HOME > Chowhound > Ontario (inc. Toronto) >


Restaurant Makeover

Has anyone here eaten at any restaurants that were on Restaurant Makeover? Which ones and how did your experience turn out? I am planning to go eat at a couple.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. (Meant as a cautionary tale.) Given the premise of RM I've been, shall we say, hesitant to go anywhere that needs that much help. I've dined in one by accident after the original owners still managed to fail even after the M. By all reports it's a good thing it's now Jam Cafe instead of the hopeless Aubergine Bistro. Some things just can't and, more to the point, shouldn't be polished.

    14 Replies
    1. re: Googs

      Or the surviving owners jack up the prices to make up for the costs. The once cute and fun Rosedale Diner has raised it's prices significantly since re-opening. A fifteen dollar lamb-burger? Inexcusable.

      1. re: Googs

        I somewhat agree with you. Some of these places are run SO badly that a cosmetic lift won't improve anything. But the program seems to feel they must create a sense of drama, even when there is little actually wrong. I'm aware of a few makeovers where the place wasn't in any trouble but felt that going with RM was a reno bargain opportunity. In some cases, the show approached the resto (Reliable Fish & Chips comes to mind). Of the (surviving) RM clients I've spoken to, a few were happy and a few were disgusted with the result.

        1. re: embee

          I just saw the episode with Reliable Fish & Chips last week. Was thrilled to see that Lynn Crawford added a lobster roll to the menu! Oh yummy.
          I went in there today.
          No lobster roll.
          And I think the coleslaw is back to the original recipe. It didn't have any seasoning.

          1. re: digiteyes

            Ahhh, I just saw this episode last week also.

            I wanted to try the lobster roll too -- how disappointing it isn't there :(

            1. re: duckdown

              So easy to do, as frozen cans are cost effective, and all you need is a bun and mayo. Was Crawfords more elaborate (I dont look at TV)?
              But regular east-enders were raised on wieners and baloney, F&S only as a treat.

              1. re: jayt90

                It's not the same east end anymore. Leslieville is a pretty hot nabe these days. What we don't have is anyplace that's interesting, good, and inexpensive.

                1. re: embee

                  You lamenting the loss of Cajun Corner?

                  I agree, we've had a lot additions, but nothing that makes me want to go back. I'm not sure how old it is, but I went to that Barrio place...boy did it suck.

                  1. re: grandgourmand

                    Yes, I lament the loss of Cajun Corner, which hasn't sounded worth trying at their new, much more expensive, Leaside location. I suspect they are learning that they were not prepared to run a "real" restaurant.

                    There are many restaurants around Toronto (though far fewer than in, say, Montreal) where one can get an interesting and delicious meal for less than $10 a head (sans booze). While Leslieville is now bursting with restaurants, it's hard to spend under $20 for a tasty meal.

                    Dangerous Dan's, Burger Shoppe, Coyote Willie, and the Real Jerk can provide a meal in that price category, but only the Jerk's is worth eating, and then only sometimes. Strat's is more about the booze, as is the Velvet Pub. I'm not considering Gale's or the place east of Pape that used to be Frank Newell's second location.

                    Most of the new casual places run about $15-$30 for a main and most don't consistently serve food worth that price.

                    There's nothing like Caplansky's, or a GOOD falafel place, or Quattro Ragazze. There's also nothing like Bistro Camino or Bibiche, where a quality meal can be had for under $20.

                    (Barrio went way downhill when the original owners left. Joy's history of ranging from excellent to awful seems to have changed under the new management. After two really bad meals there, we've given up. What's the point of paying $30 for bad food?)

                    1. re: embee

                      I'm thinking along those lines. My typical cravings are sandwich related and nothing comes to mind on that part of Queen St. Real Jerk, I've been once, and it was nothing special. Definitely a falafel or shawarma place. Then again, on that front, I find Toronto overall a bit lacking. But an average falafel would be a welcome addition, nonetheless.
                      What I'd really love to see is a pub that serves really nice burgers. An Allen's type place.

                      1. re: grandgourmand

                        Joy used to make great sandwiches, but these disappeared from the menu - first relegated to lunch only and then removed entirely. The "Joyful Chicken" was delicious. There is no good sandwich place that I know of.

                        I haven't been to Velvet in quite a while. They used to make good burgers (possibly still do - though not willing to cook rare), but as the price rose close to that of Allen's, the appeal faded.

            2. re: digiteyes

              Reliable didn't actually need a makeover to rescue a failing resto. They weren't in trouble. My understanding is that RM was supposed to redo Barrio. Seems something went wrong and RM approached Reliable instead, essentially because it was there.

