In this photograph, a fake alligator looms majestically in the central courtyard of Fudpuckers, a Destin, FL theme restaurant where an official contributor to The American Scene once worked. Here is the description from the main page of the restaurant’s Web site:
Fudpucker’s Beachside Bar & Grill has only two locations in the whole world, and they’re both in Northwest Florida. Locally owned and operated since its inception in 1982, Fudpucker’s is dedicated to its owners’ three favorite “F” words: Food, Fun and Friends. And, you can be assured that there’s plenty of each when you visit Fudpucker’s.
Renowned for Great Food, Live Entertainment, and World Famous T-shirts, Fudpucker’s is not just a restaurant, it’s not just a bar, and it’s certainly not just a “tourist” place – it’s a one-of-a-kind experience, and one that can be enjoyed by young and “not-so-young” alike.
In fact, Fudpucker’s is one of the most popular places in the area for families with children. Parents love bringing their kids because there is plenty of kid-stuff to do so that mom and dad can relax. Both Fudpucker locations feature large playgrounds, special kids’ menus with puzzles and games, sprawling buildings that are just fun to explore, and “special” areas where kids of all ages can actually write their names on the walls.
So, drop by for a relaxing meal, a cold drink, and a friendly smile any time you’re in the area. And, most of all, remember, “Ya ain’t been pucked, till ya been fudpucked”
The gob-smacking thing about this description is that it totally neglects to mention what is surely the institution’s most noteworthy feature — the artificial pond featuring 100 live alligators! In the video that automatically loads on the site, the establishment’s founder — Father Fud Himself — doesn’t mention the gators either. It is perhaps the strangest decision in the history of Web marketing (though I’ve gotta hand it to the new media consultant that sold AARP on a Facebook page.)
On my visit to Fudpuckers, the college-aged waiter recommended the Voodo Magic: “We pour Pineapple Rum, Banana Rum, Coconut Rum, Mango Rum and mix it with Cranberry, Orange and Pineapple juice. Served in a 32 oz. bucket that you get to keep!.” That sounded cloyingly sweet, so I ordered a Mai Tai, naively presuming that simple syrup wouldn’t be added to a drink already containing fruit juice. Fool me once, shame on me. The nachos came with real cheese, though not nearly enough of it, and salsa described on the menu as “whew,” but that couldn’t have contained anything spicier than a tomato.
On the other hand, I got to see an albino alligator, signs demanding that patrons refrain from lassoing gators, and a free copy of the in house newspaper, The Puckfudder, proof positive that print isn’t dead yet. So all in all, well worth the fifteen dollar cab fare back to what I vaguely remember being a Motel 6. Visit at your own risk, especially if you happen to be going through Destin during the preparations for a hurricane.
Items for discussion: Is it weird that a restaurant like Fudpuckers successfully bills itself as a family establishment even as its menu engages in coy allusions to obscene words? (When my dining companion and I were there it was pretty much all families around us.) Is it weird that Hooters manages sort of the same trick? Have you seen that terrible show Undercover Boss, where the CEO of Hooters pretends that he wasn’t even aware that some people feel that the restaurant demeans women, and on finding out feigned like he couldn’t even comprehend their objections, going so far as to say he’d be proud if his daughters one day worked there?