Cracklin' Jacks will keep you coming back

Cracklin' Jacks

9080 Collier Blvd, Naples, FL

Don't miss out on this little gem of a bayou restaurant. They have two locations; we went to the one tucked behind the Hess Station off Pine Ridge Road.

Not only does Cracklin' Jack's have a great name; it follows through on the experience. A big metal tub (a horse's trough) filled with icy cold beers sits prominently in the middle of the restaurant. Each table has a caddy loaded with an assortment of condiments and paper towels. Great idea. Before we even open our menus, we are served some homemade coleslaw and corn muffins. The kids loved the coleslaw and I knew right away that Cracklin' Jack's is all right with me.

All of the meals are served family style and include all you want of their side "vittles." White beans, mashed potatoes with white or brown gravy, greens, sweet onions, pickles, and "vittle of the day" (ours was creamed spinach with bits of bacon).

These vittles are served first, so pace yourself. The white beans are so simple and so delicious, an often forgotten legume. The kids loved them, too.

The meals were brought out and room was made on the table for our main courses. Little Alex, at 2 1/2 years, was happily eating the Gator Bites. That's right, gator as in alligator, coming from, I'm told, its tail. I overheard a fellow diner's description, that "alligator meat tastes somewhere between chicken and lobster." It was delicious! Nicholas, 6, had the catfish. Both boys opted for the healthier applesauce over French fries, and milk to drink. There are nine choices from the Kids' Menu, and they are all $5.95.

Entree choices are almost endless. Those of you who love bayou barbecue have plenty of options. Lots of seafood choices include Catfish, Grouper, Gator Tail, Shrimp and Tuna. Are frog legs considered seafood? They're on the menu as well.

Can't decide? There is a large selection of platters or combos with a choice of two or three so you don't have to commit to just one. My husband and I both chose Cracklin' Jack's Combos (any two $15.95, any three $18.95) so we could sample alot. Between the two of us we had Spare Ribs, Baby Back Ribs, Pulled Pork, Catfish and Barbecue Chicken. And everything was cooked to perfection. The servings are generous - don't forget to ask for a container to take home the leftovers!

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