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Only in Manatee: This old Florida haunt offers up carefree Southern eats and drinks

Editor’s note: What makes Manatee County special? Join us as we explore some of the iconic and interesting places that make Manatee home.

Linger Lodge has attracted travelers and locals alike for decades.

Tucked away along the Braden River, the RV campground and restaurant invites guests to stay awhile, relax and take in a bit of the old Florida lifestyle.

OK, so maybe some of its notoriety comes from being a little on the quirky side.

Not every restaurant has walls lined with taxidermy animals and locally caught, fried alligator on the menu.

Just go with it; it’s part of the charm.

Spacious seating is available in the dining room or on a screened back porch, where live bluegrass and folk music plays on the weekends.

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Creatures of forest, field and stream line the walls of Linger Lodge. Frank Gamsky, one of the restaurant’s previous owners (and a veterinarian), is responsible for the unique addition to the dining room. Ryan Ballogg rballogg@bradenton.com

There’s also a roomy bar that serves up mixed drinks, beer and wine.

Fun cocktails such as the “Linger Lizard,” “Snake Bite” and “Swamp Water” will make you feel a little more at home in the woods. On Sundays, Bloody Marys go for $5 all day.

Offerings from local craft breweries are on draft, as are the usual domestics, and there’s an impressive vintage beer can collection to check out behind the bar.

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Catch live music every Saturday and Sunday on the back porch at Linger Lodge. Ryan Ballogg rballogg@bradenton.com

The restaurant was renovated in 2017 after an ownership change, and patrons seem to be enjoying the tidied up look, new lighting and extra space.

Then there’s the food.

Linger Lodge has an extensive menu that should be able to satisfy anyone in a lunch or dinner party, whether they’re looking for an old favorite or a new dining experience.

Traditional eats include salads, soups, pastas, burgers, sandwiches, smoked meats and dinner plates.

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Back porch dining at Linger Lodge offers scenic views of the Braden River under a canopy of palms and fern-covered oaks. Ryan Ballogg rballogg@bradenton.com

Classic Southern dishes such as fried green tomatoes, hush puppies, catfish and smoked mullet are done up simply and well.

On the adventurous side, diners can order straight from the swamp. Alligator bites and frog legs are among backcountry options on the appetizer menu, or you can go for a deep dive with alligator chowder, gator burger or a rack of Florida alligator ribs.

Bison burgers are another unusual find.

Some fresh and local items, such as alligator, are subject to availability.

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A blackened grouper sandwich with housemade coleslaw at Linger Lodge. Ryan Ballogg rballogg@bradenton.com

Weekly specials such as all-you-can-eat fried fish on Tuesday and $5 burgers on Thursday are another appealing option. On Saturday, the smoker is fired up for cedar plank salmon and prime rib dinners.

Linger Lodge doesn’t disappoint on dessert, either. Choices include key lime pie, a five-layer chocolate cake, a river bottom pie and a gluten-free chocolate delight.

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“Dreaming of Chocolate Cake” is a gluten-free option on the dessert menu at Linger Lodge. Ryan Ballogg rballogg@bradenton.com

After you eat, enjoy a stroll along the Braden River and take in some of the natural Florida beauty that is getting harder and harder to find in Manatee County.

Don’t forget to snap a selfie with your favorite stuffed creature before you go — they usually don’t bite.

Also keep an eye out for special events at the restaurant. Linger Lodge hosts the Braden River Bluegrass Festival each year in September, and an Oktoberfest celebration is on tap for October.

Details: Open 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Closed Mondays May-October. Linger Lodge Restaurant and RV Campground is at 7205 85th St. Court E. in Bradenton.

Info: lingerlodge.com.

Have your say: What makes Manatee County such a special place to live? Email Bradenton Herald reporter Ryan Ballogg at rballogg@bradenton.com with your recommendations.

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Ryan Ballogg covers arts, entertainment, dining, breaking and local news for the Bradenton Herald. He has won awards for feature writing and environmental writing in the Florida Press Club’s Excellence in Journalism Competition. Ryan is a Florida native and graduated from University of South Florida St. Petersburg.
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