Weird, Wonderful, and Well-Done: Linger Lodge is a one-of-a-kind dining experience

Linger Lodge is an eclectic roadside retreat that you have to experience. Tucked on the northern bank of the Braden River, surrounded by thick trees and lush vegetation is a charming passageway to Old Florida.

Weird, Wonderful, and Well-Done: Linger Lodge is a one-of-a-kind dining experience

Personality isn’t exactly on the menu, but it’s definitely in the menu when you visit Linger Lodge. Personality is illustrated through the squirrels playing basketball, infused into the names of cocktails, and seeping through every friendly smile you receive from Linger Lodge owner Rita Lewis and her quirky crew. 

The restaurant’s walls are adorned with their version of old Florida wall art: a wild variety of taxidermy delights including alligators, snakes, and – believe it or not –squirrels playing basketball. The Linger Lodge restaurant is the pioneer in experiential dining because the animals you see on the wall are animals you’ll also see on the menu. Adventurous eaters can nibble on alligator bites or frog legs, but there’s also more traditional Florida fare like grouper and fried chicken. Vegetarians can enjoy meatless old school Florida favorites like the best fried green tomatoes and hush puppies you’ll ever encounter. Whatever you do, make sure to save room for a Bloody Mary. Stuffed with a cluster of crab and garnished with so many shrimp and frog legs, it is a drink that’s a meal in itself.

“Our bartender likes to get creative,” remarks Rita Lewis. After spending 11 years as an employee, she and her late husband took over ownership of the Linger Lodge restaurant a few years ago. Several years ago Rita a guest had a close encounter with a river otter that was so remarkable they memorialized it on their cocktail menu. The bartender mixed a concoction together and created the “River Otter.” It’s since become a signature drink at the lodge.

Weird, Wonderful, and Well-Done: Linger Lodge is a one-of-a-kind dining experience

Linger Lodge has been an important part of the Bradenton Area culture and history since the day it was established in 1945. What originally started as a small cabin that hosted fishing camps grew and evolved into a lodge with a full restaurant and an adjacent RV park which is operated by different owners. They recently upgraded the facilities and increased camping spaces from 99 to 136 lots.  You can set up camp along the river, in the thick of the jungle, or near the newly renovated lodge for a quick getaway.  

While you’re there, enjoy stunning setting by sitting on the patio, or gawk at the unusual taxidermy throughout. The most important part of the lodge isn’t what you can see or do, it’s how it makes you feel.

“I like to radiate love and light,” says Rita. “It’s a family atmosphere here. We have plenty of regulars, but we try to go out of our way to make new guests feel at home here too.” 

Customers have added to the ambiance themselves. Retired police officers, firefighters, and other first responders have their patches on display alongside license plates from across the country. 

“That’s a big reason why I think people come back. It’s the atmosphere.”

And maybe, just maybe, they come to see the squirrels playing basketball too. 

If you’re looking for more unique experiences off the beaten path, check out this list of Unique Eats in the Bradenton Area.