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Frugal Friday offers good eats for budget-conscious diners

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CROWN POINT — If anyone was hungry for fair food but on something of a budget, the Lake County Fair had the answer with Frugal Friday.

For $2 or some reduced price or offer, you could get a sampling of what vendors were offering at the fair.

How about mushrooms or red-skinned mashed potatoes? Pickle Barrel from South Bend was offering that choice, and Sara Bessell, of Chicago, was on the spot for those mushrooms.

“I like this,” she said of the fair promotion. “We used to have this for Taste of Chicago, but not anymore. This is a lot for $2.”

But Bessett was far from over in her quest for meal deals. Next was Town Fryer, out of Clio, Michigan. She ordered the nachos and cheese special.

“This is a good advertisement,” said owner Kellie Thick. “It gets people to come here and taste different things.”

Thick’s business specializes in fries and corn dogs, with a variety of toppings.

Some eateries offered other specials, such as a free drink with a gyros sandwich from Johnny’s Gyros of Lowell.

Citing rising costs and uncertainty about the number of customers, owner Jim Petro said, “We try to anticipate it and be realistic as to how many people will stop by.”

Rich Ratliff, of Beecher, tried the special, while his wife tried a veggie tray from a nearby merchant.

‘We don’t want to miss anything,” Ratliff said.

His wife’s veggies came from Portage-based Dr. Vegetable, whose $2 special was a sampling of pickle bites. That’s a cut-up pickle, breaded and deep-fried.

“I like this idea,” manager Nick Ogrodowski said. “There’s not a lot of items you can get cheaper at the fair.”

Citing rising costs in operations, fuel, and provisions, Ogrodowski added, “Frugal Friday is a way for people to get a little taste and see what we’re offering without spending a whole lot.”

Elsa and David Osorio paid a visit to Dr. Vegetable, where Elsa tried the special and her husband went for the veggie combo.

“It’s really good,” Elsa said, and David added, “That’s why we came today.”

A little down the fairgrounds walkway, Steak Boys of Charlotte, North Carolina, was offering fries or rice, or hot dogs or corn dogs.

Owner Amer Amtragi, who said he came to Indiana for cool weather, said the promotion “brings people in, because fair food can be pricy.”

Louann Dmmer, of Dyer, tried a corn dog. “We came as a family,” she explained. “I came here to eat and play at the petting zoo.”

Amtragi said he showcases a Mediterranean diet from his Lebanese background. Another vendor of Lebanese descent, Elie Assaly, of Hebron, was offering garlic fries from his business, Assally’s House of Garlic.

Samantha Oatler, of Lowell, tried and loved those fries, which come with whipped, potent-smelling garlic. Through Frugal Friday, she said, “You get to try it all.”

Assaly, who started his business a year ago, said Frugal Friday “actually gets people to try garlic. If people like it, then they can come back for more on the menu.”

For those fearful of garlic breath, Assaly’s did offer free mints.

Tammy Szostek, owner of Smoke Stack Pizza in DeMotte, was offering nachos and cheese. This promotion, she said, “gives people a chance to taste something for a lower cost. That way they know what they like and come back.

Szostek’s specialty is mac-and-cheese pizza. She does many fairs in southern Indiana and came to Lake County after doing five back-to-back fairs.

Jasper County, Szostek said, offered a similar deal, with a $2 Tuesday.

Chrissie Scutchfield, owner of Spuds N Moo in North Judson, offered white cheddar macaroni and cheese. Appearing at her second Lake County Fair, Scutchfield said this promotion “gives people a little sampling, and if they like it, hopefully, they’ll come back for more.”

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