The annual West Side Nut Club is back 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 (SPOILER: One of them shows up on this list), but I have to have the following nuggets of artery-clogging euphoria or my Fall Festival week won't be complete.

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. While I will gladly eat both, I tend to lean more toward the pronto pup because of the sweeter taste of the batter which blends perfectly with the saltiness from the hot dog. Add a little ketchup and mustard for a bit of tang, and you've got one heck of party happening in your mouth.

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.

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, they are the best (I assume) frozen cheese sticks thrown into a deep fryer. They have a buttery flavor that I haven't found in other sticks. Plus, the booth has several squeeze bottles of marinara sauce for you to use, and use them I do!

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.

4. Cherry-Apple Cider

Please note that it says "cherry-apple". No disrespect regular 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 adult liquids. I'm not saying I've ever found out first hand, I'm just sayin'.

5. The Donut Burger

It took me a little while to warm up to the idea of this, and truth be told, I was still a little leery of it from the moment I decided to step up to the booth and order it, to the time it touched my tongue. Since it's on this list, I'll assume you figured out that I enjoyed it. Quite a bit. Like the pronto pup, there is something about the sweetness of the glazed donut and the savoriness of the beef patty that just works. Plus, they serve it with the donut cut in half and outside in so the sticky part is touching both sides of the patty, and not getting all over your hands. Booth 41, where this concoction is sold does provide ketchup and mustard as options, but the thought of ketchup and mustard on a glazed donut did not sound appealing to me. Of course the idea of a hamburger with a glazed donut as a bun didn't either at first, so maybe I'll need to try it that way this year.

Obviously there's a ton to choose from at the Fall Festival, and a week almost isn't enough time to try everything. What are some of your must-haves when you hit up Franklin Street? Let me know in box below. I'm always looking to try something new. Who knows, maybe your favorite will become one of mine.

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