Nostalgic Food CNE

The 10 most nostalgic food at the CNE

The CNE returns to Toronto this week and one thing to get excited for is all the old-school carnival treats. While there's always new things to try, these classics are reassuringly the same year after year after year.

This is my favourite nostalgic food at the CNE.

Colossal onions

This dish popularized by the Outback Steakhouse is hardly native to Toronto, but considering the Aussie-themed steakhouse has pulled out of the GTA market, fans of this blossoming deep-fried onion know to make an annual pilgrimage to the CNE to get their fill.

The Ex Toronto

If you went to the CNE and didn't get a waffle ice cream sandwich did it ever really happen? Photo by Hector Vasquez.

Waffle ice cream sandwiches

Nothing beats this hot-and-cold midway treat. This iconic ice cream sandwich first debuted at the CNE in 1940 and has become a festival staple ever since.

Nostalgic Food CNE

Spaghetti at The Ex doesn't get much cheaper than this. Photo by Hector Vasquez.

99 cent Primo spaghetti

Among the many cheap thrills at the Ex is this enduring dollar dish. It's an annual tradition for generations of fair-goers. Found in the Food Building, the pile of pasta in red sauce is a throwback to simpler times.

Nostalgic Food CNE

Whether you want powdered sugar or cinnamon, Tiny Tom donuts are always a treat. Photo by Hector Vasquez.

Tiny Tom donuts

Get your sugar fix with these deep-fried mini doughnuts coated with powder sugar and/or cinnamon. This iconic vendor is one of the oldest still operating at the CNE having first appeared at the Ex in the 1960s.

Nostalgic Food CNE

Foods on a stick are always a great option when visiting the CNE. Photo by Hector Vasquez.

Corn dogs

The origin of this classic concession is hotly debated, though its place on midway menus is certainly not. Battered and deep fried hot dogs on a stick are among the OGs of carnival food.

Nostalgic Food CNE

Get your dosage of fruit at The Ex when your take down a caramel apple. Photo by Hector Vasquez.

Caramel apples

Legend has it that a Kraft Foods salesman first invented this treat in 1950 by dipping apples into melted Kraft caramels. Voila, the nostalgic treat (and cousin to Canada's beloved Kraft Dinner) has been a festival favourite ever since.

Nostalgic Food CNE

If you didn't eat a deep fried candy bar at The Ex did you ever really go? Photo by Hector Vasquez.

Deep fried candy bars

A Scottish chip shop claims to have invented this deep fried delicacy as early as 1995. Regardless of its origin, this indulgent dessert is a highlight for many each year at the CNE.


Pretend you're from the Medieval times when you get a giant turkey leg at The Ex. Photo by Hector Vasquez.

Giant turkey legs

The belle of the ball at state fairs throughout the United States (especially in Texas) is this meaty treat that's also a favourite at the CNE. Get the slow-smoked original, or have it coated in crushed frosted flakes and then deep fried.

CNE food

A trip to the carnival isn't complete without digging into a funnel cake. Photo by Jesse Milns.

Funnel cakes

The scent of funnel cake is a seductive force. Puffy golden squiggles of deep fried dough showered in icing sugar and dressed up with a swirl of soft serve and jam is the ultimate fair food.

Nostalgic Food CNE

Eat all the colours of the rainbow when you order up a sno cone at The Ex. Photo by Hector Vasquez.

Sno cones

Rainbow syrup soaked into a snow ball has never been my cup of tea, but the sugary midway treat is a classic that dates back to 1919 when it first debuted at the State Fair of Texas.

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez. With files from Liora Ipsum.

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