When they wheeled the whole-cooked alligator to our table, I was a little torn – my first reaction was that a skinned alligator looks pretty disgusting. Tiny arms pinned to its side. The skin-on head and little claws looking strangely normal compared to the rest of the pink, skinned animal. Cooking twine holds the meat to the body, giving the beast a patched-together Frankenstein look.
But then there’s the other part of it. The part that makes you want to put it in your mouth like a two-year-old with a Goldfish cracker they found on the floor. They know they probably shouldn’t, but screw it.
Unless you live in the bayou, how often do you get the opportunity to eat an alligator whole?
Frontier (1072 N. Milwaukee) specializes in cooking whole animals. Pigs, goats, alligators, you name it. Not only is whole-animal cookery a great idea for a restaurant, but Frontier doesn’t use showmanship as a crutch – the cooked beasts taste really damn good.
Alligator meat is surely an acquired taste. It’s a little chewy, a little swampy, with a texture somewhere between calamari and chicken. It needs a little love to taste good. Good thing Frontier slathers their ‘gator in a mixture of bayou spices and cooks the beast with a bunch of chickens inside of it. Alligator meat on its own tastes okay, but chicken cooked inside of an alligator tastes surprisingly great.
If alligator meat isn’t your thing, the sides will be. Who doesn’t love a good gooey mac and cheese, or a bottomless vessel of andouille-sausage-packed Jambalaya? Also, I have to note that the whole-cooked pig that the table next to us ordered looked absolutely phenomenal. I was getting the meat sweats just looking at it.
Frontier’s interior mirrors their passion for animal-consuming. It’s a cool wood cabin vibe like you’re in a Montana hunting lodge, but a classy hunting lodge for rich bison-hunting enthusiasts. At the end of the day, it’s a spectacle. There’s whole-cooked animals everywhere, whiskey and beer in abundant quantities, and the enthusiasm of meat-lovers who’re digging into animals like cavemen. If you can get a bunch of friends together (it’s great for Birthday parties, which is why I was there) then this is one hell of a fun way to feast on animal flesh.