Best Bets: Gator Bites

Gator bites at Brothers Grill  & Seafood.

Photo by Michael Donahue, Michael Donahue/The Commercial Appeal // Buy this photo

Gator bites at Brothers Grill & Seafood.

When bass player Brian Pinlac asked if anybody at Brothers Grill & Seafood had tried the "gator bites," I knew the tasty gold nuggets on my plate were a popular item.

Gator bites at Brothers Grill  & Seafood.

Photo by Michael Donahue, Michael Donahue/The Commercial Appeal

Gator bites at Brothers Grill & Seafood.

Pinlac and guitarist Charlie Belt, both from Twin Soul, performed Tuesday night. I stopped by to try gator -- as in "alligator" -- bites. The restaurant/bar's co-owner Jay Jones told me about them a few months ago at their Music Fest and Poker Run to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation of the Mid-South.

The name can be a turnoff, co-owner Joe Jones said as he prepared some of them in the kitchen. "Some turn their nose up and go, 'Eww,'" he said. When I told my mother I had eaten gator bites made out of alligator, she said, "Oh, how revolting!"

Well, they're delicious plain or dipped in the creamy homemade remoulade sauce, which has a dill taste to it.

David Lee, keyboard and bass player in Afterglow, joined me to try some gator bites. He described them as having a "sharper taste than chicken" and compared the texture to scallops. He also called them a "superior version of popcorn shrimp."

Jay Jones introduced gator bites, which are $8.50, when they revamped their menu two years ago. "I really don't remember where they came from," he said. "I traveled and I lived in the Virgin Islands and Fort Lauderdale and Jacksonville, Fla. I know I had them somewhere before."

He wanted something "kind of exotic" that people can't get anywhere else. "That popped into my head."

His version was a result of "trial and error."

They get the alligator in 1-pound packages. "We cut them up. We put them in an egg wash batter and fry them up to order. They're not pre-made."

Gator bites weren't immediately popular. "It took a minute because people shied away. Obviously, gator is not something people are accustomed to eating. I sent a few orders out just to try for free. People were like, 'Oh, what is it?' 'Just try it, and then I'll tell you.'"

People are surprised to discover how tender the meat is, he said. "It's just, to me, a phenomenal piece of meat. Very healthy. It's very high in protein."

And if nobody tells you you're eating alligator, it will probably taste even better.

Brothers Grill & Seafood, 2204 Whitten Road; 590-4637.

-- Michael Donahue: 529-279;

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