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Gordon's Bringing Kitchen Nightmares To Austin: Here's Who Needs His Help

http://www.austin360.com/blogs/conten...

Who should Gordon break down then build back up?

What Austin restaurant is most in need of a makeover?

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  1. Haven't been there personally, but I hear that Treehouse Italian Grill is pretty abysmal. It's right by my house so I drive by all the time... visually it's actually got some nice character. 2.1 in Fearless Critic... yikes.

    2 Replies
    1. re: popvulture

      I concur. Back when I was but a mere culinary naïf in college, I loved the Treehouse for its seeming sophistication. After learning and experiencing a great deal more about food, I returned a few years ago and found that it was not as my time-and-wine-hazed memory had it. With some work, it could really be something, though. It has the location; it just needs the food.

      1. re: ret3

        I'll third this suggestion. I used to live down the street from it, and went once. I've had better pasta from a box.

    2. Carmello's. Phara's. Alborz, Chez Nous. I know it has a lot of fans, but I would also say El Patio.

      -----
      Chez Nous
      510 Neches St, Austin, TX 78701

      El Patio Restaurant
      2938 Guadalupe St, Austin, TX 78705

      2 Replies
      1. re: gilintx

        Chez Nous? Really? I love that place.

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        Chez Nous
        510 Neches St, Austin, TX 78701

        1. re: gilintx

          El Patio is beyond rescue short of an act of arson. So is Matt's El Ranch and a host of dumps selling slop referred to as "Tex-Mex".
          This has to be someplace _worth_ saving, not past saving!

          -----
          El Patio Restaurant
          2938 Guadalupe St, Austin, TX 78705

        2. Justine's. I think it would be high drama, and the food could probably still be saved.
          Plus I want them to make it, but I know I'm not the only one on here who has witnessed a decline.

          9 Replies
          1. re: NWLarry

            Chez Zee (moldy desserts killed them for me), Bakehouse, Sagra, Cippolina are all pretty high on my ugh list....
            If I had to pick one, I'd vote for Cippolina. I really love the location, like what they want to do, but I find the food pretty unacceptable at least 1/2 the times I've gone there. I got a dish there once which was burnt on the top and congealed cold fat on the bottom. Another time, I got a dish full of (undisclosed on the menu) garlic... there were so many sauteed slivers, I thought they were almonds at first. This isn't a problem for most people, but I have a garlic allergy and hedge away from any garlic at restaurants unless it is cooked for hours in a stew, gravy or sauce. Raw or partially cooked garlic makes me feel like I'm catching the stomach flu for about 24 hours.

            Sagra would probably be next on my list to fix. I really like the location, but I've ordered the same dish there 3 times (without a menu change) and gotten a completely different dish each time... one time I got undercooked eggs (raw whites). Sagra has amazing promise but can't seem to get its act together on a consistent basis.

            -----
            Chez Zee
            5406 Balcones Dr., Austin, TX 78731

            1. re: shan

              I'm surprised to hear this about Cippolina. The pizza has been consistently tasty every time I have eaten there. Only tried a couple pasta dishes over the years but haven't been disappointed with the restaurant yet.

              I would vote for Phara's... It surprises me the volume they do, but still seem to have no clue how to run a restaurant.

              1. re: ebloom

                I'm with you - I've eaten at Cipollina many times and have never experienced anything like that.

                1. re: ridgeback

                  We've gone about 10 times over the last year... Lunch at Cippolina is usually pretty good, but we've thrown up our hands and given up on dinner there.

              2. re: shan

                I thought Bakehouse was already in the queue of restos to be KN rehabbed?

                1. re: stellawine

                  There was a rumor that one of the Bakehouse workers was a mite too temperamental to be allowed close proximity to Gordon.

                  I figure near the end of the series' run there'll be a pull apart brawl in a snack bar like the Moondogs vs the Assassins or the Road Warriors vs Fabulous Ones.

                  It's interesting to see some successful restaurants listed here. The impetus behind the show is that the shop is about to close, go out of business.

                  What restaurants in town are hanging by a thread and need all the help they can get to stay open?

                  1. re: scrumptiouschef

                    Katz's would've been a good candidate. If anybody needs a profanity laden dressing down for serving mediocre food in a mismanaged restaurant it's Marc Katz.

                2. re: shan

                  It would be Chez Zee for me. I hate getting dragged there by friends. Aging decor, mediocre food, disinterested waitstaff... I'm always impressed by how much business they continue to do.

                  Antonio's could get a nod. The new 183 location was terrible from the day it opened.

                  1. re: verily

                    have never been to antonio's, but have not heard good things from co-workers (our office is nearbyish).

              3. The Highball. It has a lot going for it, but the food menu is really struggling. After begging them for a simple hamburger for the last year plus, they finally added one...that costs $15, and has been unanimously reviewed as being "meh" by everyone in my circle of friends who's tried it.

                9 Replies
                1. re: hlk

                  Agree 100%, but man, they're printing money over there. I don't think they give a darn at all. Anyway, continuing your theme on a larger scale, the Alamo Drafthouse needs help. I understand from their blog that Tim League took the kitchens back on the non-franchise (Ritz, S Lamar, Anderson) theaters but the food is still awful. Pizza that tastes like it came from a box, dry burgers, under/overcooked fried apps depending on the day, etc.

                  1. re: brentwood

                    Did you read the Statesman article by Addie Broyles about spending a day there? It sounds like the volume they have to serve within the time constraint makes it very difficult to control quality.