              The owner figured it would get him a reno for way less than he could do it himself. I'd say the RM was successful since, before the reno, it was pretty much takeout only. They made it pleasant enough to eat there, and the tables are now often filled. It's still Reliable, only nicer.

              The owner told me that Lynn Crawford's dishes were delicious, but would need to sell for at least twenty bucks. This was a chippy and it remains a chippy. The dishes she made didn't make sense for them. They didn't change anything on the menu as far as I can see.

              1. re: embee

                Low cost reno and publicity, good rates and back to basics.
                Crawford and F&S are not a good match, and Reliables owner senses it.

                1. re: embee

                  Seriously, I look at the improvements on the menu they make for some places and they are totally out of cost for the place. Lynn did some lobster dish for a basic Tibetan restaurant in Peterborough. I mean, lobster is great, but isn't part of being a good executive chef working within a budget?

                  1. re: embee

                    I read an interview in NOW (?) and the Reliable owner said something to the tune of, "My restaurant wasn't in trouble, but I basically paid $15000 for an hour-long commercial that would air multiple times through repeats for years."

                    Killer business acumen!

            3. Do you have specific ones in mind?

              1. Stoney's at Yonge and Sheppard was definitely not helped by its makeover. Menu remains the same passable, low-end pub fare and instead of a synchronous environment that attracted the neighbourhood's few remaining beer-n-wings with a Leaf game guys it's now got an almost creepy financial district vibe.

                Also, in a sort of through-the-looking-glass moment I noticed that, I guess in order to meet the show's self-imposed deadline, they built a false wall halfway into the place and renovations continued well after the filming finished.

                6 Replies
                1. re: Carruthers

                  i've eaten saigon flowers (viet resto on queen/lisgar)

                  it was horrible. they didn't keep any of the changes. right back to the old menu. with a somewhat nicer interior. very disappointed. will NOT return.

                  1. re: c_snapper

                    Agreed! We could not believe how BAD the food was. The worst of it was a soup that tasted like dishwater. No discernable flavours whatsoever. We could not have been more disappointed.

                  2. re: Carruthers

                    I just wanted to note that a RM occurred at a small club in the entertainment district earlier this year and they did not take 5 days to renovate as we are lead to believe, but instead I walked past it for almost 3 weeks.

                    1. re: eller

                      That's normal for some contractors, they are only there 1/3 of the time so 5 days becomes 15 calendar days.

                      1. re: eller

                        Is this the Waterfall Martini Lounge on Adelaide? I work down the street from this place and never thought to go in before because it was such a dive. However, it was only about 8 days that they were closed before a new and much better looking place opened up that you could actually consider sitting in. The only thing they need to still do is tweak their menu a bit for the after work crwod. Other than that, I thought it was a great looking spot!

                        1. re: luvfoodguy

                          Eight days? As eller said, Waterfall was closed for three weeks. I walked by that place frequently back in the summer. The way they say it on the show, it definitely makes it seem like the place is only closed for six calendar days. Bad form! Boooo!

                          What's odd now is there's a sign saying the place is closed, it watch the episode tonight and the place will be open again on Nov 30th. Private parties until then?

                    2. Has anyone eaten at the Caribbean restaurant show a few years ago (First-Class Delites)? I don't know if they kept all the changes, but some of the dishes Lynn Crawford created seemed pretty good, esp. the fish kebab and the coconut ice cream banana split.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: merlot143

                        Cool, I guess I will go to First class delites since I like Jamaican food anyways. I have heard of horror stories on RM restuarants. So that's why I was somewhat skeptical about taking the plunge.

                        1. re: merlot143

                          I ate there for a quick lunch once last year, when I was working in the area. I had the daily special curry with rice. Very tasty, friendly service and quick.

                        2. How about this week? I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw Susur and his wife at Dhaba.

                          I thought Susur was very respectful of the owner's culture and dishes.
                          He didn't try to cook any Indian food just replated and made suggestions.
                          I like how Susur and Brenda pretended they had never heard of Dhaba, come on.
                          It was funny how even Igor was intimidated by the pair of them.
                          It would be interesting to try the newly decorated Dhaba with the idea that the food is essentially the same. Which is a good thing.
                          The repeated line from Brenda, "the Indian statues have to go" was borderline un-pc.

                          It seems that Torontonians will have a different view of this episode than the rest of N.A.

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: Mila

                            <LOL> I had to read that twice because I thought "What? Susur doing RM? WTF... no way..."

