Gators have arrived in Farragut.
Gator meat, that is … just in time for “Gator Week,” culminating when the Tennessee Volunteers Football team travels to “The Swamp” in Gainesville to play the Florida Gators Saturday afternoon, Sept. 16.
Phil Dangel, owner of The Shrimp Dock, which has stores at 11124 Kingston Pike, Farragut, as well as in Bearden and Alcoa, annually specializes in gator meat for UT fans leading up to the Vols-Gators showdown.
The Shrimp Dock is involved with Gator Hator Week, presented by Scarecrow Foundation. Gator Hator is a full week of collecting donations for The Love Kitchen. More than 20 events have been planned for this week ending with Saturday’s big game.
In conjunction with that event, The Shrimp Dock is holding Fry the Gator lunch starting at noon, Thursday, Sept. 14, at all three of its locations.
“We’re proud to be involved,” Dangel said. “It will be a big lunch day.”
Proceeds benefit The Love Kitchen, he added.
Dangel said gator meat started coming into The Shrimp Dock about three weeks ago. “We start receiving phone calls early May,” he said. “We’ve held the [same] price on our gator meat now for the last six years. Our biggest delivery will be Saturday, [Sept. 16]. It’s being driven up directly from Louisiana.
“We’re buying two whole gators and then we’re buying a lot of gator meat,” Dangel added.
The whole gators will be smoked on a smoker in front of the Bearden store, Thursday [Sept. 14]. Then, the smoked meat will be cut up.
“And, we will have fresh meat [at the Farragut store] starting Saturday,” he added. “We do a tremendous lunch business on gator bites and gator po’boys.”
The Shrimp Dock has gator tail meat, gator sausage, gator gumbo and gator bites.
“We carry [gator tail meat] all year long, frozen,” he said. “We sell a surprising amount of gator during the year.
“This week we will have a lot of frozen and a lot of fresh [gator meat]. The sales will continue through Saturday, up until game time, and then on Sunday “after we win,” he added.
Dangel has been bringing in gator meat for 10 years.
“It’s a day we look forward to,” he said. “We’re always excited when the schedule comes out as to when Florida [is playing UT] because people are in a good mood and are very positive, having won the first two games and assuming they will win on Saturday. We have a very good chance of beating them.”
This year, Dangel said he expects to get from 1,500 to 1,600 pounds of the meat between all three stores.
“We sell more on home games,” he added. “And, CBS, making it a 3:30 [p.m.] game, compacts Saturday morning [sales]. Although, because of the time of the game, our Saturday business is a little better than normal.”
Dangel said he started bringing in gator meat because “people asked, ‘Where can you buy gator?’
“So, we looked into it and developed a relationship with somebody in Louisiana who is actually where we buy our crawfish,” he said.
The most frequently asked question Dangel said he receives is, “’‘What does gator meat taste like?’” He answered, “Chicken McNuggets.”
The most popular way to cook the gator is fried, he added.
“One of the things people started doing is gator bites. The best way to fry [cut-up gator meat] is in a buttermilk and hot sauce [marinade].”
In terms of measurements, he recommended one ounce of hot sauce for every quart of buttermilk.
Dangel also suggested using Zatarain’s Fish Fry, a breadcrumb blend he sells at The Shrimp Dock.
For more information about Gator Week, call The Shrimp Dock at 865-777-3625.