Restaurant review: Backyard Bayou

Selena DeSanto,

Seafood boil-style restaurants have become increasingly popular around the United States. Instead of the traditional dining experience, a seafood boil restaurant involves your waiter bringing your choice of seafood straight from a pot into a bag. The bag is filled with not only the seafood, but also the flavors, broth and seasonings that the seafood was cooked in. Once you receive your bag of seafood, you can dump it on the table and enjoy a messy meal. However, I personally keep my food in the bag and use the table as my dumping ground for empty crab legs or shrimp heads and shells.

Seafood boils are great social places for groups since it requires you to talk to one another while your hands are too dirty to grab your phone. I have been to four different seafood boil style restaurants: The Boiling Crab being my first, The Kickin’ Crab, Hang Ten Boiler both in Hayward and Alameda and recently Backyard Bayou. I do not want to say that I am a seafood boils connoisseur, however, I believe each restaurant has given me flavors that either met my standards or did not; today I will discuss why Backyard Bayou did not.

Backyard Bayou is a Cajun seafood restaurant located in Union City and Livermore. Their menu offers a wide variety of seafood options, but they also have choices that cater to non-seafood lovers, such as chicken tenders, mac and cheese, salads or grilled frog legs — if you are really feeling adventurous. If you were to order the seafood, such as shrimp, crab legs or mussels, you can choose what type of sauce you want: garlic butter, lemon pepper or backyard style, and how spicy you want it, mild, medium, hot or n’awlins hot, which is the spiciest of them all.

I decided to visit the Union City location, and when I first entered the restaurant I immediately noticed Mardi Gras décor. Colorful beads, hats and masquerade masks lined the walls. For a Cajun restaurant, this type of theme is expected because Cajun foods and seasonings partially originate from French-Canadian immigrants who migrated to Louisiana. The foods are also a fusion of local bayou cuisine. There was also Golden State Warriors basketball jerseys on the wall.

I noticed there was a bar, which a lot of seafood restaurants do not have, at least not the ones I have been to. In my opinion, a bar is good to have if someone does not want to wait for a table to become available, or they simply want good drinks. In addition, the bar is in front of televisions that were airing the basketball games. As for noise level, the only sources of noise was the music and the basketball games playing on the television.

Backyard Bayou does not take reservations. For a Thursday at 6:30 p.m., I was expecting it to be crowded and loud, but there were not many customers inside the restaurant. I chose to sit at a booth adorned by wooden furniture. There was paper laid across the table for easy clean up after the customer leaves.

About five minutes after I seated myself, the waiter, wearing an all black shirt with the restaurant’s logo, came to take my drink order, and a few minutes after that she came back with my drink and then I ordered my food. My waiter was very nice and provided me with answers to all of my questions. I could tell she cared about her customers because she always made sure to come by my table to ask if everything was okay. I would like to note that the waitresses all had their hair up in a ponytail or a bun. To me this keeps me from becoming paranoid that there will be a hair in my food. They provided bibs and gloves since peeling shrimp or cracking open crab legs can become highly messy.

I ordered a pound of shrimp with garlic butter sauce and hot spiciness with a side of rice, and it only took ten to fifteen minutes for it to come out. Very impressive, however, I was also hoping my food was cooked thoroughly, and fortunately it was. Upon receiving and tasting my shrimp I was a little bit disappointed. First, there was not a lot of the broth inside my bag, which is a little concerning because at other boil restaurants my shrimp is practically swimming in the broth. Second, I was hoping the flavors of the garlic and butter would be there, however, it was not the blast of flavor that I was looking for. The taste was there but, sadly, it was not the explosion of flavor and spiciness that I wanted. Compared to other seafood boils that I have been to, I expected a lot more flavor and spiciness. On top of that, the rice I received was mushy and very bland.

All in all, my waiter, the service and the atmosphere were absolutely amazing. And even though the food did not meet my standards, I definitely would not shy away from giving this restaurant a second chance.