Thursday, August 8, 2013

Gator a-go-go

Certain restaurants need a hook to bring in tourists through the doors while needing the locals to funnel through to keep the cash registers ringing through the summer.

One of the best hooks for restaurants in Florida is an Everglades or gator theme. A recent story I wrote on the revival of the local R.J. Gator's Florida Sea Grill & Bar showed that formula works. The restaurant only closed its doors because of bad corporate structure that also tied the Bradenton restaurant as collateral to a Sarasota location that closed its doors. Linger Lodge in East Manatee has this concept down, still attracting people who want a taste of Old Florida, and even getting national recognition on Travel Channel for the food and concept.

So, digging through the restaurant photos I was sure to find some other gator-themed restaurants. I submit to you, Florida Crackers.

This Bradenton Herald archive photo shows owner Jim White on Aug. 16, 1990 with "Al" the alligator who appears to have consumed a giant hoagie that got stuck.

Much like R.J. Gator's, this restaurant plays up for an Old Florida theme, especially with the Florida Cracker name, a nod to the cows and cowboys of old. Plus each restaurant has their own gator mascot. R.J. Gator's gator, Big Jake, is more realistic, looking like a work of taxidermy even though it's a large plastic replica. Big Jake hangs inside the restaurant and isn't to be confused with the cartoon character that serves as its mascot.

Al? He looks like a mix between a papier mache project and a friend for E.T. And that snout looks like it could hook horns with a steer.

I couldn't find anything in our newsroom library or online about this restaurant, or Al. Contribute below if you remember something about Florida Crackers.

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