                            1. re: Olivia

                              The Dhaba makeover looks really unfinished. Really all they did was cleaning the junks out of the old place, throw on a fresh coat of paint, and built a killer bar. Mild renovations compared to most of the projects in season 1 and 2 (the Montana one was insanely ambitious).

                              I think Susur is a little too intimidating to be paired up with clueless cooks. Can you imagine him cooking with the bowling alley lady?

                              1. re: climacus

                                The bowling Alley lady is insane. She's been the best cook to watch. However after watching that, even if she added his recipes I still wouldnt eat there.

                                1. re: TdotFoodKing

                                  I saw the bowling alley lady, she's working at a burger joint in oakville called Roxy's. It's supposed to be really good, but I saw her and haven't been back...

                                  1. re: A Yo

                                    oh my GOD, it is true. It is her.

                                    As soon as I went there earlier this year, I recognized her from somewhere.. then shortly after waiting for my burger, I remembered where it was from.

                                    I can honestly say she was nothing like on that TV show, the only eccentricity I remember was that she was singing to herself as she was cooking the burger (which I remember because I was making sure she didn't do anything crazy)

                                    that is friggin hilarious... I knew it was her

                                    The burger place is pretty good, it's basically a Lick's knockoff with their own patties. I find them a little soft in texture for my liking but I've had worse

                            2. re: Mila

                              I finally managed to watch this episode last night. Is it me or was that episode kind of dull? Anyways, minor point.

                              While it was nice of Susur to be respectful of PK's food, if I was PK having shelled out $15K, I'd want Susur to not be so lazy and come up with a few new dishes to add to the menu.

                              1. re: Mila

                                It was reported in Toronto Life that Susur and his family eats at Dhaba on a regular basis and when the owner was interviewed for RM he mentioned that to them. They approached Susur's wife to be the designer then the owner said well why not have Susur as the cook.. But if you watch the show Brenda is never there (Igor mentions it several times) I think it was just a token show to get big names.. Looks like Susur spent in total probably one afternoon with them.. and his wife probably not much longer...

                                1. re: OnDaGo

                                  I went to Dhaba with a group from work on Friday night and was, in a word, underwhelmed. The flooring is cracked and has obviously seen better days and the decals that were stuck on the walls have already started to bubble and wrinkle. The addition of a retail chest freezer in the main dining room is a really nice touch as well.

                                  And...ummm...I don't want to be shallow and sound snobbish, but if I'm eating a "tasting menu" showing off what the chef can do at what is supposedly a "fine dining" (their own words from their website) restaurant, Corelle plates are a bit of a joke. Honestly if this is the best a $30,000 makeover can do in Toronto, restauranteurs are in serious trouble.

                                  The food is definitely tailored to western tastes and seemed to have been on the mild side. I must admit that the tandoori lamb chops were a nice change but, again were bland.

                                  The service was friendly but given that we ordered the tasting menu, when the waiters came asking us which dish went where, we were surprised as we really didn't know who got what beyond the one vegetarian...

                                  I definitely would not rush to go back there again.

                                  1. re: Mike from Hamilton

                                    Completely agree. I was there a couple weeks ago and they are trying to come across as upscale and are not measuring up.
                                    The service was odd. The waiter was behaving as if we didn't know what we wanted to order and was clearly trying to upsell. It took a VERY long time to get our 3 dishes.
                                    I've mentioned it in another post, but basically the sauces were average, the chicken and paneer (in different dishes) were both dry and the chicken tikka could have passed for butter chicken (and not a good one).

                                    I would go back, never mind rush back. There are better places to go. Tabla, for example.

                              2. Bagel World (see any thread about bagels here) recently completed its RM. Their show airs Oct. 29th. I don't know why they needed a makeover, the place is fully packed, all the time, but I suppose it was a bit dingy inside. I am kind of worried that a dozen bagels is suddenly going to cost $15...

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: abscissa

                                  I don't think the prices have risen more than a little....yet. And the bagels didn't change, thankfully.

                                2. We went to the Town Grill - on Carlton, close to Parliament - after seeing them on RM, and the the food good enough that we returned after our first visit.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: tjunmin

                                    Second the endorsement of the Town Grill.
                                    To be fair to the Rosedale Diner, while they are on the pricey side for what they offer, their rent is probably sky high given the ever-more-upscale 'hood and fact that they are across the street from the hot Summerhill LCBO plus the Five Thieves. And - happily - they have really reverted (as far as I can see) to their menu of old faves which everyone likes. They are consistent, welcoming and casual - charging just a little less than they could get away with. So high marks to them in my book anyway.

