Som Tam (Papaya Salad)
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What: As you might have heard in some lurid gator-attack news story, swampy Florida is home to a lot of alligators—more than a million, in fact—and it’s not uncommon to see the native reptile on a menu in these parts, particularly the tasty tender tail meat. Most of it comes from commercial farms in Florida, Louisiana, Georgia, or Texas. Don’t think twice about trying it: It actually does taste like chicken.
Where: One of our favorite restaurants in southeast Florida, Tarks of Dania Beach (1317 S. Federal Hwy, map), serves marinated gator tail—along with a lot of great, mostly local seafood—in a casual clam shack-meets-diner environment.
When: Sun-Thurs, 11am-10pm, Fri-Sat, 11am-11pm
Order: You can’t leave without having some local shellfish—particularly the steamers, fried clam bellies, Buffalo shrimp, and steamed Old Bay shrimp—but don’t miss the delicious gator tail appetizer ($5.95). The tail meat, which hails from a farm in close-enough Louisiana, is cut into pieces, marinated in hot sauce, dusted in flour, and then lightly deep-fried to golden-brown perfection. The result is a tender texture, something like veal’s, and a taste like chicken, but with a slight kick. If you love it, consider the full dinner portion ($9.95) for next time!
Alternatively: Right next to the airport in Fort Lauderdale, there is fried gator on the app menu at the excellent, canal-fronting Rustic Inn (4331 Ravenswood Rd., Ft. Lauderdale, map). A bit west of there, in Lauderhill, Cajun joint Rosey Baby (4587 N. University Dr., map) serves sautéed gator among the crawfish and po’boys on its Nawlins-inspired menu. Further north along the coast, in Hobe Sound, atmospheric local spot Harry & the Natives (11910 SE Federal Hwy, map) offers gator burgers and, for breakfast, gator hash with poached eggs.
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