Every fair and festival has tasty bites, but the treats at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair really nail the comfort food-fair food intersection. Likely this is because the Royal is not only a great event to attend and watch, but also an extra-large, full-scale agricultural fair with lots of people travelling across the country with their livestock and working, tending, and competing. Meaning the food has to be good, readily available and hearty.
Every year, I enjoy the range of options from high-end fine dining to poutine-to-go with plenty of sampling in between.
The food I keep going back for is the comfort food.
The 5 Best Treats at the Royal
One of the things I start craving when I think of the Royal is the Apple Dumplings. OMG Apple Dumplings! They are made fresh onsite, peeled cored and spiralized. Then stuffed full of sugar and cinnamon goodness, wrapped in pastry and baked in huge batches. Because there are huge lineups, you have to hit this early if you want to avoid the crowd.
Then when you are at the front of the line they ask what you want WITH IT! Seriously!!! A big scoop of vanilla ice cream, a drizzle of caramel sauce, or BOTH.
This is a huge indulgence, and great if you share especially if you get the ice cream since 1. It will melt quickly on the fresh from the oven dumpling, and 2. It’s challenging to finish and there are other treats to be had. Find How’s Hot Apple Dumplings in with the vendors at the Royal, all along one end of a row, across from the Ontario Toyota Dealers (which is on the map). They are right beside another favourite treat at the Royal, the equally crave-worthy Cinnamon Rolls, which are also made by How’s.
You know I love cinnamon, and cinnamon rolls really are one of the best ways to deliver that sweet, spicy, earthy flavour to my eagerly awaiting palate. They are made onsite in front of the long line up. With sheets of fluffy dough being thickly coated in the cinnamon sugar butter spread before being rolled up and sliced into spirals of flavour. After one more rise, they hit the ovens and come out piping hot. Drizzle on icing and devour.
Find them in with the vendors, across from the Ontario Toyota Dealers (which is on the map), right beside another treat at the Royal How’s Hot Apple Dumplings.
How can you go wrong with crispy potatoes served with a big dollop of sour cream? If you haven’t had rosti – it’s a surprisingly simple dish for being such a great meal. Grated potato cooked in a big, hot, cast iron pan pushed down and formed into a big pancake (but not a potato pancake – a rosti). Some places add a little grated onion to the mix but plain is outstanding. It’s served with options – sour cream as I mentioned but also smoked salmon. Mainly that’s it. So tasty.
Find them at the entrance to the Food Court Area beside the Ring of Excellence, in the south-east side of the Royal (beside the lamb pie place).
Big Breakfast Sandwich
This is a new one for me. We only found it last year, but wow. So much bacon squeezed in a bun. It’s like the ultimate peameal bacon sandwich. And since Peameal sandwiches are Toronto’s hallmark dish, this is essentially the ultimate Hogtown delight.
But so big I found it a little hard to finish for breakfast. (Seriously)
It’s enough food to take you through the whole day. (if you weren’t at a fair and wanting to snack on all the goodies.)
I don’t think they serve them all day (or didn’t last year) so again, it’s one of the treats at the Royal to get early. And they are available super early for exhibitors too.
Find them at Bacon Nation in the Food Court Area in the south-east side of the Royal.
The Royal is heavy with meat options, many of which you won’t find at most events and shows. There is bison, venison, beef, pork and lamb. There are pies and sausages, burgers and jerky.
However, when I see lamb, I get lamb! It’s rare to find a place where you can get it as food. And at good prices. Add to that, I’m a big fan of meat pie, so the first time I saw this, I ordered it and I go back for at least one every year at the Royal.
I usually have one for dinner at least once per Royal (usually more). I shake my head that they aren’t on social media and don’t like me taking photos. But that, my friends, is their prerogative.
The lamb pies are sold by the same vendor selling perogie and cabbage rolls, Though they generally have separate lines, which makes it even better because the lamb line is usually shorter. Sometimes I get my lamb pie with a side of perogie, because why wouldn’t you?!?
Find in the Food Court Area in the south-east side of the Royal (beside the Rosti place).
Here’s my biggest challenge: every year as I start planning my time at the Royal I have to debate which treats at the Royal I will consume first on my first day.