                                    1. re: Bigtigger

                                      I thought the town grill guys sold the place shortly after the RM show and bought the Ben Wicks? I liked the Town Grill before the reno (shabby chic decor) and great food...now its like every other trendy bistro (Chandeliers with round lampshdes) , lentil coloured walls, etc...though the food is still very good

                                  2. Why Susur anyway, his personality is that of a deadfish. And is the kind of chef who can help a local bar? I dont know, he is such a turn off to watch.

                                    1. OK, does anyone want to nominate a restaurant that's due for the RM treatment?

                                      I'll start: Phebe's (AKA Zee Grill), on Mount Pleasant. Tired '80s decor, and a menu that's not bad but could certainly use some zing.

                                      15 Replies
                                      1. re: estragon

                                        I nominate Bibiche Bistro on the Danforth between Greenwood and Monarch Park. The decor or the china or even the cutlery (maybe not the linen too!) haven't changed since I was first there when they opened in the mid-80s (haven't been for awhile, so correct me if they've updated). Really tired pink kitschy decor. The food though is really great.

                                        2326 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M4E, CA

                                        1. re: JamieK

                                          Swan for certain needs RM
                                          It is laughable to see them dim the lights, and put a candle on the table of this very tired diner, while they continue to upscale their menu, in a place that looks like a greasy spoon..

                                          1. re: erly

                                            I love swan and hope it'll never change. they've done a great job with the 50s style diner decor. the fact that they've always been insanely busy has to do with both the food and the decor - it feels comfy, not sterile like a lot of the restaurants nearby.

                                            1. re: Kasia

                                              I agree with the lighting comment. Its dim, and has the yellow lights. But the dinner feel is great, just need maybe a freshening up.

                                            2. re: erly

                                              Isn't that part of the charm of Swan? It used to be a diner, so it's upscale food in a clean diner setting. I think it's fun. The food is pretty good, but the bread pudding is one of my fave desserts in the entire city.

                                              1. re: erly

                                                Swan is being intentionally ironic. I haven't been there in many years and can't comment on the current condition of the place. But the "candles in a greasy spoon" had a certain charm when I was there.

                                                1. re: erly

                                                  That's exactly the point, they want it to look like a greasy spoon. I like sitting in the booths or the woobly stools, drinking wine and eating short ribs. When the light comes through the window, "sandwiches" (I think that's what it says) appears on the floor. No, I think it would be sacrilegious to change anything about Swan's decor.

                                                  Now, my thoughts about RM, absolute nonsense. If a restaurant is doing poorly, you don't need a designer to come in with a team of Holmes on Holmes style wrecking crews. What a failing restaurant needs is Gordon Ramsay to go in and crack skulls.

                                                  1. re: chef_vegabond

                                                    i agree, Swan has old school charm, is busy and leave the designers at the curb. Restaurant Makeover has thankfully ceased production.

                                                    Restaurants rarely fail due to decor or 3 dishes god-given by Corbin (or anyone else). They fail due to poor management, poor understanding of their demographics or the demographic that they should be shooting for given their location (remember location, location, location is a main key). Many times the amateur restauranteur doesn't have the experience, heart, drive or deep pockets to survive in a business that has less than a 10% net profit.

                                                2. re: JamieK

                                                  Nothing has changed in 21 years and nothing ever will. When they've had enough, they'll just retire.

                                                  1. re: JamieK

                                                    I'll second Bibiche Bistro for a makeover.

                                                    You know, I live just around the corner, and haven't tried it. I can't get past the front window, in which hangs mummified lacy doiley curtains stolen straight from Miss Havisham's wedding cake. The tables are set back from the window and it's dark, so it always appears as if nobody goes there. From the street, it looks like a small town funeral parlour.

                                                    Some of the food looks interesting - a bit all over the place - with perhaps a bit of a creole thing happening, and perhaps overpriced??? Over $15 for a bistro liver dish? Is that reasonable these days - maybe it is? I'm sure it's nice, but take a look around the neighborhood. I'm likely going to go downtown if I'm at that price point, rather than staying local.

                                                    The 'hood there is becoming "gentrified" and it's chock full of young parents and kids now. If ever there was a time for a resto to take a look at what it used to be and what it wants to be, this would be the time.

                                                    1. re: Nephandus

                                                      Hasn't changed in over twenty years and I doubt that it ever will. It wants to be what it has always been. Seats are very uncomfortable and it is dark.

                                                      Food is somewhat experimental, usually interesting, occasionally excellent, seldom bad. The bread is pretty blah, but just about everything else is made in house and worth trying at least once. One of the very best French onion soups in Toronto. Yummy desserts.

