BRADENTON -- Manatee County's Braden River, with its six-mile canoe trail, is one of the best kept secrets in Central Florida. You can put in at public boat ramps at the north end of the river at State Road 64 and Braden River Park at the south end via Gap Creek.
But my favorite paddle is the section from Jigg's Landing to Linger Lodge, which makes the best alligator spare ribs this side of the Everglades. Yes, you got it, gator ribs. The folks at the Linger Lodge have been serving up classic cracker cooking for generations.
Frank and Elaine Gamsky came down from Milwaukee, Wisconsin with their family and purchased Linger Lodge in 1968. The Lodge features a few rare and unusual "Florida Animals" among its collection.
The jackalope sits in its case not far from a blue-billed ortholock. The Alaskan fur fish is also on display. Frank was an avid animal lover, and promotes the protection of animals as one of our most important natural resource.
But don't be fooled by the menu, which advertises "Chunk of Skunk" and "Road Toad a la Mode." Those road kill specialties are just for grins. Manager David LaRusso and the cooks at the lodge know how to prepare gator, tenderized in Dakin Dairy buttermilk, and then blackened, grilled or fried and served with the Ligner's famous remoulade sauce. Yum!
Don't forget the fried green tomatoes, locally grown, freshly sliced, lightly battered and fried to perfection. Other fan favorites are the alligator chowder and Linger Lodge Gumbo.
The restaurant has been named by Forbes.com as one of the "Most Unusual Restaurants in the World" and one of Al Roker's "Top 5 Weirdest Restaurants in America."