Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Ontario (inc. Toronto) >
Oct 9, 2007 10:52 AM

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. The original comment has been removed
    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.