Short Orders: Alligator Cafe

Alligator Cafe
4416 Live Oak

The way they blare Kennedy-era tunes, you'd almost think Alligator Cafe was stuck in time. And from the cooking, you'd suspect it was a little out of place.

Let's see--walls, furniture, pretty much everything else smudged and worn, the menu board featuring catfish, crawfish, boudin balls and ettouffee...You expect paint peeling from the weight of muggy swamp air and the smell of rotting flora. Instead, there's the crumbling facades along Live Oak and whatever smell that is floating over that part of East Dallas.

But your expectations aren't that far off the mark. Alligator Cafe is like a taste of Louisiana.

Gumbo of dull olive spotted by auburn-orange globs of oil that rise to the surface and spread, releasing the meaty, spicy aroma of andouille--you gotta appreciate something like that. The stew they serve at this 'best Cajun' award recipient is humble and on the thin side, but there's more than enough character to it, with peppery heat a full on second fiddle to rough file and robust sausage.

The boudin balls are deep fried and almost alluvial in taste, with some of the savory tang of the sausage lost in preparation. Oh, well--it's a comforting appetizer that marries very nicely to the sharp, spicy dip.

So be it--hard to go wrong here, even when they do drift slightly off course. You can, of course, hunt down more sophisticated presentations of Cajun and Creole cooking. Here, they keep things down and dirty. The dishes speak of bayou country, the room resembles a run down, small town Louisiana diner and the music...well, given everything, you expect to see Buick Wildcats and a few Ford Galaxie 500s cruising down the street.

Good place to be stuck.

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