The Big E's foods of 2022 include waffles, espresso martinis and vegan burgers

Photo of Leeanne Griffin

The Big E has always been a prime destination for caloric fair food. After all, its vendors have successfully deep-fried butter, Kool-Aid, pop tarts and even a martini

And while you can still down fried dough to your heart's delight (or dismay), the offerings at New England's largest fair have shifted a bit for 2022, welcoming some new vendors serving up multicultural cuisines and others with plant-based menus, offering vegetarian and vegan options.

"We've heard from a lot of people who love to come to the Big E and would like to have more vegan options and healthier [choices], as well as some of the ethnic foods we're known for here in greater Springfield — and all over New England," said Noreen Tassinari, Eastern States Exposition’s director of marketing. 

Allison Vaughan of Soulfully Vegan, which serves vegan burgers, hot dogs and fries. 

Allison Vaughan of Soulfully Vegan, which serves vegan burgers, hot dogs and fries. 

Several of those vendors showcased their menus at an Aug. 25 media preview to debut this year's new food options, among them Allison and Calvin Vaughan of Soulfully Vegan. The Middletown couple launched their vegan food truck last year, serving up plant-based burgers, hot dogs and loaded fries, and they'll be exhibiting at the Big E for the first time this year.

Allison Vaughan said she reached out to fair organizers once she noticed there wasn't a vegan vendor, and was thrilled to get a response. The truck will be parked at the Front Porch, a new site inside Gate 5. 

On Thursday, the Vaughans served up samples of their signature burgers: a spicy peanut butter and jelly burger with jalapeños, and a Soul Burger with jerk sauce and plantains.

"About 80 percent of our clientele isn't vegan," Allison Vaughan said. "They just want a good burger. That's what we pride ourselves on. It's not a vegan burger, per se, it's just a burger."

Roasted sweet potatoes with cranberry orange compote and chopped pecans from Sassy's Sweet Potatoes, at the Big E media preview Aug. 25. 

Roasted sweet potatoes with cranberry orange compote and chopped pecans from Sassy's Sweet Potatoes, at the Big E media preview Aug. 25. 

Leeanne Griffin / Hearst Connecticut Media

Sassy's Catering of Thorndike, Mass., which will be set up on East Road, is focusing on loaded baked sweet potatoes in both savory and sweet preparations, with toppings like cranberry orange compote and pecans, baked beans, vegetarian chili and even pineapple guava relish with coconut flakes. Owner Mary Beth Caldwell had her niece in mind, a stage four cancer survivor, when she prepared her healthier menu items.

"You have to have a balance," she said. "A person who has dietary concerns shouldn't be afraid to go to something like this because there's nothing for them to eat."

Arroz con gandules and pernil from Las Kangris at the Big E media preview, Aug. 25, 2022

Arroz con gandules and pernil from Las Kangris at the Big E media preview, Aug. 25, 2022

Leeanne Griffin / Hearst Connecticut Media

The fair also welcomes new vendors with multicultural menus: Las Kangris, a Latin food truck based in Springfield, which served arroz con gandules and pernil Thursday; Cha Feo, serving Asian boba and milk teas and BoardWok Noodles, with rice bowls and yakisoba noodles. Villa of Lebanon, based in South Windsor, will serve Lebanese and Greek fare like baba ganoush, baklava, falafel, hummus, meat and spinach pies and tabouli.

Las Kangris, Cha Feo and Villa of Lebanon will be in the Young Building, while BoardWok will be at the Front Porch.

Here's a preview of what you'll find at the fair, running Sept. 16 to Oct. 2.

A maple vanilla shake with waffle and chicken garnishes from The Place 2 Be, at the Big E media preview Aug. 25. 

A maple vanilla shake with waffle and chicken garnishes from The Place 2 Be, at the Big E media preview Aug. 25. 

Leeanne Griffin / Hearst Connecticut Media

The Place 2 Be, located at The Front Porch: No stranger to Connecticut diners, Gina Luari's brunch restaurant expanded to Springfield in June and will be on site at the fair for the first time with its food truck. The truck will serve breakfast all day: mini fruity pebble/berries and cream pancakes, mini Nutella and coconut pancakes and milkshakes topped with waffles and pancakes. 

The Big E Bakery, known for the fair's signature cream puffs, has introduced a chocolate-flavored cream filling as this year's special flavor. Last year's was pumpkin. 

"Each year we're going to rotate a different flavor," said vendor EJ Dean. "And so this year just knowing how popular chocolate is by nature, we want to add that." The chocolate cream puff coated with chocolate ganache is referred to as the "chocoholic," he said. 

Chocolate ganache-coated chocolate cream puffs from The Big E Bakery

Chocolate ganache-coated chocolate cream puffs from The Big E Bakery

Leeanne Griffin / Hearst Connecticut Media

Find the cream puffs and eclairs at three locations: The New England Center, Gate 9A and Avenue ShowPlace. 

V-One Vodka recently released a double espresso vodka, and will showcase that in various cocktails and martinis. The Hadley-based spirits company offers vodkas in other flavors like triple berry, cucumber, grapefruit, lime and peppermint.

The Harpoon Beer Hall on New England Avenue is going all in on soft pretzels, with toppings like mozzarella and pepperoni, everything bagel seasoning and mozzarella with bacon and pickles. Triple-decker grilled cheese sandwiches have fillings like jalapenos and bacon, caramelized onions and Cool Ranch Doritos. 

Loaded pretzels from the Harpoon Beer Hall at the Big E media preview, Aug. 25, 2022

Loaded pretzels from the Harpoon Beer Hall at the Big E media preview, Aug. 25, 2022

Leeanne Griffin / Hearst Connecticut Media

Bakery on Brewer, also on New England Avenue, will feature a variety of fritters like apple, apple bacon, blueberry and pumpkin.

Chompers, a Connecticut-based food truck featuring "crunchy balls of goodness," introduces a new chicken pot pie flavor, featuring savory chicken, potatoes, veggies, mozzarella and cheddar with chicken gravy dipping sauce. The truck will be on New England Avenue.

A new double espresso vodka flavor from Hadley's V-One Vodka. 

A new double espresso vodka flavor from Hadley's V-One Vodka. 

Leeanne Griffin / Hearst Connecticut Media

Riceballs Arancini on East Road plans beef, veggie, "Big Mac" and Philly flavors. 

Kulfi Ice Cream Taste of Persia in the Food Court is serving traditional Indian ice cream.

Ultimate BBQ in the Food Court will be serving up BBQ waffles and mac and cheese waffles

Chick-fil-A will offer its chicken sandwiches, wraps and more.

The Big E, at 1305 Memorial Ave. in West Springfield, Mass., runs Sept. 16 through Oct 2. Information: thebige.com.