Gator Eats Tempe Town Lake Fish, Lands on Our Plate

In case you haven't heard, the poor fish that didn't survive The Great Tempe Town Levee Break of 2010 were fed to a six-foot alligator named "Tuesday" -- just one of nearly two dozen Arizona Herpetological Society reptiles that will feast on the receding water's tiny victims.

That inspired us to use our higher place on the food chain to get some revenge in the name of those fish, by having a special edition Battle of the Dishes: Gator. Let's see how these reptiles like landing on our plate!

In One Corner: Islamorada Fish Company at Bass Pro Shop
1133 North Dobson Road in Mesa
602-606-5500

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The clock's done ticking for this Peter Pan villain.

Though it's doubtful you missed the massive lodge-like building that is Bass Pro Shop at Mesa Riverview, maybe you didn't know there's a lovely upscale casual seafood restaurant inside. Think of Islamorada like a tropical island getaway. Or an adult version of Rainforest Cafe.

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A culinary staycation.
​Rustic painted walls are decorated with larger-than-life marlins, bass and other sea creatures. A huge aquarium serves as a divider between the bar area and the unique dining rotunda. The dark furniture is island-chic; a round stone fireplace with towering copper chimney serves as an anchor for the sea-themed decor, preventing it from venturing into kitschy tourist trap.

We ordered up a plate of crispy fried gator and were presented with a dozen or so bite-sized pieces on a long, undulating black plate mimicking the lapping waves painted in a nearby wall mural. Pale green seafoam sauce decorated the crisp gator bites. My dining companion greedily reached out for one, anxious to try this "other white meat" for the first time.

The meat was firm and slightly chewy, similar to escargot. "It's surprisingly good," voiced my friend. "The outside is like hush puppy breading, and the meat is as mild as chicken." Yep, gator really does taste like chicken. The only thing that clearly separates it from fowl is the rubbery texture, which isn't everyone's cuppa tea.

The breading made up for any problem with the meat texture, though. The gator was coated in a delicious seasoned cornmeal batter reminiscent of Long John Silver's hushpuppies (perhaps the only thing on the beleaguered East Coast chain's menu I actually like). The creamy sauce added a nice visual contrast to the dish, and helped to ground the spice mix, which had a nice little kick to warm your gullet. Overall, this gator went down pretty smooth.

In the Other Corner: Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen
11051 N. Black Canyon Hwy. in Phoenix
602-331-3434

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