The West Side Nut Club hosts its 91st annual Fall Festival all this week on Franklin Street. While there is a ridiculous variety of food to choose from, there are five items I have to have each and every year.

Between the wacky choices of chocolate covered bugs, Grippachos (nachos made using barbecue Grippos in place of traditional tortilla chips), and deep fried — well, everything, I generally stick to more traditional "carnival fare" when it comes to my choices. Don't get me wrong, I'm willing to try almost anything, and I usually make a point to try at least one "new" thing each year ("Oreo Heroes" anyone?), but I have to have the following nuggets of artery-clogging euphoria or my Fall Festival week won't be complete.

flickr, IntangibleArts

1. Corndogs / Pronto Pups

In case you don't know, there is a difference between the two, and it's all in the batter. Corn dogs are dipped in a corn meal based batter, where pronto pup batter is more flour based, like pancake batter. I don't have a preference between the two, nor is there one particular booth on Franklin Street that I have to get them from. All I know is that regardless of which route I take, both hand-held delicacies offer the perfect balance of saltiness from the "meat" and sweetness from the batter. Add a little ketchup and mustard to bring a bit of tang to the party.

Bonus Tip: Hang around after the parade on Saturday evening and you'll more than likely find a few booths offering their dogs and pups on the cheap for the sole fact they don't want to pack them up and take them home.

Mozzarella Cheese Sticks
flickr, irrezolut

2. Mozzarella Cheese Sticks

The fact that I can get these anytime from the grocery store, or pretty much any restaurant in town anytime of the year is not lost on me. But, there is something about the cheese sticks at the Mater Dei Band Boosters booth that makes them a must-have for me. As you may or may not know, I am a Mater Dei grad (Class of '95, represent!), so the argument could be made that I have a bit of bias toward this particular booth, however I was never in the band, but did have a few friends that were, so that argument may not carry much weight.

Regardless of my reason, the real reason are these melt-in-your-mouth sticks of my favorite dairy product. I am fully aware these are probably frozen sticks that are simply thrown into a deep fryer, but they are the best frozen cheese sticks thrown into a deep fryer. They have a buttery flavor that I haven't found in other sticks.

For the longest time, the booth offered their ketchup, mustard, and marinara sauce in upside-down jugs fitted with a cap that featured an utter-like dispenser. Simply squeeze the rubber tube and squirt out as much or as little sauce as you want. I'm a big fan of sauces, so I would literally hose my sticks down. That was until last year when the jugs were gone. Apparently to many ne'er do-gooders would just walk by, give the tube a squirt, and make a mess of everything so they took them away. Now they give you a small cup of marinara with your order. Damn hooligans.

Brain Sandwich

3. Brain Sandwich

Three-quarters of my heritage is German. My mom's maiden name and her mom's maiden name are so German, you can't say them without sounding angry. My point being, there's a lot of German blood running through these veins which may explain my desire to wait in line for this west side staple. If you're turned off by the idea of eating pig brain, there's nothing I can say that will change your mind, but it won't stop me from explaining it.

The best way to describe it would be to say that it's like eating a deep fried sponge. The outside is salty and crisp while the inside has a creaminess to it. I know it sounds disgusting, but there's something about it that just works. Plus, there's a novelty to it that I think adds to its mystique.

Apple Cider
flickr, kthread

4. Cherry-Apple Cider

Please note that it says "cherry-apple". Sorry apple cider fans, nothing against you or your beverage choice, but cherry-apple is far superior. If there's anything more readily available at the Fall Festival outside of corn dogs, it's apple cider. It seems that nearly every booth has it. But not every booth has cherry-apple, which gives it the feel of a treasure hunt. Finders keepers and the reward couldn't be sweeter. It is also my understanding that cherry-apple mixes well with certain inebriating liquids. I'm not saying I've ever found out first hand, I'm just sayin'.

Cheesecake Slice
Not the exact slice of heaven, but pretty close. (flickr, stu_spivack)

5. Slice of Heaven

I. Love. Sweets. It doesn't matter how much I've eaten, or how gut-bustingly full I feel, I will always find room to cram some type of dessert in my gullet. The Slice of Heaven is exactly that. It is dessert perfected. It starts with a slice of cheesecake, which in itself is a great dessert, I mean it's cream cheese made into a cake, how can you go wrong? While I'd be perfectly content with a slice of cheesecake for dessert, the slice of heaven goes one step further by being completely covered in chocolate. No offense, but I'm like a woman when it comes to chocolate, especially dark chocolate. Jam a stick into it for easy portability an BAM! You have a dessert the good Lord would be proud of.

Of course there's so much to choose from at the Fall Festival, a week almost isn't enough time to try everything. But rest assured, I'm going to grab my munchie map and do my best. I may even find something to add to this list.

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