The inside of Swamp Tales looks as if it’s been around for a couple decades and was decorated by a hunter. Only one of those is correct, though — owner Brad Robert does indeed love hunting.
If it walks, swims or flies, it’s likely hanging on the walls of Swamp Tales, brought there by the owner known as “BJ” or by his son-in-law. And the menu items are brought up by Robert in an insulated trailer regularly, because alligator can’t be found around here.
There’s something special about his alligator dishes that diners won’t find in other fried gator, he says. His “secret edge” yields a tender, flaky white meat suitable for Friday nights during Lent or any other time of the year. A pound of alligator with fries at Swamp Tales is $20.
“They’ve had alligator other places,” BJ says of his customers. “They have it here, and they love it.”
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He opened Swamp Tales as a bar in July 2016 and added the restaurant menu a couple of months later. He has 32 part-time employees, including two of his four daughters.
BJ is a Carlyle native and retired as the warden of the Centralia Correctional Center. He didn’t have any restaurant experience, he says, other than feeding 1,500 inmates three times a day. He learned to cook at camps in the Atchafalaya Basin Swamp in Louisiana with extended family there. He’s in the swamps of Louisiana as often as he can be —because that’s where the alligators are.
They’ve had alligator other places. They have it here, and they love it.
Brad Robert, owner of Swamp Tales, on his customers
“I’m an alligator hunter,” he says, and will be guiding hunts again in September. The largest alligator he’s harvested was 13 feet long; more common in pictures around Swamp Tales are 10.5 to 11 foot alligators, which are at least 400 pounds, he says.
Those trophies aren’t on the menu at Swamp Tales; the alligator served up deep-fried there is farm-raised gator, BJ says. The temperature control helps the animals grow twice as fast as they would in the wild. BJ hauls back about 700 pounds a month from Louisiana to fry at Swamp Tales.
While Alligator is his number one seller, he says a close second is the Crawfish Etoufee, for $12 a plate. It’s onions, peppers and crawfish served over rice with Creole sauce.
“Most (food at Swamp Tales) is Cajun authentic that I learned in camps down there. They’re proud of food down there and the recipes,” he said.
- 7901 Illinois 127, Carlyle
- Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., bar open until 2 a.m.
- Handicap-accessible: Yes
- Bar: Beer, wine, liquor
- More information: 618-594-2885 or find Swamp Tales on Facebook
On the menu
- Hamburgers like the Big Bob with cheese for $4.50 and Swamp burger with jalapenos and pepper cheese for $4
- Chicken tenders for $5
- Catfish filet for $5
- Hand-breaded shrimp and fries for $10
- Swamp Cat: Grilled catfish smothered with etoufee for $10
- Half-pound of alligator, with or without fries, for $10
- Saturday menu includes prime rib for $24 and New York strip for $17