The coronavirus pandemic has led to a lot of closures and cancellations and one that hurts the most for North Texas is the cancellation of the State Fair.

It’s the one time of the year when it’s not just acceptable to eat the kind of food sold at the annual fair — it’s normal to eat deep fried dessert treats and various meats on a stick.

There is, however, a way to enjoy these carb-laden treats during state fair season. Norma’s Cafe announced some new additions to its menu for all five of its restaurant locations in Dallas County and Plano as part of a fundraising drive to raise donations and recruit volunteers for local charities and people in need.

“Texans may not be able to ride the Ferris wheel or hear Big Tex say ‘Howdy Folks’ this year but that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy a taste of their favorite Fair Park treats,” says Norma’s Cafe owner Ed Murph. “We are excited to cook up these special menu items and help raise funds for local organizations that will be affected by the State Fair’s unfortunate cancellation.”

The cafes’ new menu includes state fair-inspired entrees such as mini and regular-sized corn dogs, funnel cake fries, chili cheese tater tots, and Breakfast Tots, a pile of tater tots covered in sausage, bacon, cheddar cheese, gravy and two fried eggs. There are also two new dessert items on the menu, including the classic funnel cake that can be topped with whipped cream, chocolate or strawberries, and a deep fried Oreo churro.

The new state fair-inspired items will be sold in August and September and possibly longer.

Katy Anderson, the marketing director for Norma’s Cafe, says the restaurant chain conducted surveys online from their customers and consulted with their cooks to come up with state fair items they could make quick in the kitchen.

“There was lots of taste testing involved,” Anderson says. “I gained about 10 pounds but it was well worth it.”

The other loss from the fair’s cancellation is the opportunity to help raise funds, volunteers, and awareness for special non-profit groups and educational ventures. Norma’s Cafe is helping to replace those losses as well.

The new menu items are also part of a promotional donation and volunteer drive for groups like the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and the Big Tex Youth Livestock Auction and Scholarship Program, the latter of which has been sponsored by Norma’s Cafe for the last four years. Guests can make donations and find out how to volunteer their time to help these valuable non-profit ventures. Customers can also donate school and sanitation supplies, which will be given to local families in need.

“We obviously were just as disappointed when they cancelled the fair, but we understand it’s so everyone could stay safe in the Dallas area,” Anderson says. “We’re just trying to fill that void.”

Danny Gallagher

Danny Gallagher is a writer based in Dallas. His stories and features have appeared in and on CNET, Cracked, MTV Online, Mandatory.com, Retro Gamer, Esquire and The Dallas Observer.