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Sunday, May 20, 2018
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Otto: Exotic meats might not be key to success

So there we were, the four of us sitting outside at a table at the Starbucks on Bay to Bay Boulevard. There was “Bullet’’ Bob, me and the two wives. “Bullet,’’ a Vietnam vet, is a nice enough guy but not someone whose house you would choose to break into on a steamy Florida night that might remind Bullet of the jungles of ‘Nam. Bullet’s wife is a retired school principal and, of course, the Frau is a recently retired teacher. You can imagine where the conversation was going, so Bullet and I decided to stroll down the small strip mall attached to the coffee house. There was an Indian restaurant we had been meaning to try and we went over to look at the menu on the window.
The menu was gone, the place was closed and there was a notice that a new restaurant was coming to the building called “Taco Fusion.’’ “Sounds like another chain,’’ I had said at the time, but Bullet had read on. “It says they are going to be serving octopus and shark and even lion,’’ he said. I figured he (or they) were just kidding but made a mental note to come by on a slow day to check it out. Naturally I forgot about it until the other day when the little taco joint put South Tampa in the news with the story about lion tacos. For reasons other than it must taste really awful and they were charging something like $35 to try one, people were outraged that the King of the Jungle would be on anyone’s menu. Of course this is Florida, where menus can be a little different. For me there isn’t anything much better than going to Tarpon Springs for a grilled octopus spread out on a platter with some squid on the side. You don’t mind the squid, either, as long as they call it calamari. Down at the Colonnade on Bayshore a basket of hot alligator nuggets are a great starter. Go inland a few miles and you’ll run across stews made with any number of critters that go crawling around at night. I know that occasionally when you are out there thinking you are eating scallops you just might be nibbling on shark. For 25 years I’ve run a chili contest where the contestants have used some pretty exotic meats. I know there have been rattlesnake, ostrich, emu, bison, kangaroo and elk mixed in with the peppers. For years I’ve kept a wary eye on the “Roadkill’’ team, trying to make sure I know what they’re putting into the pot. But I can understand the lion controversy. Maybe it’s because we’ve all seen “The Lion King,” or because we figure a mighty beast doesn’t deserve to end up inside a taco shell. I see where the restaurant’s owner plans to add more exotic creatures, including zebra, to the menu. He can do what he wants and I’d be the last person to wish any ill will toward a small businessperson. But I have a feeling that sometime the four of us are going to be sitting at that table sipping overpriced coffee and wondering whatever happened to that weird store down the way.

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