STATEN ISLAND — It's a delicacy more fitting to the Louisiana bayous than Staten Island.
A Rosebank restaurant is serving up alligator meat to diners eager to find a taste of New Orleans, and it's being snapped up.
While it was initally hard to get people interested in Bayou restaurant's Southern cuisine in a borough best known for Italian food, customers began to catch on, said general manager Jay Larson.
"In the beginning, it was hard for a while," he said. "It definitely took time for it to finally catch on."
But Larson said Bayou, at 1072 Bay St., now fills its tables.
He said Bayou has a dedicated following of people hankering for the reptile meat, Larson said.
"Every once in a while the vendor doesn't have it so we run out and people are devastated," he said. "It definitely is popular."
Larson said that while Staten Islanders might find the thought of eating alligators strange, it's a common Southern dish.
The meat also doesn't taste like one would expect when eating a reptile, Larson said.
"If I didn't tell you [it was alligator], you wouldn't even guess," Larson said. "It's not fishy, it doesn't taste dirty."
Bayou serves two main dishes with the meat, alligator bites and alligator sausage.
The sausage mixes the reptile with pork, while the bites serve the ground alligator meat straight up on a piece of bread.
They sometimes serve alligator tail as a special when they get the meat from their vendor — the most common way to eat the animal in New Orleans, Larson said.
While the other dishes taste similar to sausage, Larson said the tail has a taste and texture similar to chicken, but very different.
"Chicken is definitely the closest thing to it, but you can tell it's not chicken," he said. "It does have a quite unique flavor."
Aside from the alligator dishes, Bayou also serves a mix of authentic Creole-Cajun and New Orleans inspired fare, including gumbo and jambalaya.
"A lot of the stuff is using the flavors of New Orleans and interpreting it into our own way to adapt to Staten Island," Larson said.
"I've always gotten good reviews from [visitors from New Orleans,]" he said.
"Usually, when someone comes in from New Orleans I tell them it's not authentic, just give us a chance."
The restaurant sees its fair share of Southern diners, Larson said, because of the nearby Coast Guard base in Fort Wadsworth."
They also recently renovated Bayou, to give it a more genuine Louisiana look.
"I used to describe the old place as a caricature of New Orleans," he said. "Now, to me, this is more of a place you might actually walk into if you went to New Orleans."
And for those interested in the other aspects of New Orleans culture, Bayou has that too, Larson said.
The restaurant has several jazz or blue bands playing on Sunday, Tuesday or Wednesday.