Forget New York (sorry, Billy Joel); I’m in a Florida state of mind. It’s gator time, and no, I’m not talking about the gridiron stars of UF. Alligator hunting season is in swing, and if you don’t have a permit or, like I, prefer to enjoy the fruits of others’ labor, here are the top places to chomp down on the Sunshine State’s official reptile.
City Seafood (pictured): It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the best-tasting gator bites are in the heart of Everglades City. This open-air, dockside restaurant marinates the meat in hot sauce overnight to tenderize and kick up the flavor, and—bam! Sinking your teeth into the breaded fried nuggets is worth the drive.
Gator Bites Tail & Ale: This Fort Myers joint takes its name seriously, offering the most ways to consume our local swamp monsters: from a cheesesteak-style sandwich, quesadilla and nachos to a simply cooked tail to five different kinds of bites (blackened, breaded, Buffalo, grilled and Bloody Mary-seared!).
Cracklin’ Jack’s: It moved last year to Golden Gate City but has continued a 30-year tradition of Cracker fare. Get a taste of Old Florida through gator, frogs’ legs, catfish and more.
Saltwater Blues: This new, family-owned restaurant opened in June in the former Cracklin’ Jack’s building on Collier Boulevard, selling fried alligator along with seafood and BBQ dishes of the Deep South.
Randy’s Fishmarket: I’m not here to slam anyone, but since it had been a dependable gator fix, I need to advise eating with caution following a summer of health department struggles.