The Linger Lodge

It takes a second to reach this treasure from the highway — you’ve gotta drive through a massive subdivision and cross under a few bridges — but the trek is worth it. Where else are you going to dine next to a stuffed squirrel playing golf? The Linger Lodge has that rare quality of being distinctly Floridian — it’s just not a place you’re going to find anywhere else. Owner Frank Gansky is an amateur taxidermist and displays his work — all animals he’s killed on the property — around the restaurant. Stuffed snakes, the aforementioned squirrels, skinned gators — Gansky’s done it all. But preserved beasts aren’t the only reason to break up that mind-numbing drive on the Interstate. Linger Lodge’s waitresses may be the nicest group in the lower 48, the kind of women that call you “honey” and rest on your shoulder while you order. The food is fantastic — including the famous fried gator bites — and the crowd is a good mix of diehard locals and enterprising tourists. So put on your blinker and get off the highway the next time you’re flying down I-75. Originals like this shouldn’t be missed. 7204 Linger Lodge Road, Bradenton, 941-755-2757.