This was one of the most shocking episodes of Resturant Impossible ever. Not because the co-owner went out on ambulance (the 11 bypasses he mentioned at the start made me think he is always a moment away from an ambulance ride unfortnately.) but because Robert didn't say the place was dirty, didn't complain about the service, and he liked the food. It tasted good. They couldn't even get any footage of customers complaining about the food or service. So why is this place failing? I list some problems below, but the main one is the owners whose relationship is in a worst state than the business.
Benner Street | Click here for the restaurant's website
Problems Robert Had to Address
1. The husband and wife owners fight with each other even in front of customers
2. The wife Dorothy micomanages everything that goes on in the restaurant
3. Their bar and menu is missing many items on a consistent basis
4. The menu items are dishes that are outdated and old
5. Looks like a grandma designed this place - the decor is way outdated and old looking.
BLT - Braised Bacon, Collards and Tomato Jam | Print the recipe
Robert does his take on the BLT concept by using braised bacon, collards for the "L" and a tomato jam. I have to say that plate of food looks very unappealing. It doesn't appear the owners like it either as it does not appear on their current menu.
Seared Beef Tornadoes | Print the recipe
Beef tenderloin served over polenta that has goat cheese in it. This item is still on the their menu, appearing in their Tapas section.
With the quality of food this place has been turning before Robert came, it's no surprise that they are still in business. They have some talent in this restaurant. The question is can the owners get out of the way. That remains to be seen. Food Network's report says that Thom has taken some time away from work. I think he needs to just place himself in a mentor role. Teach his passion and oversee things. But don't be involved in the day to day stuff. This includes his wife as well. Her habits are very hard to break. Letting go and letting people do their job is not easy. If she can do it, then I think Benner Street has a lot of life left in it.
What might end up hurting this restaurant is the new decor. Let me be blunt - it sucks. $10,000 should have done a lot more. That curtain is just awful. It doesn't fit into the rest of the design at all. I think that particularly designer just over thinks. She tries too hard to be creative. Nice simple modern look would have been good. The stuff hanging on the walls looks like it would have been hanging on the walls before the re-design. I really hope that I don't see this designer again.
The reviews for the Benner Street after Robert's visit were mixed. Either people really loved it or they really hated it. Here is a 1 good review and 1 bad taken from Trip Advisor.
Went for dinner on a recent Saturday night.
We were greeted warmly and were seated promptly.
Our server was knowledgeable and friendly. They had our favorite seasonal beer on tap which made for a great start.
The appetizer (tapas) of seared beef tornadoes with polenta appetizer was tender and delicious.
The twin jumbo lump crab cakes entree was excellent and so were the jumbo sea scallops with mandarin orange glaze.
The flourless chocolate torte dessert was served with fresh berries and whipped cream and made for a delicious finish to a wonderful meal.
We will definitely return.
Poor dining experience. Revised menu is pitiful-adequate at best for a pub but nonsense for a fine dining establishment. We had scallops in orange sauce. They were overcooked and sauce was way too sweet and unrefined. Meal served with three incredibly small and very thin asparagus spears with a small amount of greens on the plate. No dinner rolls-no dinner salad-no potato or rice! French onion soup was average. This meal was $23.00. THE OLD MENU FEATURED OUTSTANDING ITEMS SUCH AS FRIED OYSTERS, LUMP CRABCAKES (NOT CRABCAKES WITH 50% FILLERS AND AWESOME RACK OF LAMB. These items were nowhere to be found. New chairs have replaced the old chairs previously in the restaurant. These chairs were very uncomfortable-bring your own seat cushions. WE HAVING BEEN COMING TO BENNER STREET FOR 15 YEARS. I AM SAD TO SAY THAT WE WILL NOT RETURN.
I would expect to find some customers not happy with the changes. Some people don't do well with change. But I wasn't there that day so maybe this person does have a legitimate beef, still they would have to know in order to turn on more customers, they may turn off some regulars.
It often seems like one thing Robert does that isn't shown too much in the show is encourage price increases. I have read a lot of complaints about price increases or getting less for your money. Some places even returned back to their old prices like The Dinner Bell who is no longer in business.
Have you been to this restaurant, what did you think?
If you want more Robert Irvine recipes, here are some of his available cookbooks:
This cookbook contains 111 recipes many with complete timelimes and several that are gluten free. An example of the kind of recipes you will find are Lime-Cured Shrimp and Roasted Corn Chowder, Porcini-Dusted Pork Chops with Cremini Mushrooms and Golden Raisins over Horseradish-Scented Potatoes.
In this book Robert shares his personal stories (including cooking for First Lady Laura Bush) and cooking philosophy. There are also recipes to be had like Black Angus Beef Tartare with Toasted Brioche and Fried Quail Egg, Roasted Duck with White Bean Ragout.