| November 30, 2012

Forget escargot or rabbit. There's something far more exotic and intriguing crawling into the kitchen of a restaurant near you — and no, we're not talking about roaches or rats.

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Exotic offerings are popping up on menus across the country, and the chefs who cook up these creatures expect us to eat them. But when you really think about it, these odd and edible critters aren't that much different from the edible animals we consume on a daily basis; some of them simply have a few more legs, scales or venomous fangs than we're used to.

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Toasted grasshoppers, or "chapulines," are frequently enjoyed in Mexican regions like Oaxaca, but they're becoming more and more popular at Mexican restaurants stateside as well. Head to Hugo's Regional Mexican Cuisine in Houston to try their chapulines appetizer with guacamole and salsa, or chomp down on the chapulines tacos at La Oaxaqueña is San Francisco or Toloache in New York City.


Rattlesnakes aren't as intimidating when they're wrapped up in a sausage-like casing. At Wurstküche in Los Angeles, they serve rattlesnake, rabbit and jalapeno sausages on freshly baked buns with mustard, and at Tim Love's Lonesome Dove Western Bistro in Fort Worth, the rattlesnake and rabbit sausage comes with manchego cheese rosti (a Swiss-style potato dish) and crème fraîche. Not in the mood for snake meat in a tubular-shaped vessel? Spoto's Steak Joint in Dunedin, Fla., features rattlesnake as one of its rotating farm-raised game entrees.


It's not uncommon to see alligator meat on the menu at Cajun restaurants, but it can be a bit harder to find outside of the southeastern U.S. Folks in the rest of the country can try smoked Louisiana alligator ribs with Georgia peach barbecue sauce at Frontier in Chicago, or chomp on a fried alligator po' boy at Marcela's Creole Cookery in Seattle. Pattaya Thai Cuisine in Philadelphia also offers a stir-fried alligator meat and curry dish on their specialty menu.


Just like a fifth-grade bully, certain American eateries want you to eat handfuls of worms. Santa Monica's Typhoon offers a silkworm larvae dish on the "Insect" section of their menu alongside cricket and scorpion dishes. In New Orleans, the Audubon Insectarium's Bug Appétit restaurant offers live cooking demonstrations, sometimes serving up spicy mealworm snacks and mealworm salsa. For dessert, Don Bugito in San Francisco tops their ice-cream sundae with crispy toffee mealworms (the perfect finish to a meal of their moth larvae tacos).


Turtle soup has enjoyed popularity for centuries, probably because turtles were too slow to evade hungry hunters. Luckily, they're still slow, and people are still hungry for soup. Many restaurants in Pennsylvania and Louisiana still serve the dish, such as the Sewickley Hotel just outside of Pittsburgh and the famed Commander's Palace restaurant in New Orleans. It's a bit harder to come by outside of these areas, but adventurous diners can find snapper soups at The Big Easy Creole Kitchen in Denver, Acadiana in Washington, D.C. or The Parish in Portland, Oregon.