                                                      Definitely not overpriced. The portion sizes are enormous. Two people with reasonable appetites can easily split one dinner plate.

                                                  2. re: estragon

                                                    Sounds like RM is the kiss of death. So why would any legitimate restaurant go through it? Plus, the shows are all BS--hype for Food Network tv. I can't believe how many times they air various incantations of Iron Chef. Borrrrring!

                                                    1. re: estragon

                                                      Cafe Mistral on the north side of Queen just east of Parliament. This place is just pathetic. It used to be the very sad Paradise Cafe. Then they renovated. Someone forgot to tell them that a coat of paint doesn't get rid of the stale beer and cigarettes smell. Yuck. The back "patio" area looks like a great place to be stabbed. They keep a turtle in a far too small tank that after years of living like this does nothing but repetitive motion. Poor thing. For that alone I can't bear to be in the place. Can't get it out of my mind. And oooooh yes, let's not forget that their front window was smashed several months ago and the only thing they've done about it is board it up. Verrry attractive. I wanna eat there. When they switched over I thought they may actually give us a new menu. Nope. Just the same crappy Hungarian goulash they always made. New owner is actually half of the old ownership arrangement.

                                                      Honestly, can you think of anything more prime for a Makeover? These people know nothing about the restaurant business or food and yet keep on sullying the ever improving neighbourhood around it.

                                                      1. re: Googs

                                                        John's italian on Baldwin is really in nead of RM. Since taking over the dairy next door, everything seems watered down. Maybe their expansion was too ambitious? Oh no, I just envisioned Igor smashing through the glass window with hebrew writing on it. Luckily, the window itself was made a historical landmark before the dairy was sold to Western.

                                                        1. re: dlw88

                                                          A guy named Igor smashing a window with Hebrew writing on it? Yikes! Visions of the early years of the last century.

                                                          One of the many sad things about RM is that their designers make everything look the same. They don't seem to have the ability or desire to bring out the soul of an older building by peeling back layers and using the original features. Instead they cover everything up with glitz.

                                                    2. Although the resaurants on the show do seem to need their help (most of the time.) i cant help but feel that they all end up looking like they could be part of a chain. i prefer places that look cosy and warm and "lived in". I dont like most of the make overs that they do. And if they really wanted to do proper RM's then they would have to get rid of the owners and staff and start over because they are the reasons that the business is going down hill. not how the place looks. some of my favorite restaurants look like someones garage but the food is so good and you have so much fun that you dont care what the place looks like.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: BritinCan

                                                        I agree with most of what you are saying, however, not all of them are doing it because their business is in trouble. They are doing it for a cheap freshening up - see Bagel World. I don't know if it's worth it though, because I do think that by being on RM it gives people the impression your business is in trouble and/or you need tweaking with your menu. Even if this is not the case, I don't think that it's good PR.

                                                      2. RM introduced me to Quattro Ragazze, so it's not all bad. But seriously, it's just another TV drama based on food with Igor the most enjoyable part of the whole show. As everyone has pointed out, slapping some new upholstery down and teaching a chef a few new tricks can't save the restaurant if the underlying management/business model is the reason the place is failing. Of course, you have to admire those owners who use the show as relatively inexpensive and effective marketing and know what they're doing in the restaurant biz.

                                                        1. I agree with others that restaurants that have been made over all look like they could be units of a chain - like Moxies. Shudder.

                                                          Also, I'm sure people outside Toronto have zero interest in the show seeing as nearly all episodes are shot in this city.

                                                          I used to like it, now I just find it mildly entertaining and increasingly staged and formulaic. Bring back shows about food, man.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: magic

                                                            I agree. It's become boring and redundant. It's the What Not to Wear of food shows. After the first year it keeps repeating itself over and over again.

                                                          2. Is anybody keeping a list of RM's that have closed?

                                                            4 Replies
                                                              1. re: robgm

                                                                robgm, I'd love to see the list you've compiled. Something's got me curious.

                                                                1. re: Googs

                                                                  I will attempt to post it over the weekend, I will have to reformat it so that I can cut and paste it for this forum. The short of it is that the failure rate after reno is roughly about 30%. This also includes those operators that used the money to 'spiff' up the place to fetch a better selling price.

                                                                  1. re: robgm

                                                                    robgm, any updates to this list? I'd love to see it.

