Elk Mound Spot Specializes in Cajun-Style Seafood

Tom Giffey, photos by Timothy Mather

IT’S MY BAG! Jucy Shrimp Shack in Elk Mound specializes in seafood served Cajun-style and sold by the pound in bags (bottom). The menu also includes sandwiches, like the shrimp po’ boy (top).
Juicy Shrimp Shack in Elk Mound specializes in seafood served Cajun-style and sold by the pound in bags. The menu also includes sandwiches, like the shrimp po’ boy (above).

When sisters Kay Vang and Yang Xiong decided to open a restaurant, they wanted to start something different. They found what they were looking for at the bottom of the sea – and deep in the bayou. Their new eatery, Juicy Shrimp Shack, brings a blast of spice to the northwoods in the form of savory seafood served Cajun-style. Diners order seafood – including crawfish, shrimp, lobster, and four kinds of crab – by the pound, and the crustaceans are cooked whole and served with sauce and spice to the customers’ liking.

“I wanted to bring something new to the area. It’s always been something I’ve enjoyed when I travel.” – Kay Vang, co-owner of  Juicy Shrimp Shack

The restaurant opened in late May off Interstate 94 (exit 52) just outside Elk Mound. Chippewa Valley is a long way from the ocean, but Vang points out that the restaurant is a relatively quick drive from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. “I can order it in the morning and it gets here in the evening,” she said of the sea creatures. “When we get it, it’s still alive.” They are kept refrigerated at the restaurant until it’s dinnertime (for you, not them).

Vang grew up in Appleton (which isn’t any closer to the sea, unless you count Lake Winnebago) and developed a taste for Cajun-style seafood during travels to urban areas such as Las Vegas, Florida, and New York. As she considered opening a restaurant, she perfected her own recipes.

“I wanted to bring something new to the area,” she explained during a recent conversation in the nautical-themed restaurant. “it’s always been something I’ve enjoyed when I travel.”

For their first foray into the restaurant business, the sister set up shop near Elk Mound in a building that previously housed Mix N Mingle and Country Nights. If you’re traveling on the Interstate between Eau Claire and Menomonie, you can’t miss it: It’s under the billboard decorated with an enormous shrimp. Because of its location along the highway, the owners hope that they can appeal to locals and travelers alike. Already they’ve had diners come from as far away as the Twin Cities.

Vang says customer response to the menu has generally been positive, with many customers already being familiar with the casual style (the seafood comes to the table in plastic bags) and others eagerly trying it for the first time.

A few tips for the uninitiated: Don’t be surprised to see your dinner looking back at you (although, if you wish, you can order your shrimp headless), and don’t be afraid to ask your server for advice (they know how to crack the crawfish). Vang advises customers to order about a pound of seafood per person, and notes that snow crab and shrimp offer more meat per pound. Available sauces include lemon pepper, garlic butter, and house special, and the seafood is offered at five levels of spice, from “tiny” to “super.” Sides include corn and potatoes (which are cooked with the seafood) as well as rice and salads. And if seafood just isn’t your thing, burgers, sandwich baskets, and a kids menu are available.

Don’t worry, there are bibs – and not just for the kids, for the adults, too. As Vang explains, “It’s going to be really messy.”

Juicy Shrimp Shack • N5696 850th St., Elk Mound • 11am-9pm ever day • (715) 879-1185 • facebook.com/juicyshrimpshack

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