Gator's Rustic Burger Tempts in Petaluma

Carey Sweet

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Alligators aren't native to Sonoma County, but the new Gator's Rustic Burger is, now serving California-Cajun-Creole cuisine in Petaluma. And while alligator isn't served on the menu (except for an occasional alligator burger special), you will be greeted by a grinning alligator statue, dressed in chef's whites, a toque and Mardi Gras beads. 

Gator's Rustic Burger & His Creole Friends, Petaluma, California

The restaurant comes from chef Glenn 'Gator' Thompson, who earlier worked under renowned chef Paul Bertolli at Oliveto in Oakland, and then opened his own Alcatraces in Noe Valley. After relocating to Petaluma, he opened a food truck under the Gator's Rustic Burger name.

The name of his new brick-and-mortar salutes his expanded menu, now called 'Gator's Rustic Burger & His Creole Friends.' That's because along with a variety of burgers, Thompson sends out Cajun and Creole classics like crawfish étouffée, jambalaya, and New Orleans style barbecue shrimp 'n' grits.

Gator's Rustic Burger & His Creole Friends, Petaluma, California

In a California twist, Thompson says he emphasizes good health. That means that the étouffée is simmered in its natural juices for a lighter gravy, and spooned atop brown rice. Smoked chicken and Cajun sausage Jambalaya gets brown rice, too, while shrimp 'n' grits can be showered with wild mushrooms and micro greens.

Yet Thompson keeps the flavors full, thanks to lots of spicing and unusual accents. Sweet potato fries with vanilla bean aioli? Yes, please. There's also Southern fried chicken & waffles smothered in peach cobbler butter and maple syrup, or tender pork baby back ribs glazed in house made pineapple barbecue sauce and served with caramelized pineapple chunks and green apple coleslaw. Fried chicken wings are fancy, glazed in Cajun wildflower honey spiked with jalapeño then laid on a bed of English cucumbers and pickled red onion with a spicy Creole bleu cheese dressing.

Gator's Rustic Burger & His Creole Friends, Petaluma, California

In keeping with the casual line up featuring bites like a Rustic Mississippi Catfish Rich Boy (a play on the classic Po'Boy), the eatery has a relaxed, playful vibe. Bright yellow walls flank brick walls hung with whimsical paintings, bistro tables are set with industrial metal chairs, and some of the best seats are at the counter, in front of the partially open kitchen.

And do save room for dessert, luring you with Southern style peanut butter pie, warm chocolate bread pudding turtle, and Grandma's peach cobbler.

Details: 5 Petaluma Blvd. S. Petaluma, 707-658-1845.