Versus: Gator Got Your Tongue?

Toulouse Petit’s tasty reptile bites the tail at Feedback Lounge.

If you've never tried alligator, it tastes like a cross between chicken and frog legs and has the texture of veal. A lot of people seem to be a bit wary of ordering the stuff, but alligator really is unintimidating, especially deep-fried in a heaping pile on a plate alongside delicious sauce.After spotting fried alligator on two local menus, we knew it was time to give this unusual delicacy some proper reconnaissance by visiting both Toulouse Petit and Feedback Lounge, and pitting their lethal aqua lizards against each other.The Rivals: Toulouse Petit, 601 Queen Anne Ave. N., 432-9069.We had a feeling going into this challenge that it would require a strong competitor to knock this gator off the top spot, as Toulouse was our first enjoyable local foray into Gatorville. Their "calamari of the bayou," as chef Eric Donnelly lovingly refers to it, comes with a red Cajun-style fresh cocktail sauce and a white remoulade—basically French tartar sauce.What we love about this alligator tenderloin is that it's very fresh-tasting. This is no bar snack; it's a legit appetizer. The alligator is also seasoned before it's deep-fried, resulting in a tender, flavorful plate of food that's not at all greasy—much like really good chicken nuggets. The dish is typically almost $11, but you can snag it for $5 during happy hour.Feedback Lounge, 6451 California Ave. S.W., 453-3259."What do you think of it? Because I don't like them," the bartender told us after we took our first couple of bites of the beer-battered gator tail chunks. Not a good sign. A picnic-style wicker basket with a sad little piece of lettuce garnish arrived with a side of apple cider–brown sugar dipping sauce teetering on half-a-dozen or so little fried gator balls. They seemed to be peering up at us, yearning for approval.The gator tail ($6, and available only during happy hour), while not great, wasn't terrible. It's reminiscent of the kind of tempura shrimp you get at cheap Chinese restaurants: way more batter than meat. The chunks were perfectly fried to a golden brown and served piping hot. And what's not to love about the smell of freshly fried food? What they needed was some seasoning; even some salt would have done wonders for these little guys.The Winner: While we would never trek to West Seattle just for the Feedback's gator chunks, we would be happy to indulge in them if we were already there for drinks. Toulouse's fried alligator, on the other hand, justifies destination status. It may not be the best thing you've ever eaten, but if you've never tried it, we think you'll get a kick out of sampling something outside your comfort zone.jperry@seattleweekly.com

 
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