Fair-minded: These local joints combine food with fun

We missed out on festival treats in 2020, so we found them at local eateries

Thanks to the coronavirus crisis, most Ohioans missed out on the smells and sights of summer and fall carnivals.

Whether it was the cancellation of the Ohio State Fair during the heat of the summer, or the absence of local gatherings in the crisp fall air, our family found we missed being around other people, and we truly missed festival food.

So we did the next best thing: We sought out places that offer fair food year around in central Ohio, hoping these sweet comfort foods could help get us through a rough-and-tumble year. Here’s what we found:

Libby Lou’s Fun Factory: Cotton candy

Fair-minded: These local joints combine food with fun

Our 11-year-old, Max, was elated to learn a new candy store opened this year within walking distance of our Clintonville home. But it took the cake when he learned that Libby Lou’s also offered fresh-spun cotton candy every day. No longer would he have to wait until fair season to eat warm, fluffy clouds of sugar.

Kilwins: Carmel apples

Fair-minded: These local joints combine food with fun

Sure, you’ll find delicious ice cream and handmade chocolates at this sweet shop chain located in Dublin’s new Bridge Park development. But take it from us: Go for the caramel apples. You’ll find a tempting selection of the sticky, juicy treats displayed with pride in a showcase on the counter. For a limited time, you’ll find them decked out for the holidays.

Al’s Delicious Popcorn: Sweet and savory popcorn

Al Voelkel founded this Columbus hidden gem in 1985, tucked away in the Bethel Center strip mall on Bethel Road. Jan and Scott Baird own it now, and they make – from scratch – more than 80 flavors of crunchy popcorn in a variety of colors. The most-popular flavor, Jan tells us, is Vanilla Butternut. You also can find flavors ranging from Banana to Dill Pickle to Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup. Try the Columbus Mix, a combination of Vanilla Butternut and White Cheddar. They ship everywhere, and they’ve opened a second retail location in Hilliard.

Spicy Cup Bakery: Churros

Fair-minded: These local joints combine food with fun

If you’ve never bit into a properly made churro, crunchy yet soft, tasty cinnamon sprinkled on the outside, then head to Spicy Cup Café & Bakery in Columbus. This authentic Mexican bakery in the Beechcroft Centre, along Rt. 161, does it right. They also prepare other pastries and breads, including conchas and bolillos, freshly each day.

OH Pizza & Wings: Deep-fried Oreos

Fair-minded: These local joints combine food with fun

We admit the curiosity got the better of us when we saw an ad for deep-fried Oreos from a local pizza joint. So we visited OH Pizza & Wings in Worthington, and discovered more fun food. In addition to the Oreo (which was really good, by the way), OH offers funnel cakes, cinnamon-sugar pretzels, deep-fried brownie bites and deep-fried Reese’s Cups. Oh, and the pizza was good, too.