Gator's is a Cajun themed restaurant located on highway 121 between Hall-Johnson and Glade. It is in the building next to La Hacienda Ranch. This particular location has seen numerous incarnations over the years. None have been overly popular or successful. This iteration is owned by longtime restaurateur Johnny Ragland who also owns J.R.'s Steak & Grill just up the road. The space has a dining area with tables and booths, a bar in the middle, some bar tables and an outside deck adjacent to the bar area. The dining area is nothing special but OK. There are eight to ten TVs in the dining room and more in the bar area. There was also a live singer/guitarist performing in the bar. He sounded OK, but thankfully was barely audible in the dinning area. I like to have conversations with my meals.
My son and I are both fans of Cajun & Creole cuisine so we were anxious to try this place. Matt had the shrimp etouffee and I had the blackened red fish. Both were delicious and despite large portions there were no doggy bags this day.
The etouffee filled a large round plate with plenty of good size shrimp and some sausage all in a thickened sauce. Matt did add a little Tabasco sauce. The blackened red fish was a large, flaky, tender fillet that was topped with shrimp creole that also included sausage slices. The blackening spices and sauce were both very flavorful. The server warned me when I ordered the red fish that it was spicy. It didn't disappoint. We like our food spicy, but I can see where this dish might be a little too spicy for some. Our entrees were also served with a cornbread muffin that had real corn kernels.
|Blackened Red Fish with Shrimp Creole|
Now the bad news. The service was less than stellar. Our waitress came shortly after we were seated and took our drink order. Then she disappeared. Matt commented that they must be brewing the beer. Finally another server came by to ask what our drink orders were. She delivered them in a couple of minutes and took our meal orders. To our surprise, our dinners came out fairly quickly but were delivered by yet another server. The waitress who took our meal order came by a minute later to ask how the food was. I was still chewing my first bite. Several minutes later our original server came by to ask how we were doing and to offer excuses about forgetting us. She was busy. Then we were again forgotten for the rest of our meal. Eventually our initial server came by and I asked for the check. Luckily we weren't in a hurry because that step took a long time too. When the waitress came back with the credit card receipt she didn't have a pen. My son pointed out that the waiter taking the order for the table next to us had an apron full of pens. Our server grabbed one and we were able to complete the transaction and be on our way. I noticed that this pattern did not just apply to us. Other tables around us wound up having multiple servers. The booth next to us had one drink delivered by the bartender. I hate having a team of people serving me and in this case that team not doing a very good job.
We are not talking about a huge place that was jam packed. Half of the dining area was empty. So, what's the problem? Did we draw an incompetent waitress? Are they understaffed? Do they have a bad system? Is it bad management? The answer is probably yes to all of the above.
The summation: Food good to very good. Atmosphere OK. Service needs much work.
I may go back when I get a Cajun craving but certainly not when I'm in a hurry. Maybe I'll try lunch some day.