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'Unique & traditional to the South': Clark's Fish Camp offers full smoked gator

Clark's Fish Camp is known for three things: 1) Having the largest personally owned taxidermy collection in North America; 2) Having a pet alligator and 3) Serving exotic foods like full smoked alligator.

Melissa Guz

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Published: 6/18/2018 8:28:33 PM
Updated: 9:52 PM EDT July 5, 2018

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Living on the First Coast, you've likely tried alligator at one point in your life.

Chances are though, you've only had the ever-popular Southern dish: gator tail. But given the opportunity, would you try a full smoked gator? What about a full smoked gator wrapped in bacon?

If you answered "yes" and "yes," then you should head over to Clark's Fish Camp & Seafood Inc. on Julington Creek in Mandarin.

Though the 44-year-old seafood restaurant filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy back in April due to the damage caused by Hurricanes Matthew and Irma, staff said they are fully open and still offering customers their unique and exotic dishes, like a full alligator.

Ashlee Peoples, manager and granddaughter of the founders Jack and Joan Peoples, said the idea to serve full alligator started about three years ago following a huge response from folks on social media.

"Our family, on special holidays, would smoke [a full gator] for family events," Peoples said. "We would post pictures of our gators and customers would comment, 'How do I get one of these?' 'That sounds awesome.' 'You should offer this to your restaurant.'"

At the time, Peoples said they only served their ever-popular gator tail dish, as well as gator ribs and gator wings, "so it only made sense," she said.

"Because we are so unique in the restaurant industry to begin with that it made sense to go ahead and smoke the whole gator for folks to enjoy, just like our family did," Peoples said.

And that tradition also included wrapping the tail and legs in a few pounds of bacon.

"Everyone loves bacon," Peoples said with a laugh. "No one really opposes that."

Peoples also described that the bacon is needed because an alligator is considered to be a lean protein, especially when the gator is smoked.

"When you're smoking an animal, you're not getting a lot of moisture that's getting put back into the animal," she explained. "So the bacon helps preserve some of the moisture in the meat of the animal and it also adds good flavor."