I knew two things about Eau Juicy before I dined there on Sunday: It serves seafood and it has one Yelp review, which gave it one star and compared it to an “unlubricated colonoscopy.”
I remained hopeful, nevertheless.
Yelp reviewers are often terrible people, and I consider Dooley’s food gourmet, so how bad could my experience possibly be?
When Ryan Mass, my roommate, and I pulled up to the building that more closely resembled an orthodontist’s office or a Mattress Firm than a restaurant, I became worried that Thomas DeLapp, Currents Editor at the Spectator, was mad at me about something and sent me there as payback.
It’s a very strange building. It has very few windows and every room is at a different elevation, requiring awkward steps and steep ramps to traverse the establishment. It kind of felt like it was designed by an architect with a concussion and a bad hangover.
Upon entering, there is a large room with a bar, a stage and someone’s 30th birthday party happening inside of it. We were forced to pass through this room to enter the dining area.
The dining area was small and almost felt like a normal restaurant, but there was parchment paper and buckets on every table and unsupervised children running around.
We were given water in small plastic cups, and the server told us about the menu. They offered some appetizers and sides, but the only entree they had were two different-sized trays of seafood with your choice of two sauces, garlic butter or “house.”
The small tray cost $50 and the large tray cost $150. Before I could flee the restaurant, Mass ordered the small size with garlic butter sauce and a side of “Eau bread.” Thus, my fate was sealed.
Mass and I sat while waiting for our food and tried to figure out if we were in a fever dream, on a prank show or simply having a terrible dining experience.
“It’s like a restaurant on the moon,” Mass said. “Absolutely no atmosphere.”
Eventually, an aluminum tray arrived and it was time to eat.
I learned the purpose of the parchment paper when plates did not arrive with our tray. We were given paper food boats, plastic forks and scissors to attack our food with. I also discovered that “Eau bread” was two room-temperature dinner rolls.
Our meal consisted of crab legs, sausage, crawfish, potatoes, corn, shrimp and clams.
We were hungry, so we dug in. Overall, it was bland but mediocre. The shrimp was excellent, the crawfish was disgusting and everything else was decent.
In terms of flavor and portion size, the only way our meal was worth $50 is if we were going to find $25 at the bottom of the tray.
It kind of reminded me of a Cajun seafood boil, but not as flavorful or awesome. If a Cajun seafood boil is Charlie Sheen, our dinner was Emilio Estevez.
One out of every five or so crawfish tasted like the smell of low tide, which felt like a weird game of chance that kept us entertained, disgusted and nervous throughout our meal.
We had some mealtime entertainment, as the birthday party began blasting music and singing karaoke halfway through our meal.
I enjoy seafood as much as the next person, but this was not great. I’m glad Eau Claire has seafood options, but I’m even more glad there are different options.
There was a sign in the restaurant telling us not to tip, as the waiters earn $20 per hour. This, in my opinion, is a very good thing. People in the service industry deserve a livable wage. Unfortunately, the service was horrendous.
We saw our waitress four times throughout our dinner: When she brought us to our table, when she brought us our food, once during our meal and when she brought us our check. I could understand this if they were busy, but she was in my line of sight, sitting at the bar, for nearly our entire meal.
Mass and I left, stopped at Kwik Trip to buy more food, as we were still hungry after paying over $50 for dinner, went home and agreed to never venture from Dooley’s again.
Johnson can be reached at [email protected]