Origins: Deep in the bayous of Third Street lies a restaurant that serves up a taste of New Orleans. Buzzard Billy’s boasts many delicious Southern dishes, but none as snappy as the Gator Fingers. It’s not just a trendy name that matches the culinary style of the restaurant. The Gator Fingers are really made from the tails of farm- raised alligator.
They appeared on the menu at the first Buzzard Billy’s in Waco, Texas, Full Court Press managing partner Justin Berkley said.
Stats: Gator Fingers are among the top-three ordered items on the menu. “We could go through around 100 pounds of gator tail filets in a week,” Berkley said. Each tail filet weighs one-half to three-quarters of a pound. That’s nearly 200 gator tails every seven days.
How they’re made: Buzzard Billy’s orders its gator tail filets from a farm in Georgia. They’re sliced into strips measuring around half the width of a pinky finger. Then, they’re portioned and packed into bags. When a customer places an order, the strips are dumped into butter- milk, dredged in a spice and flour mixture, then fried for two to three minutes. This is the most crucial part, since over-frying will make them too tough. The strips are drained, and the glistening, fried mound is served in a bowl with a piece of lettuce and a side of creole honey mustard sauce, which is brightened with a kick of horseradish.
The Gator Fingers are prepared on the spot and handmade to order. “When you order it, the gator is still raw and in the portioned bag,” Berkley said.
Taste: If you’re squeamish at the thought of eating alligator, just forget about it. The small, golden nuggets are tasty and have a very mild flavor. Although they’re called “fingers,” the pieces are a bit smaller than typical chicken fingers and resemble both the look and chewy texture of calamari. Be sure to dunk ‘em in the sweet and spicy creole honey mustard dipping sauce that comes as a side.
Buzzard Billy’s Gator Fingers
Where: 615 Third St.
Info: 244-2899, buzzardbillys.com/des-moines
Hours: 11 a.m.-midnight daily