By Amanda Dyslin
---- — The brave, the adventurous, the foodies will go big or go home. Come Thursday night, they'll be plunging their knives and forks into a big slab of blackened gator tail.
And, yes, that's alligator, as in dinosaur-esque swamp-dwellers.
But as Jeff and Kathy Traxler often joke, they've always got “chicken for the chickens” during Wild Game Dinner nights at Traxler's Wild Game Restaurant. So if gator, osso buco or venison are a bit too avant-garde for your rural Minnesotan palate, there's always a more traditional dining option.
However, most people who reserve a spot for the Wild Game dinners — served every other Thursday from September to March — come to taste the unusual. New Zealand red deer, braised boar hock, bacon-wrapped elk loin, partridge and rabbit egg rolls, pheasant lasagna, scimitar oryx medallions, you name it.
It's as much a feast of the imagination as it is for the stomach.
“We have a lot of fun with it,” said Kathy Traxler, co-owner of Traxler's Hunting Preserve and Wild Game Restaurant.
The Traxlers have been in business more than 25 years, and they started the wild game dinners in the mid-1990s.
The couple and their family are avid hunters and have taken hunting trips to far-away places such as Africa, which is evident throughout the restaurant and lounge. Kathy joked that they're running out of room on the walls for all the exotic birds, fish and animals they've killed and mounted, from a massive elephant head to zebra to a lion and lioness.
“Most of the African mounts are from Jeff's dad, Dale Traxler,” Kathy said. “I was with him when he shot our elephant.”
But those animals are not the ones being served up on patrons' plates. The family's passion for hunting is kept separate from the restaurant, Kathy said.
Instead, they have two chefs, Shelly Krenik and Melanie Johnson, who plan and write the menus. They have the exotic ingredients shipped in from Colorado and Texas, and everything is made from scratch at Traxler's.
“They do an absolutely fabulous job,” Kathy said.
Every Wild Game night includes three entree options, including the platter of varying unique meats and another entree that changes nightly. (This Thursday's entree choice is venison and spinach stuffed manicotti.)
The only constant during Wild Game Dinner nights is the prime rib, which is always the third entree option. Bread, salad and dessert are also served.
Mark Schmidt has been to Traxler's a time or two for Wild Game dinners, and he admits it's his wife who is the adventurous one.
"I always order the prime rib," he said. "She always goes for the platter, and if something looks appealing that isn't too out there, she usually shares with me."
For the record, Schmidt wouldn't, however, ask his wife to share gator tail.
If you go What Wild Game Dinner When 5:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday and every other Thursday through March. This Thursday's menu includes: Platter -- osso buco, cranberry stuffed quail and blackened gator tail; etnree No. 1 -- venison and spinach stuffed manicotti; and entree No. 2 -- slow roasted prime rib. Menus are posted at www.traxlers.com several weeks in advance. Reservations are required. Where Traxler's Wild Game Restaurant, 37699 Hunting Preserve Lane, Le Center Information 507-357-6940, or firstname.lastname@example.org