Linger Lodge: Bradenton, FL

"Find the Linger Lodge on the Beautiful Braden River. Remember when people had the time to linger? Reminiscent of days gone by, Linger Lodge is the perfect place to recapture those lazy, carefree times. Large, live oak trees dripping in Spanish moss shelter the restaurant and campground. This is "Old Florida" at its best. Located in Bradenton, on the picturesque banks of the Braden River, Linger Lodge is untouched by time. An unusual atmosphere is what makes them unique. Frank Gamsky, the original owner and an amateur taxidermist, filled the walls, ceilings and display cases with local creatures and critters. Preserved snakes, coyotes, alligators and more, keep you company while you enjoy your down-home, southern meal. Take time to browse the many mounted fish and the strangest of animals, the Blub-Billed Orthlock or the Turkey Rattler."
Named by Forbes.com as one of the "Most Unusual Restaurants in the World". Al Roker named them one of the "Top 5 Weirdest Restaurants in America" and they sure seem to be proud of it. They specialize in Old Florida favorites such as: Fresh alligator bites, Frog legs, Fried Green Tomatoes, BBQ, seafood, Southern Style Gumbo and Gator Chowder just to name a few.
This is just one of thousands of stuffed animals throughout the restaurant, but this one has some sort of urban legend behind it. With any kind of "weird" restaurant come thousands of stories that have been told throughout the years. Today's story goes something like this. This 16 foot alligator bit off the leg of the original owner and somehow another person came to the rescue and managed to kill it with nothing but a pocket knife...
Linger Lodge Etouffee, Who dat? Traditional New Orleans style Etouffee with a "Linger" flair -- Andouille sausage, chicken, crawfish, shrimp and mussels in our "Award Winning" gumbo base served over white rice with garlic bread. $18.99
For our meal, I went with the above Etouffee while the wife had the Grouper sandwich. Just like gumbo, Etouffee is my "specialty" in the kitchen or outside over a fire pit. This is one of the most adaptable dishes in Cajun cooking and one that no two people make the same or ever will agree on who has the best method of preparing it. It has taken me over 7 years to make the best Gumbo and Etouffee that I find fits my taste along with those who enjoy it, but it is also a dish that continues to develop over time and always will. The biggest question and debate in a good Gumbo base is, tomato or no tomato. Should Etouffee have it or not and vise versa in Gumbo? What is the difference between the two? Okra in one and not in the other one. Is it really that simple? There is no correct answer to any of these questions; it is all about personal opinion, taste and what you are used to. For me, Gumbo should be an oil/fat/lard based roux and Etouffee should be a butter based roux. Gumbo roux should be cooked slowly for 90 minutes to get the smokey flavor and color that will either make or break your dish and Etouffee should be a light color base that only takes 15-20 minutes. Gumbo contains Okra and no tomato and Etouffee should not have any okra and must contain one fresh chopped tomato at the final stages. Again, this is all personal preference and no way is right or wrong.

So for Linger Lodge Etouffee, I can honestly tell you that it was the biggest waste of money I have ever spent on food in my life. It was absolutely horrible. The mud-bugs were flavorless and way over cooked. The okra was beyond edible and the chicken was so tough that I would not even recommend feeding it to a dog. The mussels tasted like dirt and the "Award Winning" Gumbo (tomato) base will leave anyone with heartburn for days. As a featured menu item, I am confused as to why this dish is still on the menu. But again, I will say it one more time, it is all up to personal taste when it comes to a dish as complex as Etouffee.
Senator's Fish Sandwich, Fresh Florida grouper, grilled, blackened or fried, served on a kaiser roll with lettuce, tomato, onion and tartar sauce. MARKET PRICE $14.99
As for the Grouper sandwich which was ordered grilled, it arrived very greasy. I have spent my entire life visiting the Gulf coast and eating Grouper, but this was the very first time that I have ever seen a fish sandwich advertised as "Market Price". When asked about what the market price was today (while laughing hysterically) our server was confused. Was this just their way to not advertise the ridiculous $15 price tag for a basic fish sandwich? Whatever the reason, it was at lest edible. Nothing special at all about it and I can probably list off 20 other restaurants that serve the same sandwich of equal or much better quality around Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key for $9.99 or less. 

Bottom Line: If you want to get sucked into the drama and publicity of The Linger Lodge like we did, I can honestly say, check them out (that is if you can find it). The restaurant is definitely unique and worth checking out along with the history that follows. I think that this restaurant is another victim to what was once a great place now under new ownership has turned bad (what do you expect when a local politician owns the place). Go into The Linger with very low expectations on food quality and high expectations on freaking out your kids and you will leave entertained. The service sucked as many people write about, but that is not why you are here. You are here to check out the property and the unique items lining the walls and ceiling. As in the name, Linger around the property, inside and out and you will be sure to see things that will make the visit memorable.
Linger Lodge on Urbanspoon

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