Places to Eat

Old Mill Inn: An Oasis at the State Fair of Texas That’s Open Year-Round

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My husband and I have found a special oasis at Fair Park. The Old Mill Inn & Bar is a favorite stop year-round, but it’s especially important during the State Fair of Texas. Even when record crowds throng the fairgrounds, we can always find a table inside one of several dining areas at the inn. The restaurant is operated by our friend Ed Campbell, whose company also handles concessions for the Cotton Bowl and many other spots in Fair Park.

The inn was built as a flour mill for the 1936 Texas Centennial and World Fair. It featured a flour mill, three model kitchens, and a tea room. Specialties were made from scratch biscuits and home-style, southern foods like fried chicken and peach cobbler. The tradition of down-home cooking is still strong at The Old Mill Inn. They also have a large, tree-lined patio with picnic-style tables and outdoor stands selling hot dogs, ice cream, and sodas.

Old Mill Inn: An Oasis at the State Fair of Texas That's Open Year-Round

Photo: Jo Ann Holt

After years of eating a corny dog while dripping mustard as we hovered over a garbage can, we now prefer to dine inside the air-conditioned Old Mill Inn. Their food is healthier, with a full salad bar and home-cooked dishes like chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and gravy. I was surprised to learn that many of our friends, even those who live in Dallas, didn’t realize the Old Mill Inn is open year-round—and not just during the fair.

They don’t require coupons, taking credit cards or cash in payment for their reasonably-priced meals. Keeping count of coupons can be stressful, so this makes life easier. Also, as frequent fair-goers, we found that eating too much festival-style food isn’t good for our health. Favorite foods like candied apples, funnel cakes, and turkey legs are yummy, but they add more calories than we can walk off on the Midway.

Thrifty Thursdays

Old Mill Inn: An Oasis at the State Fair of Texas That's Open Year-Round

Photo: State Fair of Texas

It’s also easy to spend 20 coupons on one of the newest trendy food offerings. Until you do the math and realize you just spent $10 for a very small bite of something fried. Fletcher’s Corny Dogs are the exception—at 10 coupons (50 cents each), it’s worth $5 for the one fair food everyone has to try.

Thrifty Thursdays offer fair-goers one day a week to save money, both on admission (free for seniors) and on coupons. Fletcher’s corny dogs are only 8 coupons instead of 10. Many other foods are similarly marked down, so those who want to try more typical “fair food” can stretch their coupons further. Better hurry though, there’s only one Thursday left this year.

The State Fair of Texas closes Oct. 20. But Fair Park is open year-round, and so is the Old Mill Inn! For updated information about the fair, including Thrifty Thursday bargains, visit bigtex.com.