A longtime downtown staple, Hooligans has developed the reputations befitting a place that has thrived for years. The place borders the line of being a fancy steakhouse but trying to also grab a regular pub grub crowd . The place one would make occasional, extravagant visits while trying to stay in the realm of a place that should be in one's regular rotation.
Ordered: Cheese Curds and 12oz Prime Rib
Price: $75 when paired with a second entree and soft drinks
Entrée: Before downtown Eau Claire had truly started it's revival a decade ago, Hooligans was already operating successfully on Barstow Street. As such, the place has developed a following in the area with a number of loyal followers who are quick to bestow this as being their favorite restaurant in town. From a quality menu, to the quaint bar there are many reasons as to why this would be a top choice for many. The place has a quasi Irish Pub/urban steakhouse feel with hard wood and brass dominating.
Upon arrival, the Hungry Italian and a companion were immediately seated. The restaurant had a nice energy too it and while not packed, was probably 70%-80% full with a nice "din" of noise. Their was an interesting mix of older groups, a couple of younger families with teenage, adolescent and even toddlers and those obviously on dates.
An order of the cheese curds was placed as an appetizer. Hooligans, with it's hefty prices, is the type of place the Hungry Italian immediately splurges at for once the feet get wet, might as well jump all the way in. Fried cheese curds are a basic appetizer, but nothing else stood out and probably the only dissapointment in terms of options is here. This is where their seems to be a lack of creativity and where Hooligans tries to fool itself into being more a place for pub grub so as to attract a more regular cliente. Along with curds, chicken wings also dot this part of the menu.
Moving on, the Hungry Italian was torn between ordering the ribeye or the Wednesday night prime rib special. Since prime rib is something the Hungry Italian as rarely gets, and at the urging of the server, the 12oz cut was selected. This decision wouldn't be regretted, as the Hungry Italian can reverse-sear an outstanding ribeye on his own.
The fried cheese curds came out with ranch for dipping. Nothing noteworthy here. Skip an appetizer at Hooligans. These curds are nothing special and could easily be found anywhere else in town but just more expensive here.
As for the prime rib, it was perfectly cooked to the point one could probably have smeared it on bread as it melted on the plate. Exceptionally tender. The flavor though, while not bad, lacked. It wasn't bad but for $35, was nowhere near the value. The menu advertises the prime rib has having been smoked and then slow roasted. The prime rib had no hint of seasoning.
Each entree came with mashed potatoes which were very good. The Hungry Italian prefers lumpy mashed potatoes or better yet a baked sweet potato, but these were good as were the buttered green beans.
The server was exceptionally attentive and did a good job.
Second Helping? A trip to Hooligans feels like a special thing, especially with the prices so it'll probably will stay that way for the Hungry Italian. Though the prime rib can be avoided, the companion's dish of spicy steak tenders was very flavorful and there are many other entree options including chicken, pasta and seafood. That's enough to entice the Hungry Italian to want to return and try something else.
Final Score: 3 out of 5 cheese curds