                    1. re: ebloom

                      I did not, thanks for the tip. The challenges you describe make sense, and despite my frustrations, we're lucky to have such a resource in Austin. Maybe my beef is with staff, whose response to complaints has been mostly "Oh well, where else are you going to go?"

                      1. re: brentwood

                        I agree completely and am not trying to make excuses for their food. We mostly just order pizzas and stay away from anything more complex.

                        1. re: ebloom

                          the franchised locations are no better, as i frequent lake creek.
                          we even had a thread going at one point.

                          one of these locations would be a great idea for this show, but given the volume, i am not sure they would qualify.

                    2. re: brentwood

                      I had my best Alamo burger (Royale with cheese) and fries ever last week at the S. Lamar location, and i've been going since the beginning. Perfect meat, not dry, fries just out of the grease. Overpriced, but you know that going in.

                      1. re: brentwood

                        I actually had one of the best pizzas since the old days at the Colorado St. location at the Ritz a couple of weeks ago.

                        1. re: brentwood

                          Hmm, I was thinking franchised Drafthouse too after the last thread... but he can't really go in and make it over (overnight with the team) and rework the menu like he does...

                          1. re: brentwood

                            The only really good food item at the Alamo is the cookies. Made from scratch, baked to order. The rest is just frozen food cooked improperly by underpaid staff. The menu is alright but the food is only as good as the ingredients. (Which are obviously the worst they can find! Frozen burger meat, chicken and steak, brown lettuce and queso/plastic.) I am surprised the staff still gets health ins., since they can't be healthy eating that food! It would be too much for Ramsey to fix... like McDonald's.

                        2. I think one of the main qualifications the show uses for choosing restaurants is that its fallen on hard times. Its not enough that the food isn't good. Most of the places named in this thread thus far would never be considered for that reason.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: ridgeback

                            Treehouse or Phara's are both great candidates. How about Snack Bar?

                            1. re: manisubra

                              I think Snack Bar would be an ideal candidate -- even if they've brought in a new chef. I live close by and have been astounded at the constant missteps this place has made. It sat dormant for seven months before opening (El Sol y La Luna managed to move to a new building and be up and running in a month). It hired an initial staff that, by most accounts, seemed to deeply dislike interacting with customers. It overcharges for the most basic dishes, which all run on the small side. The one that really sort of shocked me was that all the tableware seemed to have come from Ikea -- anyone who's ever worked in a restaurant KNOWS you can't use household tableware. It lasts maybe three weeks. In summary, I've always gotten the impression that Snack Bar was just some people that decided they wanted to play 'Restaurant', and have no clue what they are doing. Kudos to them for hiring a new chef but yeah, Snack Bar is a good suggestion.

                          2. Ranch 616. I remember in the late 90's/early 00's the food being pretty good and the concept was always fun and novel. The last two times we went, the food has been outright awful. The second to the last time would have been the last time, except we had a groupon. To be fair, their cocktails have always been pretty good, and their fried oysters are great. They could really use a whipping into shape, because they really fell off the wagon.

                            -----
                            Ranch 616
                            616 Nueces, Austin, TX 78701

                            1 Reply
                            1. Mesa Ranch would be a great one. They've just really dropped the ball as of late, but it has such potential.

                              1. I'm thinking Hickory St Bar & Grill would be a good candidate

                                1. The one and only time we went to The Emerald Restaurant, it was so immensely horrible that we thought we were on Candid Camera. From the cat barfing on the front step as we walked up, to the debris we found in our water glasses (left set on the table between customers) when they poured in the water, to the crazy drunk chef muttering his way through the restaurant, to all the dishes absolutely DROWNING in sauce, we swore that we would never set foot in that particular "fine dining" establishment again. Granted, this was 10 years ago, but we've kept our part of the bargain. Is it even open anymore, and still styling itself the best place to celebrate a special event in town?

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: addlepated

                                    The Emerald! Yes, perfect setting for the show! I assume it's still open. I "won" a meal for 2 there a couple of years ago in a work raffle. I traded it to a coworker for $20 and an extra vacation day, pure robbery on my part.

                                    1. re: addlepated

                                      addlepated, i recall some special $100 groupon for a $300 lobster and steak meal this year.
                                      i want to say it was for valentine's day, but i could be mistaken.

                                    2. well, we were all wrong.

                                      "Gordon Ramsay's coming to town with Kitchen Nightmares, and the folks at the Chronicle hear filming will occur at El Greco by campus August 29 - September 1

                                      Gordon Ramsay's coming to town with Kitchen Nightmares, and the folks at the Chronicle hear filming will occur at El Greco by campus August 29 - September 1.

                                      So, what's the deal with El Greco? Well, for starters, they're currently hosting a contest on their Facebook page for the best photo of a person in a toga (all the sample photos are of ladies). The lucky winner gets dinner for four (sans alcohol) and the distinct privilege of becoming the restaurant's Facebook avatar. It doesn't look like anyone has entered the contest yet."

                                      here is the link:
                                      http://austin.eater.com/archives/2011...

                                      -----
                                      El Greco
                                      3016 Guadalupe, Austin, TX

                                      22 Replies
                                      1. re: dinaofdoom

                                        El Greco is a good choice. Horrible service, and food is extremely overpriced.

                                        -----
                                        El Greco
                                        3016 Guadalupe, