At Jacques-Imo's Cafe in New Orleans, you can order shrimp and alligator cheesecake for an appetizer. It's just the sort of wild, exotic, Cajun-Creole-Bayou-style eats you'd expect from a foodie-forward city like NoLa.
But it's here — in Florida, where roughly 1.25 million alligators reside — where gator should be the special feature on local menus. Hell, it should even be our official state dish.
Even so, the remarkably pearly white meat is rarely used outside of seafood and Creole-style establishments. And even then, it's a hard sell. The meat is notoriously chewy, even if it does "taste like chicken." And there aren't too many people who find it more appealing than, say, the area's standard Floribbean finds like crack conch,
All is not lost, however. If you're craving some gator, these South Florida establishments make this exotic meat worth the gamble. Whether it's fried into tasty bite-sized pieces, grilled up as a platter of ribs, or ground and formed into a Creole-spiced burger patty, we've got the best places to tackle fresh alligator in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
6. Dixie Bar & Grill
5101 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach. Call 561-586-3189, or visit dixiegrillandbar.com.
Dixie Grill & Bar has a long history in Palm Beach County. The establishment was founded by brothers Richard and Jay
5. Islamorada Fish Company
220 Gulf Stream Way, Dania Beach. Call 954-927-7737, or visit restaurants.basspro.com.
Inside Bass Pro Shops is the Islamorada Fish Company, a stand-alone restaurant that services the store and surrounding area patrons. There are a number of game meats and fish on the menu, including — of course — gator. The alligator meat comes in both appetizer and entrée portions, but the meat is treated the same: tenderized and breaded in a special blend of seasonings before it's deep-fried to a crispy golden shell. Larger, dinner-sized portions are plated in a basket with a side of special gator sauce with a choice of fries, baked potato, onion rings, coleslaw, or rice and beans.
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4. LuLu's Bait Shack
17 S. Atlantic Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-463-7425, or visit
Directly across the street from the beach, on the second floor of the Beach Place complex, Lulu's has perhaps the best ocean panorama of any bar or restaurant on that stretch of A1A. The breeze that fills this open-air eatery is perfect for the beach-easy bar and menu. Daytime is usually filled with tourists and undiscriminating locals, but nights can turn a tad frat-boy bacchanalian. (This is the place to order a rum runner, with a floater, in a "souvenir bikini glass" shaped like a headless lady's body.) The New Orleans-style menu offers oysters and shrimp
3. G&B Oyster Bar
429 Seabreeze Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-525-2421, or visit benicerestaurants.com.
Coconuts and G&B — it's sister raw bar establishment next door — are well-known for their fresh seafood and dockside casual ambiance. Little does everyone know there's something
2. The Deck
619 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-537-1722, or visit thedeckftl.com.
One part hotel restaurant, one part beachside bar, the Deck in Fort Lauderdale is best-known for its "million-dollar" ocean views and locals' ambiance. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the restaurant offers a number of
1. Shuck 'N Dive
650 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-462-0088, or visit shuck-n-dive.com.
Fried gator and gator ribs are swell and all, but the alligator dish that takes the biggest bite out of the whole Creole cooking things would have to be the gator and hot sausage patty at Shuck 'N Dive. At a restaurant best-known for its New Orleans-style char broiled oysters, fried crawfish, and crawfish étouffée, this burger serves up a serious side of something different and exotic from the Bayou. A blend of fresh-ground Louisiana gator and lean pork sausage and rubbed down with a hearty blend of cajun seasoning, then served with a side of fries, tater tots, or a bag of Zapp's potato chips.