People who know me are all too aware of my longstanding culinary obsession with the annual Main Street Fort Worth Arts Festival. It’s more than just the fact that so many of the foods served up there inspire fond memories of the street fairs and block parties with which I grew up in New York.

It’s that so much of the food at Main Street Fort Worth Arts Festival is so good – a welcome reminder that you don’t need to spend $40 a plate to have a distinct dining experience in Fort Worth.

In my more ambitious years, I would actually visit the four-day festival every day, and usually ended up eating six or seven meals there over the course of the weekend. These days, I usually visit just a few times – fair food may be delicious, but my cholesterol can only take so many spikes.

This year’s festival begins at 10 a.m.. on Thursday (did someone say “late breakfast?”) and continues through Sunday at 8 p.m. (dessert!). Here are my picks for dishes that no arts festival weekend is complete without, based on the last thirteen years of festival food experience:

tamales served at Main Street Arts Festival by Reata Restaurant1. The Bahama Mama, from the stupendous Schmidt’s in Columbus Ohio, is for me an annual renewal of my faith in humanity – a plump, spicy bratwurst much too large for its bun, which I slather in Gulden’s spicy brown mustard and top with sauerkraut. Make it a meal for a few extra coupons, and you can enjoy a side of Schmidt’s marvelously tangy potato salad. (The giant cream puff ain't too shabby, either, but it should not be approached on an even half-full stomach.)  

2. Tenderloin Tamales, from Reata. Who says festival food can’t be sophisticated? Tucked into steaming corn husks and topped with a nicely piquant pecan sauce, these beauties can be found on the regular Reata dinner menu – but they taste even better when you can enjoy live music and people watching at the same time. 

3. Smoked Turkey Legs. Yes, you will look like a cannibal while chowing down on one of these greasy, gristly wonders; and, indeed, I can speak from personal experience that it will send your blood pressure about 20 points higher. You can thank me later.

4. Funnel Cakes. Fried dough + powder sugar =  the perfect capper to any evening spent at the festival. That said, my advice is to get in line before the nightly funnel cake rush commences, usually around 7 p.m. (And, no, I'm not making that up. One year I spent forty minutes in line.) 

Of course, if none of these options appeal to you, there are plenty more vendors to choose from, including Texas Skillet (the grilled steak sandwich gets my vote); Fletcher’s (corny dog!), and many others. Most of these venues surround either the Sundance Square stage or the Bank of Texas Stage. You can check out a festival map here.

Finally, you can wash all of this down with a white wine margarita, or this year you can visit the Craft Brew Pavilion hosted by Flying Saucer, which will feature a half-dozens beers on draught.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go purchase some coupons.

There's plenty of food to eat at Main Streets Arts Fort Worth Festival