Saturday, April 23, 2011

Nerve-shattering terror!

The alligator people will make your skin crawl!

Yes, we’ve raided Count Floyd’s movie vault (Count Floyd of SCTV’s Monster Chiller Horror Theater), this time for that 1959 classic—The Alligator People. This movie’s totally unbelievable plot is too complex to summarize here. But describes this as a film “with skillful pacing, generally decent dialogue, and only intermittently laughable special effects…anxiety over radiation and atomic science…distrust of doctors and medicine, fear of the American South--all the major cultural obsessions of the late '50s are either tacitly or explicitly represented here; perhaps that's why the far-fetched scientific premise that underlies the plot makes a weird resonance despite its utter implausibility.” One classic scene shows our heroine sitting on a wood packing crate that is stamped with the words “Caution—Radioactive Material—Cobalt 60.”

Since we are dining at McGee’s Café and Bar, located on the banks of the Atchafalaya Swamp, where to better pursue the illusive Alligator People. You reach McGee’s by driving on the (very narrow) Henderson Levee Road and then turning left and driving over the levee (photo, right). As you reach the apex, spread before you is the largest swamp in the United States, a combination of wetlands and river delta area where the Atchafalaya River and the Gulf of Mexico converge. McGee’s complex includes a camp-ground, guest cabins, swamp tours, gift shop, and café and bar. We are told that during the summer, weekends can get pretty wild at McGee’s. Drat!! It’s not summer yet.

Oh, and we still haven’t found the Alligator People.

On the Friday night of our visit, the place was fairly empty. You walk through the gift shop (Tourist trap, anyone?) to reach the dining room with its wall of windows overlooking the swamp. The rough wooden walls and ceiling have a hunting/ fishing cabin feel and the walls are decorated with numerous stuffed birds, fish, and animal heads.

What brought us to McGee’s was an appearance by Al Berard (right in the photo, below) (see our blog on April 13 for information on Al and the Basin Brothers) and Kevin Anthony. What we didn’t know is that Kevin is a Country singer from Texas who was in Louisiana to participate in Classic Country Night at the Liberty Theater in Eunice. So, instead of hearing Cajun music, we were entertained by Kevin covering George Jones, Merle Haggard, et. al.

No sign of the Alligator People yet.

The menu is more bar than restaurant food. Appetizers included bite size catfish, bite size alligator, stuffed jalapeno peppers, and stuffed mushrooms. Entrees included po-boys, fried seafood, stuffed or fried shrimp, catfish filet, and fried crawfish, oysters, or alligator. You can also order boiled crawfish, shrimp, or crab with corn and potatoes extra. All foods appropriate for eating with a pitcher (or two) of beer.

Both of decided to stick with the basics. Chuck ordered the crawfish po-boy with a side of fries and a side of onion rings. I ordered a pound of the boiled shrimp which came with a small—very small—bowl of iceberg lettuce salad and knowing that I would eat some of Chuck’s fries and rings, I passed on the corn and potatoes.

Did the Alligator People take the night off?

(Since you all know what iceberg lettuce looks like, we didn’t bother wasting chip space for a photo.) I ordered my shrimp “mild” rather than “spicy” or “extra spicy,” and believe me, the “mild” were hot enough. These were beautiful easy-peel shrimp that just needed a squirt of lemon juice to enhance their fresh briny flavor.

Chuck’s po-boy came dressed with shredded cabbage, tomatoes, onions, and mayo. The only other restaurant where we’ve had a cabbage dressed po-boy is at the famous (and we think overrated) Mother’s Restaurant in New Orleans. We both like this substitution for lettuce since the cabbage better keeps its crispness when met by the hot fried seafood. But in this case, less would have been more. There was so much cabbage that it overwhelmed the crawfish. But the crawfish were very good—lightly battered and cooked just until done.

The onion rings were larger cut than we like, but were still good.

Wait!!! There they are. The Alligator People. There on Chuck’s plate. A whole plateful of Alligator People.

Yes. The fries were cut in the shape of little alligators. And these weren’t just “gimmicky” fries. These were very very good fries. They were lightly seasoned, crisp on the outside, moist and steamy on the inside. And, feeling the need to protect society from an Alligator People invasion, we devoured them without delay.

To be honest, even though the music didn’t match our expectations, the food exceeded them and we give our dinner at McGee’s a solid 4.0 Addie rating.

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