will be gone. This ren faire favorite will leave you with a full belly — but you may still want more anyway.

Worst: Pizza

People taking slices of pizza
People taking slices of pizza - Pressmaster/Shutterstock

You're at ren faire — get with the times! There are plenty of pizza nights in your future, so opt for something that will make your time at the Renaissance festival more memorable. Avoid the modern-day pizza options and anything else that's taken out of a box in slices. If your heart is set on pizza, though, there are options that will allow you to immerse yourself in ren faire culture while satiating your appetite.

The faire will likely have a wood-fired pizza option, either in a stone or brick oven operated by a costumed vendor. This allows diners to keep it medieval, but the taste of a wood-fired pizza is arguably better than more quick-service options. When pizza is cooked in an oven by wood fire, it acquires a smokey taste and crispy texture. (This is likely why most people enjoy pizza that's cooked this way!) These pizzas can also be specific to the vendor, as dough recipes and techniques vary. All in all, these are artisan pizzas worthy of their Renaissance setting.

This is also a great, safe option if you've got kids in tow whose taste buds might not be very adventurous. A lot of kids may feel more comfortable eating a large slice from a Papa John's box; however, Renaissance festivals offer plenty of other options if you want to branch out and try new things.

Best: Cowboy Cocktails

Barbecue sundaes with pickles
Barbecue sundaes with pickles - grillin.good.eats / Instagram

Everyone knows festivals like to put everything on a stick, but they're pretty great at utilizing the plastic cup, too. Cowboy cocktails, also known as barbecue sundaes, remind us of that trifle that Rachel made in "Friends" — except these are actually pretty good. Baked beans, pulled pork (or any other barbecued meat), coleslaw, and mashed potatoes are layered in a plastic cup to create this savory dish. Other toppings, like fried onions or shredded cheese, can also be found layered in the stacked version of the barbecue platter. The mingling tastes and textures are a bit of a flavor bomb, but they work well together.

This concoction is the enemy of the compartmentalized paper plate, so those who need their food separated might want to steer clear of this sloppy meal. Everyone else who loves barbecue, though, will love its taste and simplicity. If you've ever tried to balance a full barbecue platter and literally anything else, you can imagine how doing so one-handed would be a breath of fresh air.

Worst: Traditional Fair Food

Fair patrons with cotton candy
Fair patrons with cotton candy - Nikola Stojadinovic/Getty Images

There are plenty of quality food options to choose from at a Renaissance faire, from meat that's cooked right in front of you to traditional cultural dishes. Among these offerings, though, is your typical carnival food, and you should steer clear. Why eat an elephant ear when there's a freshly baked popover two vendors down?

Instead of the (admittedly pretty great) lemonade you'll find at any other fair or festival, try out lavender lemonade for a taste of something different. Instead of a snow cone, grab a pineapple Dole Whip, served in a real, carved-out pineapple. Ditch the funnel cake for a chimney cake, or any other freshly baked goods found throughout the many vendor stalls.

While you likely won't be able to avoid high-calorie foods that may result in an afternoon crash, Renaissance festival food is typically of higher quality that what you might find at your local county fair. Take advantage of the vendors who make the food in front of you, and let your nose lead you!

Best: Cultural Food

Person making traditional chimney cake
Person making traditional chimney cake - Salvador-aznar/Getty Images

One of the reasons the food at the Renaissance festival is such a big deal is that there are more cultural options than at your run-of-the-mill fair. In fact, a ren faire is kind of like a heritage festival in that way — it not only transports you back in time, but also through space. From Greek meatballs to Thai curry, exploring your local ren faire's many food vendors is like taking a trip around the world.

We've picked out some favorites that will make your taste buds sing while you stroll around your local festival. Want to start with dessert? Chimney cakes are an artisan sweet treat hailing from Hungarian culture. Created by wrapping dough around hot metal cylinders to cook, chimney cakes are a barbecued street food, kind of like a churro-donut hybrid in the shape of a cup. The handheld dessert tube is then filled with ice cream or other sweet treats.

The savory side of the Renaissance faire is vast: Grabbing a taco from one of the Mexican food booths would make for a great snack; you could also order Baba Ganoush for your whole group to share; gyros, shawarma, or a falafel are also good contenders for your main meal. Wash them down with Thai boba tea, and your taste buds will have journeyed across the world in a day.

Worst: Caramel Or Candy Apples

Candied apples with sprinkles
Candied apples with sprinkles - Margouillatphotos/Getty Images

We've raved about snacks on a stick, but there's one major exception to this rule: candy or caramel apples. The popular festival sweet has stood the test of time, but it should really come with a warning. Ren faire patrons will have sticky Viking beards and fairy locks until they make it back to the modern world. This inevitable mess is the least of your concerns, though, as candied apples left out at room temperature have been linked to listeria, according to the University of Minnesota Extension.

In addition to these concerns, dentists and orthodontists vehemently condemn candied or caramel apples. Fortunately, there is one tasty solution to the caramel and candy apple health hazard dilemma. Apple slices with a trio of dips — like Nutella, caramel, and chocolate, for example — are regularly served at Renaissance faires. As these are much more likely to be served fresh, the risk is greatly decreased. The apple slices and sweet dips are easier on your teeth, as well — just remember to brush thoroughly when you get home!

Best: Bread Bowls

Bread bowl with beef stew
Bread bowl with beef stew - Benedek/Getty Images

Soups and stews are perfect for the festival goer who likes to live authentically in the medieval times, as both stew and bread were diet staples for most people during the Renaissance period (as well as most times throughout history). Stew can be created from anything the cook may have on hand, which made it an obvious choice for those with few options, as well as those with varied tastes. Bread was also a way for the poor to fill their bellies frugally. Combining the two food items into a bread bowl is a genius way to pay homage to the staples of our past while having a yummy ren faire meal.

This meal is also incredibly popular. There's something almost magical about eating a bread bowl at the Renaissance festival, even if the temperatures outside are scorching. Festival goers rave about the bread bowl, and it doesn't really seem to matter which soup is inside. Whether they're talking about broccoli and cheddar, chili, or chicken wild rice, the bread bowl reigns supreme.

Honorable Mention: Beer, Mead, And Tea

Bartender serving at Renaissance faire
Bartender serving at Renaissance faire - Polina MB/Shutterstock

The food scene at most Renaissance festivals is vast, especially when paired with the many beverage options available. One item that usually steals the show, though, is the beer. Beer and mead wenches are one attraction that some can't miss out on. These vendors who fill tankards slip in not-so-subtle innuendos, sometimes while pouring mead directly into patrons' mouths.

Tea also has quite a sub-culture at ren faires, with whole tea rooms at some gatherings. These areas are great for relaxing and cooling off in between festival events. They offer a range of hot and iced teas, bubble teas, and usually a few flavored frozen drinks and lemonades. You can also snag tea sandwiches, crumpets, and scones at these establishments for a real pinky-up experience.

A middle ground for those who like both beer and fruity drinks is cider. Ren faires usually have some intriguing cider flavors on offer, from various fruits to chipotle peppers. For the alcohol-free patrons, apple and other virgin fruit ciders will likely also be available.

Read the original article on Mashed.