It was a year ago that Han Huynh learned that his friend’s seafood restaurant at Union Landing was struggling. Known then as Backyard Boiler, the business failed to gain the following of similar establishments such as Newark’s Ray’s Crab Shack or popular chain The Boiling Crab in San Jose.
When the previous owner decided to call it quits in March, Huynh seized the opportunity and rebranded it as Backyard Bayou.
“It’s either passion or stupidity,” Huynh, a 37-year-old Fremont resident and father of three, said of the venture.
Huynh, who worked in the IT industry for 13 years, had always dreamed of opening his own restaurant. As a kid growing up in Stockton, he’d often catch buckets of crawfish in the Delta. As an adult, he’d host monthly poker parties and homemade crab feasts in his backyard. He even tried to open a seafood restaurant franchise six years ago but his then-partner backed out.
Now flying solo with a small, talented team of cooks, Huynh may have found the recipe for success.
Backyard Bayou specializes in Cajun seafood with an Asian influence. Their sauces carry hints of lemongrass, ginger and other Asian ingredients to give it a distinct flavor — something its predecessor lacked. Customers can order shrimp, crawfish, mussels, lobster and crab by the pound in their choice of garlic butter, lemon pepper or “original Cajun” sauces. They can also pick their spice level but be warned, their N’awlins Hot packs a serious punch.
For those who want to keep their fingers clean, Backyard Bayou also serves everything from jambalaya, gumbo and po’ boy sandwiches to raw oysters, garlic noodles, catfish and salads. While the shellfish is Backyard Bayou’s staple, the most popular item is their lobster roll, Huynh said.
“No one in the East Bay makes lobster rolls like us,” Huynh boasts.
For dessert, the restaurant also carries gelato, which Huynh gets manufactured in Novato specifically for his store. Their Cookies and Cream Extreme is unique to Backyard Bayou, he said.
Huynh prides the restaurant on its quality. The cooks pick up fresh ingredients every morning, according to Huynh. All of the seafood, except for the king and snow crabs which are brought in from Alaska, are from local vendors.
“My goal is to bring better quality food to Union City,” Huynh said. “We try to make food here simple, not overwhelming with sauces. We don’t want to mask the taste with anything.”
And customers have taken notice. Backyard Bayou is slowly making a name for itself, despite being one of the few independent restaurants at Union Landing and having to compete with national chains.
While Huynh plans to expand to other locations in the future, right now he’s focused on making Backyard Bayou a go-to destination and hangout for locals. He’s hoping to attract larger crowds to the bar, which has five flat-screen TVs and a variety of beers on tap. Huynh plans to bring in a bartender to serve soju cocktails as well, to better cater to his customers. He also plans on hosting crab feeds and parties for sporting events.
“I want to make it as home-y as possible,” Huynh said.
Backyard Bayou is located at 32280 Dyer St. at Union Landing, between Starbucks and Lucky. For more information, visit them online at www.thebackyardbayou.com.