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Gator proves to be a popular dish at this annual Tucson Mardi Gras celebration

Gator proves to be a popular dish at this annual Tucson Mardi Gras celebration

You can skip the ketchup, cocktail sauce and all other manner of condiments when eating your plate of alligator at The Parish next Tuesday.

“It doesn’t need any kind of sauce,” said restaurant co-owner Steve Dunn. “All the flavor is in the meat. We are able to serve it just like it is.”

The restaurant is flying in five full alligators, weighing about 25-30 pounds each, from Louisiana for this year’s Mardi Gras celebration, running from 2 to 10 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25, Dunn said.

Chef Travis Peters brines the gators before smoking and roasting them.

Dunn said they usually run out about three-quarters of the way through the event.

“A lot of people try for the novelty of it,” he said. “But the taste wins them over.”

Gator meat has been on the menu at The Parish’s Mardi Gras party for the last several years, but the restaurant has been building a dedicated Fat Tuesday following since starting the tradition nine years ago.

More than 1,000 people showed up over the course of the day last year, Dunn said, some standing in line for more than an hour just to get in the doors.

“It is easily our busiest day of the year,” Dunn said.

In addition to the alligator, The Parish will have Louisiana’s own Abita Beer on tap.

Eight separate Tucson-area bands, including the River Road Ramblers, Tiny House of Funk and the Muffulettas, are scheduled to perform.

Then there is the crawfish; 500 pounds of crawfish coming directly from the Louisiana Crawfish Company in Natchitoches, Louisiana.

Dunn said many people come specifically for the crawfish, which is long gone well before the party is over.

“We have guys that come in, sit down and have pound after pound of crawfish,” Dunn said. “They get their fill.”

Dunn said The Parish serves a more general Southern menu over Louisiana cuisine the rest of the year, but Mardi Gras is an opportunity to show people what it’s like to eat in cities like New Orleans.

“It is a unique experience for people who don’t get a chance to go there and experience it live,” Dunn said.

“People are appreciative that part of that culture is represented and celebrated.”

Contact reporter Gerald M. Gay at ggay@tucson.com or 573-4679.

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