                                                            1. We went to Casa Mendoza on a Monday night at the end of the summer. The place was deserted, possibly because it was Monday night. We went in and there was no one there to greet us and a sign saying that the patio was upstairs. After waiting a good 5 minutes at least we ventured upstairs where we were seated. It was a bit chilly for the patio so we opted for inside. It was a really dingy area and very dark. Later the chef (I think) had come upstairs and was chatising the staff for not seating people in the dining rooom which was "much nicer". She came by and asked how are food was. We said is was good but it was ok. Given the price I expected more. It was disappointing not to have been seated in the dining room (where the makeover occurred!) We may give it another try, but on a weekend night where it's hopefully more likely to get a table in the main dining room

                                                              1. I've been to Stoney's and Monkey Bar and Grill. Two very different experiences...I was looking forward the one of the dishes the RM chef showed @ Stoney's. I think it was a lobster baked potato, but it wasn't on the menu. Monkey Bar and Grill however was very good.

                                                                3 Replies
                                                                1. re: F0ODIE

                                                                  I used to go to Stoney's regularly when it first opened, but hadn't been for awhile before the Makeover aired. I went shortly after the Makeover, and was disappointed to find that they'd reverted to the old menu -- which was the main reason that I'd stopped going in the first place.

                                                                  Yes, that lobster looked good on the show....

                                                                  1. re: F0ODIE

                                                                    stoney's has closed and re-opened as something else

                                                                    1. re: robgm

                                                                      You're thinking about the faux Vietnamese place next door. Stoney's is still in business. But with Spring Roll and Wolfgang Puck opening up across the street, it's going to get ugly. Yonge & Sheppard just can't get a break. Nothing but crap food.

                                                                  2. We saw the citizen on restaurant makeover......best episode ever. I mean the all seem a little contrived and over dramatic but this was no a typical episode...the chef ,rod ,also of the amazing Rosebud, one of my favorite restos, spends all his wedding money on the new resto....drama....he's running out and voila instant show. Lynn crawford, my favourite makeover personality adored rod and for good reason all the food looked amazing. Hence the reason for our visit. The room looked fantastic, a little different from what we saw on the show obvious changes were made....but still a similar vibe. The place was packed , we hoped it wasn't because of the show. The food was amazing...everything we had was over the top, wine was good and cheap , service was warm ad friendly...the room was a little hot for my date but that could have been the wine...and the music well they need a better sound system, it sounded tinny and muted.in the end our bill was just under a$100 with two full bellies and feeling happy happy. My most positive makeover experience to date. scratch that . my most positive restaurant experience in a while

                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                    1. re: marktheshark

                                                                      I'm watching an episode called Hamar Weyne....what season was that from ?

                                                                      1. re: chaptwo

                                                                        I saw that one too, it's a somali restaurant with an eretrian chef. Somali food is great, it really is.. those thin strips of meat and peppers fried up in the rice. Yum!

                                                                      2. re: marktheshark

                                                                        I saw that episode

                                                                        Actually that guy and lynn crawford were friends already from outside of the show, and thats why she went and not the other chefs theyve been using more often

                                                                      3. After watching RM we went to Rubicon - wing place in Clarkson. They did not keep the new menu items however their wings are wonderful - especially their Jerk wings. Would not have stopped in without the program.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: juliewong

                                                                          I went to the Rubicon after seeing the RM episode as well about a year ago, and I was incredibly disappointed with the wings. They were overcooked and under-seasoned, which left them dry and a little bland. Thankfully, the sauces were somewhat decent.

                                                                          Normally, I wouldn't have gone all the way out there since I live in Scarborough, but I got their ribs a couple years back and I was quite impressed with those (better than a lot of Toronto Pork Back Ribs, but of course not Southern US good). The difference in quality between their ribs and their wings really surprised me.

                                                                          I liked the wings at the Wing Shack in Ajax, but that location seems to be currently closed for renovations (not in the RM sense!). Their other location in Whitby seems to be slightly less great, but still worth the 15-20 min drive for me. =)

                                                                        2. .We tried Casa Mendoza as it's down the street from our condo. It took us well over 5 minutes for someone to seat us despite the fact that the restaurant was half full. Don't ask for a wine list as the older waitress will give you a lecture on the restaurants extensive wine selection. (A very crabby waitress). They didn't have any of the wines I mentioned and they were very common Chardonnay's. We ordered the "Mendoza mixed grill for two. Filet mignon, lamb chops, spicy chorizo sausage, pork tenderloin, chicken breast, roasted potatoes & grilled vegetables. The grilled veggies were waaaay too soft and for most of the part inedible. The potatoes were overcooked and dry. We ordered the filet med-rare and it came med-well...........the lamb chops were average...........the chicken breast was dry............the pork tenderloin was average......the chorizo sausage was quite good but $80 is a hefty price to pay for spicy chorizo sausage. The ambience was average at best. (It's on the darker side unless you're seated by a window). The service was poorest I've experienced in any restaurant that costs over $100 for two. Didn't venture to try out anything on the dessert menu. The portion sizes were healthy but I would personally prefer to have less food but made MUCH better. I will be avoiding Casa Mendoza in the future.

