Knott’s Berry Farm didn’t let a little rain get in the way of the start of the Boysenberry Festival that brings dozens of dishes to the park drizzled, dipped and drenched in the signature fruit that started it all more than 100 years ago.
Knott’s Berry Farm kicked off the annual Boysenberry Festival on Friday, March 10 in such a steady rain that the Buena Park theme park was eventually forced to close early due to bad weather. The food fest runs through April 16.
I got to Knott’s around lunch time on Friday when it was only misting before the gray skies started dumping enough rain to swamp overwhelmed sewer drains throughout the park.
While there was plenty of food, there weren’t many festivities at the food festival. Most of the entertainment called it a day as did many of the outdoor food booths. Knott’s gamely served food at indoor and semi-indoor locations throughout the afternoon before ultimately throwing in the towel and admitting defeat at 3 p.m. on the festival’s opening day.
The biggest upside of the foul weather: No waiting in lines to get food. There were so few people in the park that there was never any competition to find a table to eat either indoors or out of the rain. Canopy umbrellas kept at least portions of the bench seats dry at a sea of picnic tables leftover from pandemic social distancing protocols.
I tried a baker’s dozen of main courses, appetizers, side dishes, desserts and drinks at the 2023 Boysenberry Festival. Here are the 8 best things I ate and the 5 worst that you should skip.
Served on a Boysenberry Hoagie with Boysenberry Mustard — Wilderness Broiler
The Boysenberry Sausage was the best bite I had at the Knott’s food festival.
The sausage was savory and juicy with just a hint of sweetness — but it’s the boysenberry mustard that pushes this one over the top.
You can spend your time like me messing around trying to find the best new thing to eat at the festival — or you can just go with the tried and true winner.
I couldn’t stop eating this one.
Served with Boysenberry Sausage, Chicken and Shrimp garnished with Green Onions — Gold Mine Trail Booth
The hefty bowl of dirty rice makes this dish more of a main course than an appetizer — but it can serve either purpose.
The star of the show here is the boysenberry sausage with bits of chicken and a few shrimp.
Does it taste like New Orleans? Of course not. But it’s pretty tasty for theme park fare.
Another seasoned veteran of the seasonal festival that remains a perennial winner.
Served with a Boysenberry Sweet Chili Glaze — Spurs Chophouse and Wilderness Dance Hall
It’s impossible to be delicate with these sauce-slathered wings. The lip-smacking finger food will get all over your face — so make sure to get plenty of napkins.
This one’s another festival standby — and for good reason. It holds up year after year.
Cajun Shrimp Po’ Boy
Served with Coleslaw and a Boysenberry Remoulade — Wilderness Broiler
Knott’s serves this po’boy open face on a sausage roll, but there’s virtually no way to eat it like a sandwich.
I ended up picking up the fried shrimp with my fingers, using the tomato slices like tortilla chips to fork the shrimp into my mouth or breaking off a piece of the roll like a bread bowl. It was impossible to taste everything in one bite.
The big selling point here is the Pepto Bismol pink boysenberry remoulade that adds a bit of sweetness. Otherwise it’s pretty straightforward fried shrimp.
I was hoping and looking for more here. Don’t waste your time on this one.
Made with Spicy Crab Surimi, Avocado, Lettuce, Crispy Onions, Sesame and served with Unagi Sauce and Boysenberry Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce — Ghost Town Bakery and Wilderness Dance Hall
This is two big rolls of standard-issue supermarket sushi with a big vat of boysenberry dipping sauce.
I’m not sure what I thought I’d get, but it’s exactly what it sounds like.
I’ve never thought to dip sushi in boysenberry jam before, but now I know that I don’t ever want to do that again.
This one’s a hard pass. If you like sushi, you’ll hate this. And if you’ve never tried sushi, this is not the place to start.
Appetizers and Side Dishes
Beef Barbacoa Mac & Cheese
Served with a Boysenberry Chipotle Crema — Silver Bullet Booth and Wilderness Dance Hall Patio
The first thing you notice is the Beef Barbacoa Mac & Cheese could be a meal unto itself. This side dish is enough to serve three or four people.
