When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).
Restaurant: Piggly's At The Fair Location: 1633 S Stapley Dr, at the US 60 (Superstition Freeway) Open: About a month. Guilty Pleasure: You're soaking in it. Price: $10-17 per person What It Really Costs: Your New Year's resolution.
I'm a sucker for a good carnival. The bright lights, impossible games, dizzying rides, and (of course) deep-fried food on a stick all make for one hell of a good time. The problem is, traveling fairs aren't that common anymore. You pretty much have to wait for the Maricopa County Fair or the Arizona State Fair to get your fix. At least, that's how it was until recently.
See also: - Battle of the Scottsdale Green Chile Cheeseburgers - Eating the Arizona State Fair: Red Velvet Funnel Cake, Gigantic Ribs, Pineapple Lemonade -- and the Hunt for the Cap'n Crunch Hamburger
If you've been to the Arizona State Fair, odds are good that you noticed the Piggly's concession stand. It's pretty hard to miss with its bright primary color checkerboard motif. Late last year, the folks who run it opened their first brick-and-mortar location in a Mesa strip mall. At last, my fat kid dreams of getting a state fair corn dog fix any time I want looked like they were coming true.
The moment I heard about the place, I raced over as fast as I could. At first, I was wondering where in the massive strip mall I would find the place. Then, I saw the awnings so brightly colored you can probably see them from the International Space Station. As I approached the building, I was greatly amused by some of the seats outside, such as repurposed Ferris wheel and Scrambler cars. Once inside, the theme continued with carnival games scattered about, and a bar with a couple of Tilt-a-Whirl seats.
The menu read like a Greatest Hits of carny food. Giant baskets of fries, onion rings, and fried zucchini? Check. Deep-fried frog legs and alligator? Check. Smoked turkey legs? Check. Deep-fried Oreos, (generic) Twinkies, and funnel cakes? Check, check, and check. Corn dogs? You know that's a check. There's a salad available, but who the hell would get a salad here? As my friends and I surveyed the menu, we realized that strategic selection was necessary to get a sampling across the menu without putting a cardiologist on speed dial. While we surveyed the offerings, one of the extra-friendly staff came over with a complimentary basket of house-made potato chips. Nice touch, and excellent chips. I'm surprised they don't offer refills as a menu item.
One friend was in the mood for meat, so she went with the pulled pork sandwich. For a place that splits its attention between the barbecue and the fryer, it was quite decent. Goodness knows I've had worse at nicer places. The sauce seemed a bit on the generic side, but the pork was succulent enough that it didn't need sauce. Toasting the bun was a nice touch. It's almost like they read my mind, or at least the recent Battle of the Scottsdale Green Chile Cheeseburgers. My other friend ordered the deep-fried oysters. I tried to snatch one while he wasn't looking, but they disappeared in the blink of an eye. We'll chalk that dish up in the win column.
I was quite satisfied with my onion rings and fried zucchini. Both were obviously prepared in-house, with thick planks of zucchini and massive golden halos of onion. The batter was a little on the greasy side, but... this is fair food, you expected it any other way? The one let-down on the table was my corn dog. One day, I shall have my corn dog fix without waiting for the fair or driving to Disneyland. This wasn't that day. I was really hoping to see one of those jumbo hand-dipped ones like you see at every fair stand. The ones they had were soulless, probably one of those pre-fab frozen ones with the blasé turkey dog inside.
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While we were eating, all of us were duly impressed by the enthusiasm of the staff. I love seeing a crew that seems to genuinely enjoy their jobs, and these folks couldn't have been much nicer.
After we polished off most of dinner, we were ready to crawl out to the car and lapse into a massive food coma. Then, someone mentioned the deep-fried Oreos for dessert. After a little arm-twisting, I gave in. I'm glad I did. It turns out, they do the deep-fried Oreos à la mode. Cold, soft ice cream with hot, crisp fried Oreos are a heavenly match. They also have an array of candy bars available for your deep-frying pleasure. Or, according to the young chap working the dessert stand, you're welcome to bring in your own (sealed) candy bar and they'll deep-fry the sucker for all of 99 cents. Nice deal.
All told, I felt like the prices at Piggly's were a little bit on the high side. But, if you place a premium on well-trained service staff (if you don't, tsk tsk!), it's well worth a couple of extra bucks. And a hell of a lot of extra calories.