                                                                          1. We had a pre movie meal at Montana next to the Scotia Theatre. RM really did help this place quite a bit. I was dragged there a couple years ago, again before a movie, and the food was expensive, not good, and with terrible service.

                                                                            On the recent visit the service was good, the wood fired pizza was delicious, and the pasta with blackened chicken dish was tasty too. It's convenient for the movie thing, and better than expected for based on prior experience and location. Also the prices were reasonable so I guess they lowered them a bit. We really enjoyed it, but probably wouldn't go back unless in the area for a movie.

                                                                            About a month ago we noticed RM signs outside The Church Street Diner. There were staff mulling around with RM shirts on and work being done. Currently the RM signs are gone, and a sign is up saying they'll be closed for awhile for renovations. Could this be a RM gone awry or is this the standard?

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: abigllama

                                                                              I don't know anything about this particular place. However, if you know anything about renovation time and cost issues, or about the cost of restaurant equipment, it is obvious that many of the larger makeovers can't possibly be done in the allotted time or for the stated cost.

                                                                              Some of the makeovers are obviously fairly easy to do - so easy that they need to create some fake dramatic tension for a more interesting viewing experience. Some are clearly disasters, and they have been sued. Some are done well, but others seem to have the quality of a temporary movie set.

                                                                              1. re: abigllama

                                                                                I noticed yesterday that the Church Street Diner is still closed. Wonder what the story is?

                                                                              2. I love that show! I went to Saigon Flower on Queen West and the owners decided to retract back to their original menu. I was really looking forward to trying some of the new dishes.... they should of kept some of the new stuff

                                                                                1. I went to Saigon Flower on Queen West and was sad to see that they had retracted back to their original menu. The space was much better than it had use to be..but unfortunately the menu did not match it's updated look

                                                                                  1. I've been to Phil's. I was pretty unimpressed with the makeover in person. My chair was falling apart and the look just seemed cheap overall. Food wasn't bad though and the prices are pretty good.

                                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: MelodySoul

                                                                                      I haven't been to Phil's since the makeover. However, I do remember him describing the quality of what they did as akin to a "stage set".

                                                                                      I don't know whether there's favouritism or it's just the luck of the draw, but some have been much better than that and some have resulted in the program being sued. There's no way that some of those makeovers could have been done for $30K. Others (e.g., Reliable) would likely have cost less.

                                                                                      1. re: MelodySoul

                                                                                        I'm from Montreal and found Phil's by accident last year. Stopped in for a very disappointing meal.
                                                                                        The place did indeed look 'cheap'. Phil was there, but his mind was certainly somewhere else. I asked to see his pit (as I do in any BBQ joint, just for fun) but he said he was way too busy then went back to reading the newspaper...
                                                                                        OK, maybe he thought his kitchen was messy or something and didn't want to show me, but don't say you're too busy when there's not another soul in the place and the phone is dead silent...

                                                                                        I caught the RM episode AFTER ther fact and then thought the makeover didn't help at all...

                                                                                        1. re: porker

                                                                                          Phil started out with real passion, and then got hooked into a franchising deal that blew up in face (though he got up alive).

                                                                                          I don't think the passion is still there and I stopped going a few years ago after several meals that, while not actually bad, didn't warrant a trip across town.

                                                                                          You experience is interesting, though, because he used to be really proud of his "pit", which was outside behind the resto, and he used to be very excited about what he was doing, friendly, and helpful.

                                                                                          1. re: embee

                                                                                            Most BBQers are proud of their setup - thats why I like shooting the breeze with them.
                                                                                            Its hard to do your thing in the restaurant business when the passion is gone, certainly.

                                                                                            1. re: porker

                                                                                              Have to agree with you porker about the "feel" and the attitude of the place. Recently, I stopped by at Phil's for a second visit (didn't enjoy my first one-and I always give places a second chance just in case they were having an off night the first time round). Anyhow, the food was disappointing again. We tried the combo plate and the pulled pork, both lacked flavour and everything was on the dry side. I keep hearing how Phil's is really good and comparable to what you can find in the southern states. Well I've had ribs and pulled pork "down south" and there are no similarities. Even the stuff the locals call so-so down there is waaay better. The passion is definitely gone at Phil's.