The basic mac in a creamy white cheese serves as a base for the tender barbacoa. The tangy crema adds just a hint of boysenberry without overdoing it.
This one’s a winner if you’re hungry or have plenty of friends who are.
Sweet Corn Nuggets
Served with a Boysenberry Honey Drizzle — Ghost Town Grub
This was the one thing at the festival that I was most curious about. What on earth is a sweet corn nugget?
My first bite left me only more curious. It certainly tasted like fresh corn kernels inside a deep fried nugget. But could that be it?
I cut open the next nugget — and to my surprise — corn kernels tumbled out. It tastes exactly like it sounds — corn off the cob wrapped in deep fried batter. That’s what you call truth in advertising.
Each nugget is about the size of a bottle cap. You get about 10 nuggets — just enough for you to pop a few of the curious creations in your mouth and share the rest with your equally quizzical friends.
This novelty hit is one of those county fair foods that you order once just to say you did. It’s definitely worth a try for curiosity’s sake.
Boysenberry Panna Cotta
Served with a Shortbread Cookie — Gold Mine Trail Booth and Ghost Town Bakery
You have to dig down deep to get to the equally rewarding and surprising boysenberry filling at the bottom of this little dish of panna cotta.
The shortbread cookie works like a pita chip through hummus — and adds some crunch to the creamy goodness.
This cool and sweet treat hits the spot after a long day of sampling festival fare. Or get it first if you’re a dessert-before-dinner kind of person.
Finally, Knott’s has figured out the right portion size for a food festival. This one is just right. I found myself scraping the bowl clean — a sign of a satisfied customer.
Served with Whipped Cream and Boysenberry Maple Syrup — Ghost Town Grub
The Boysenberry Waffle was the biggest surprise of the festival.
It doesn’t look great, but it tastes fantastic.
The waffle tasted like it was soaked in boysenberry maple syrup — without being overwhelming.
Unlike some other festival dishes, the single waffle is just the right size. You could share it — but why would you? Tell your friends to get their own.
Boysenberry Bread Pudding
Available at Wilderness Dance Hall
The otherwise bland and flavorless bread pudding serves as a vehicle for the boysenberry — which can be hit or miss depending on your serving.
Mine was mostly a miss, so make sure you ask for extra boysenberry topping when the server is ladling out your portion. And once again, it is an enormous portion. More than enough to feed three or four people.
I would pass on this one. There are plenty of better desserts at the festival.
Available at Ghost Town Bakery
I had high hopes for the Boysenberry Blondie and Knott’s let me down big time.
This was more a blandie than a blondie.
None of the flavors really came forward. I could see the boysenberry veins and chocolate chips — but for some reason all I got was a dense, chewy cookie dough. It didn’t help that the boysenberry turned the blonde cookie an unappetizing gray.
It tasted like the base for a dessert to be named later. The sugar punch I was expecting never happened. There was something missing — and that something appeared to be everything.
Served with Raspberries and Boysenberries — Ghost Town Bakery
This typically-tart lemonade has a little cucumber bite on the palette as well as the nose thanks to the cucumber slice garnish floating on top.
The blackberry and raspberry garnish adds a little delight when you’re done with the drink.
As with all of the Knott’s drinks, you’ll have to ask the server to go light on the ice.
This was the better of two lemonades I tried at the festival — and my go-to the next time I visit.
Boysenberry Mango Lemonade
Available at Spurs Chophouse and Wilderness Broiler
As you can see, I love lemonade — but I wouldn’t order this one again.
Boysenberry, Mango and Lemon don’t necessarily sound like they would mesh. The initial taste was off-putting — like I didn’t rinse my cup out between drinks and accidentally blended flavors not meant to go together.
The first few sips reminded me of mulled wine, and not in a good way.
The flavors mellowed the more the ice melted and watered down the drink — but it was a long time to wait for the drink to sort itself out.