Eau Claire Cheese & Deli
Eau Claire Cheese & Deli has been a staple on Brackett Ave for decades. The current owners were employees of the previous management and though the name changed and some slight tweaks, the transition would’ve been unnoticeable if not for a different name. Honestly, this is a take-out sandwich shop, that oddly has a small ice cream selection, tries to serve coffee and further clutters the place with a meager selection of meats, cheeses and bottled items that do nothing more than congest what is an uncomfortably tight space to begin with. More than one customer at a time is filling the place.
The Hungry Italian had driven by this spot for years, never once trying it but always wondering. If not for driving by, he’d never know the place existed. He had no word of mouth endorsements from friends or acquaintances and the business isn’t prominent in terms of supporting events in town.
Yet, it seemed like one of those “small locales that just HAS to be really good”.
He wanted to like this place so bad. He so desperately did.
Ordered: Brackett Ave Beef
Entrée’: As mentioned above, the room is tiny and can be intimidating for a first time visitor as everything hits one quick. The Hungry Italian was the only customer at the time, so service was very fast (not a bad thing). Having looked online ahead of time (always recommended), the Hungry Italian knew they wanted the Bracket Ave Beef sandwich, which is a hot roast beef sandwich with fixins. However, he’d decided to get ½ a sandwich and some soup as opposed to just a single item.
Unfortunately, that option doesn’t exist here. The Hungry Italian had misunderstood the online menu. Customers can’t get a ½ sandwich and soup on nearly all sandwiches. The place has a “special” and only offers this option on certain sandwiches. Otherwise, all sandwiches come one size, which would be considered a “small to medium” at most chain sandwich shops.
Why they don’t offer this on all sandwiches, only the management knows. The sandwiches aren’t pre-made and at least in the case of the one ordered on this day, it came sliced in half so why not have two sizes of sandwiches and offer...well, you know the rest.
One can get a full sandwich and order soup. For those who want leftovers this is absolutely fine. It’s not hard to save ½ a sandwich. However, the Hungry Italian doesn’t like leftovers as dining out is a treat and he likes to keep portions under control. Leftovers either lead to calories mistake later or are thrown out and a waste of money. It’s why many opt for the “children’s meal” options at restaurants, for it’s not that they don’t understand they don’t have to clean their plate, it’s that they don’t wish to have the burden of them.
So the Hungry Italian settled for a full sandwich, with his first choice not available. No drink or chips either. There are plenty of drink options but a small chip selection and the person who “rang up” the Hungry Italian didn’t even offer to try to upsell. With both items at home, there was no need to spend extra $.
An awkward wait of 3-5 minutes followed. The time wasn’t a problem (if anything, it’s an efficient set0=-up they have), but it’s uncomfortable because all one can do is just stand around pretending to look at the options along the wall while giving smiles and head nods to other customers who come in.
Once the sandwich arrived, it was a 3 minute drive home to enjoy it.
Upon opening, the Hungry Italian was disappointed with the swimming pool amount of mayo that was used. A good sandwich uses mayo for it’s purpose, which is a thin layer along the bread to prevent the roll from becoming soggy. Too much mayo defeats the purpose and in turn makes the bread even soggier and over-powering any flavors.
How did it taste? The dollop of mayo aside, the flavor of the sandwich was okay. Everything about the sandwich was okay. The bread was okay (not great, but definitely not bad)…the roast beef was okay (not great, but definitely not bad) and the veggies tasted fresh.
It’s just that the whole thing…well…ahh…it didn’t quite live up to the hype the Hungry Italian had perhaps unfairly concocted in his head.
This is a place that is beloved by many and losing the Hungry Italian won’t be a detriment to the bottom line. Perhaps another sandwich would’ve scored better. Perhaps the Hungry Italian had too high of expectations. Likely the menu mistake set up too much of a handicap for the establishment to overcome within the Hungry Italian's soul.
Second Helping? Sadly no. It’s not as though this is the worst spot in town as that is not the case. It’s just that between the quality of the sandwich and tight quarters of the location there is no reason to go back. If this was a place already frequented by the Hungry Italian, I don’t see a reason to stop going but it’s hard to justify having this place be ADDED to a current rotation.
Final Score: 2 out of 5 cheese curds