                                                                                      2. You can add "Natcho Thai Thai" on King St. East roughly across from the King Eddy to the rather long list of RM makeovers that eventually went belly up. The windows have been papered over with for lease signs for a few weeks now. I never went in because I never heard anything good about them; I guess even the built-in audience of office workers and hotel visitors wasn't enough to keep them afloat.

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. re: Gary

                                                                                          I used to live in the condo above Natcho Thai Thai and was a regular. Awesome pad thai. After the makeover the menu looked the same but now is sadly out of business.

                                                                                          I also ate at the greek restaurant on Bloor and Yonge pre RM and it was OK. Have eaten at Le Cafe Vert post makeover and it was good - small portions though. I really liked their vegan spelt brownie.

                                                                                          They need to remake Teddy's bar and Grill on Queen and Jones. LOL.

                                                                                        2. I just tried La Cabana on Danforth. It's a nice little Mexican restaurant. The food and service were great. I prefer El Sol a little further east on Danforth, but if you don't have the time to wait for the slow service this is a good place. Fairly authentic and certainly a dedicated owner!

                                                                                          1. I had a great meal @ Dhaba a couple of weekends ago. I ate everything on my plate - and some of what was on other people's plates! Unfortunately I was too stuffed for dessert. The service was impeccable, too - they didn't miss a beat in dealing with our group, which included a rowdy five year old up past his bedtime.

                                                                                            The thing I like about Restaurant Makeover is that it gives you the chance to see the owners of the restaurants. It's not something that always happens when one goes out to eat. With Dhaba I was charmed by the owner and his family [who I think all work there, too] - they seemed like the type of people I would like to hand over my money to. I know reality TV is highly staged - but they did seem like genuinely nice people.

                                                                                            1. I remember the old Mr. Coco's on Kingston road, the sons changed it to coco's bar, the RM it bacame Bob Cajun's then fast closure....... Another disaster for RM.

                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                              1. re: smr714

                                                                                                I must say that the RM at Roma Ristorante was a welcome change, the place was too scruffy, dark and 'old fashioned'...we went there quite frequently even before RM and still go now. The Menu was changed (but you can still get some of the stuff on the older menu...Pizza's still superb as is the Roma Salad other than that I can't say as we use Roma for only those two items. Here's what I like...the place is Bright, seems cleaner even the dinner plates look better. It has a kind of 'trendy/loungy(?)/hip(?) feeling (at least to this 'oldster')...looks like the same 'neighbourhood' crowd as far as I can tell.
                                                                                                Here's the thing...all of the 'reno' was done on the cheap (look at the ceiling etc.)the chairs are way more comfortable but the owners got stuck with buying lots of extra chairs (which were pricey I was told), part of their refrigeration/bar got ruined in the process so it wasn't the best deal for the owners in a few ways. As far as I can tell...the change didn't create more business but they said they didn't lose any either.
                                                                                                For my husband and I...we still go as frequently...it feels /looks clean..we don't feel out of place in the 'new' surroundings...that's appreciated and we will continue to go there....cleaner looking, friendly and still reliable suits us just fine!

                                                                                              2. The OP is a few years old now but if the show is still on (have only seen one episode,) here goes...

                                                                                                Have been to two of the restaurants, Hollinger's and Citizen. Both have long since been closed and re-opened with new identities.

                                                                                                Hollinger's was not bad -- if I were going to eat at a sports-bar type place. My guess it closed due to it's prior establishment and clientele not being able to change because I remember my dinner being well executed and the service was pleasant. As far as the physical plant makever, I didn't know what the room was like previously, but I was not impressed with the remodel as I'd seen it. Very vanilla, nothing special or offensive. Maybe that was the point. Anyone -- non-designers included -- could have carried off the basement rec-room aesthetic. The place is open again now, tho I've not been in and can't tell you the name.

                                                                                                Was somewhat disappointed with Citizen. Chose it based on CH comments and remembering a fairly decent experience from when it was the Riverside. But this time while the servers were great there was something not quite right about the atmosphere or food. The decor had the feeling of trying too hard -- the art deco inspiration was kinda formal and sophisticated but not quite there, perhaps I was holding onto the casual elegance of the Riverside. The meal was good, but priced on the high side of what I thought it should have gotten away with. Overall, to me Citizen was too self-precious. Good luck to Rubywatchco...

                                                                                                The one episode of RM I have seen was over Reliable. My impression was that the two women were a little clueless (not really listening to the client) and more than self-absorbed, tho one can never tell if this behaviour is put on for the cameras. The other comments on this thread concerning Reliable speak for themselves.