Deep-fried gator, barbecued turkey legs, monster baked potatoes, funnel cakes and cotton candy. These are just a sampling of menu items at Piggly’s at the Fair, a new restaurant in Mesa.

It’s the sit-down extension of a longtime state fair food vendor.

Piggly’s is a family owned and operated venture. Jerry and Sandy Sawyers started cooking barbecue in 1964 at fairs throughout Washington state. The Sawyers’ son, Craig, took over the company in 1997, gave it a name and took the food on the road.

“We’re coming up on our 50th anniversary ... ,” says Craig. “So, (Piggly’s) started out quite small compared to where it is now — to one of the largest concession companies on the west coast.”

It was natural, he says, to turn the mobile company into a stationary restaurant.

“We’ve been wanting to do it now for a few years, to bring everything we’ve done on the fairgrounds over the years and bring it all under one roof with games and fun ...” he says.

On the menu is an accumulation of all the different foodstuffs Piggly’s sells at state fairs. Craig says that fairgoers in the West are territorial with their food choices, meaning that each state prefers something different in their fair food. Corn dogs and fries seem to be the crowd favorite along the coasts of Washington and California, while the Canadian route prefers fried pastries. At the restaurant in Mesa, Craig says customers favor turkey legs and pulled pork sandwiches.

The Sawyers family has incorporated a carnival atmosphere into Piggly’s. They use tilt-a-whirls and bumper cars as creative seating for guests, and old-fashioned festival games like ring toss and bushel baskets are out to entertain the kids. For the adults, there’s a full bar and several TVs showing the latest sports games.

Craig says that his family has stayed in the concession business for such a long time because they’ve been able to maintain the passion for it.

“It’s a lot of fun,” says Craig, “and a lot of good smells.”

If you go

What: Piggly’s at the Fair, a new restaurant specializing in carnival foods and barbecue

When: Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily

Where: 1633 S. Stapley Drive, Mesa

Information: (480) 707-9009 or

• Ellen, a studying journalism at Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is an intern for the East Valley Tribune. Contact her at (480) 898-6514 or

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