Three State Fair vendors have introduced so many first-rate foods that they have earned Hall of Fame status.
Giggles' Campfire Grill
Lines have been forming outside Tim "Giggles" Weiss' log cabin-like stand for 16 years, and with good reason: It has launched more blue ribbon-worthy fair foods than any other vendor. In 2000, raves went out for elk burgers, and 2001 saw the debut of what's probably the kitchen's most enduring contribution, a pair of pan-fried walleye/wild rice cakes. (Weiss routinely sells up to 15,000 servings during the fair's 12-day run.) The big 2003 winner was molasses-brined smoked salmon on a stick. The salmon theme continued in 2005, with a salmon-cream cheese wrap. By 2011, it was all about a Caprese-style salad (on a stick, of course) atop a field-greens/wild rice salad. Two years ago, it was mac-and-cheese topped with sweet corn and smoked walleye. Weiss has introduced so many winners that he's had to drop several four-star dishes (remember the elk meatballs?) to make room for the next big thing. Still, he promises that 2012's excellent walleye roll will return. (Lee Av./Cooper St.)
French Meadow Bakery & Cafe
Fairgoers with long memories will recall what was then called Country Scones & Coffee as a Food Building must-visit in the morning. Especially in 2007, when co-owners Debbie and Chris Gleize introduced warm-from-the-oven buttermilk scones, served with plenty of butter and strawberry preserves, a simple-pleasures combo yet to be bested. A 2009 move to roomier quarters allowed for a larger menu, including Reuben-inspired stuffed pretzels and extravagant cupcakes. A turkey Reuben on house-baked rye was the dazzler of 2011. In 2013, the "Dough-Sant" (a croissant, slumming as a doughnut) sold like deep-fried hot cakes. The hit of 2014 was a ham- and Swiss-stuffed scone with a bechamel-style sauce ("Order two," I wrote). Last year, the fairgrounds' best bakers showcased a buttery pretzel croissant stuffed with chicken, ham and spinach. (Carnes Av./Underwood St.)
My Sausage Sister & Me
Siblings Cherie Peterson and Merry Barry have been major Food Building draws since 2002, when they introduced snappy porchetta sausages, wrapped in a golden breadstick dough and served on a stick. ("They deserve a fairgrounds run rivaling that of the Pronto Pup," I wrote.) Since then, it's been one hit after another. A soy- and ginger-filled pork sausage showed up in 2005, and five years later their jalapeño poppers, stuffed with green chile sausage, made a fiery impression. Last year the sisters struck gold again, with slider-style North African-seasoned meatballs. (Food Building)