The smell of fried food is pretty much everywhere at the Puyallup Fair, but some fried things just smell better – especially when that fried thing is a fleischkuechle.
Fleischkuechle has a funny name. It’s a flattened meat pie stuffed with a filling so tasty, you know it’s going to be Defcon Level Unhealthy. Try not to think about that as you order three. It’s a dish with farflung European origins – Russian and German. It’s pronounced flish-KOOSH-lay or flish-KEESH-lay, depending on your European address.
Served out of a truck located just outside the fairgrounds, the business has operated as a fair staple for 19 years. The first 17, it was run by sisters-in-law Pat Jorgensen and Pat Tuthill. The business had been in their family for about 50 years. Fleischkuechle fans panicked when it was announced two years ago that the truck would lose its longtime spot on Fairview Drive near the Red Gate. The sisters took that as their cue to retire, but the story didn’t end there. Last year, family friend Virginia “Ginny” Vrieze and her son Ben Vrieze took over the truck. The business continues – and it’s an evolving one, too. This year, they updated the menu and the exterior of the truck, which now says “Vrieze’s Fleischkuechle.”
When I interviewed Ben Vrieze about the truck last year, he said the only thing that would make a fleischkuechle taste better would be to add bacon. Well, he went and did just that. He added two turnovers with bacon – one has mac and cheese and the other is the standard beef turnover flavored with bacon and jalapenos. The mac and cheese turnover sounded like an abomination, so of course I had to order one. It was far less kindergarten-ish in texture and flavor than I thought it would be. Think of it as something like those deep fried mac and cheese wedges that keep showing up around town on happy hour menus – only covered in fried dough. It’s delicious in an “I’m going to regret eating that later” kind of way. My standard order every year is the plain beef fleischkuechle – because it just wouldn’t be the Puyallup Fair without one.
Serving: At the Puyallup Fair until Sept. 23
Find it: In the Cattin’s parking lot, 105 Ninth Ave. S.W., Puyallup
Cost: Pies are $4 each. They also sell fruit pies and breakfast turnovers.
Contact: 253-677-1759 or Facebook here
It’s tradition for many to eat at the mom-and-pop booths just outside the fairgrounds. Burgers, cotton candy, curly fries and scones are available for slightly lower prices that what’s inside the gate. Is it more bang for your buck? Not really, as I wrote last year in this article. However, every year, interesting little mobile restaurants seem to pop up just outside the fairgrounds that serve food beyond what’s typical of fair dining. This year, I spotted a Cajun stand near the Fleischkuechle truck. It’s called Ragin Tastin BBQ. I snapped a few photos: