The 5 things you should really eat at the CNE

Forget bacon-wrapped grilled cheese. We’re saying goodbye to exaggerated, over-the-top carnival creations, in favour of the long-running classics. Here are 5 you can eat with a $20 bill in your pocket.

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Hot waffle ice cream sandwich. (Photo, Irene Ngo.)
Hot waffle ice cream sandwich. (Photo, Irene Ngo.)

From coast-to-coast, the end of summer is always punctuated by local carnivals or large exhibitions. And at large fairs like Vancouver’s PNE or Toronto’s CNE, you can be certain that each year will bring an outrageous new spectacle to thrill you. And no, we’re not talking about rides — we’re talking about food! From extreme burgers to bacon-wrapped grilled cheese, these “must try” foods beckon thousands of eating daredevils to the fairground each year.

Now, we don’t know about you, but we’re at that point where heart attack-inducing foods with hefty price-tags just don’t appeal to us whatsoever. Call us sentimental, but we miss those good old days where the line-ups were for deep-fried funnel cakes; not for deep-fried butter. So with a few toonies in our pockets (and our stomach’s dignity intact), we set out on a mission to the CNE to find out which classic fair foods were still kicking around, and whether we could still have an epic feast for under $20.

5 foods under $20

Hot ice cream waffle sandwich, $3.75
This year, the CNE is celebrating the 75th birthday of this breakfast-dessert hybrid. This no frills ice cream sandwich (not a strip of bacon in sight) has not only stood the test of time, but also continues to be an iconic food tradition at the Ex.

Make your own at home: Homemade waffles + 3-ingredient vanilla ice cream.

Grilled corn at the CNE
Roasted corn. (Photo, Irene Ngo.)

Roasted corn, $4.50
A carnival classic, grilled corn is a late-summer gem that’s not to be missed. Dipped in butter and served with a husk-covered handle, this is a great grab and go snack. Just season it with your choice of salt, pepper or cajun seasoning and head off to explore the grounds.

Make your own at home: Gourmet grilled corn.

99 cent spaghetti
CNE’s 99-cent spaghetti. (Photo, Irene Ngo.)

99-cent spaghetti
Not your average cup of noodles. Another longstanding CNE dish, you can twirl your fork into this simple, saucy pasta (with parmesan) for just a loonie.

Make your own at home: Pasta pomodoro.

CNE's Tiny Tom icing sugar donuts.
CNE’s Tiny Tom icing sugar donuts. (Photo, Irene Ngo.)

Tiny Tom Donuts, $5.50/dozen
Who can say no to a bag of warm miniature doughnuts? Standing in line is no chore, either — you can watch them run through the production process as they travel into the fryer and onward. Pick your choice of toppings, from icing sugar (our favourite), to cinnamon-sugar, apple-cinnamon, and chocolate.

Make your own at home: Baked mini-doughnuts.

CNE Lemonade stand
CNE Lemonade stand. (Photo, Irene Ngo.)

Lemonade, $5
To wash it all down is the perennial summer classic — fresh-squeezed lemonade. Sweet-tart and incredibly refreshing, this drink can be found at stands all over the fairgrounds.

Make your own at home: Classic lemonade.

Total spent: $19.74!

Heading to the CNE? Here are more fair favourites to try:
Funnel cake sundae, $13.
Cotton candy, $6.
BeaverTails, $5.50. (Try this one at home with our version.)
Corn dog, $5.
Snow cone, $4. (Try our make-at-home recipe.)
Popcorn, $5. (Try our fairground kettle corn recipe.)
Slushie, $4.

For even more edible delights at the CNE, visit on Aug 28-30 for the Food Truck Frenzy and Craft Beer Fest.