Whole Gator for Dinner?
In addition to local seafood, Island Seafood Company in Ocean Isle Beach sells Cajun favorites and whole alligators to throw on the grill.
How could anybody drive past that seafood store-sign in Ocean Isle Beach and not stop to check it out? An entire alligator — for dinner? Is this a Brunswick County first?
Although they’re North Carolinians born and raised, the owners of the Island Seafood Company on Beach Drive admit to having a craving for Cajun food. An Acadian step-uncle “opened us up to it” confesses Macie Hipps. She and her father, Richard Craft, run the locally caught seafood market with a Lafayette twist, which they say sets them apart.
The freezer section is filled with crawfish and alligator sausages, Cajun meat and rice Boudin, Louisiana Andouille and crawfish tail meat. They’re also expecting a delivery of fresh mudpuppies around Mardi Gras in February. And just one more thing. Ten-to-thirteen-pound farm-raised frozen gators, ready for cooking!
Macie says they began selling the items to have something different. “Things you can’t go to just any seafood store to get,” she says. “Dad got a 22 pounder out of Florida, and we had a big family get together with that first one. Then we found a distributor of farm-raised alligators named Big Pops in Louisiana. After a slow initial demand, word got out. People saw the signs, like you did.”
Macie says the signs are definitely drawing people in. “They want to take photos of them, and the business has definitely picked up. They are wanting to try gator for big get-togethers instead of the usual things you put on the grill.”
How do you cook an alligator?
Richard has his favorite way.
“He puts it in a brine overnight and lets it marinate,” Macie says. “Before cooking, he wraps the whole thing in bacon and stuffs it with crawfish and cornbread. Then he sews it up and puts a whole chicken in its mouth.”
But Macie urges getting creative with it. “Loosen up and have fun. There are lots of recipes online. Try one of those or just slap some BBQ sauce on it. We suggest thawing the meat in a cooler overnight in brine. And then it is low and slow on the grill, as low as the setting will go for a couple hours, up to three or four, depending on the size.”
And how does alligator taste?
“It has different flavors depending on which part of the body you eat,” Macie says. “Some tastes like chicken. Some like turkey, and others like fish. That’s my take on it. Everybody has a different view. It’s very, very lean meat. We wrap it in bacon to add fat and keep it from drying out too much.”
And what do they cost?
“They’re $12.99 a pound,” Macie says.
Alligator for dinner might be new to some people, but Macie encourages people to give it a try.
“That’s my passion,” Macie beams, “sending people home with a delicious meal so they can spend time with family and enjoy each other’s company. Stop by and see us!”
Of course, Island Seafood Company also sells plentiful local seafood as well, including fish, shrimp, clams, crabs and more.
Want to go?
Island Seafood Company
6778 Beach Drive SW, Ocean Isle Beach
Photos by Ed Beckley and Richard Craft
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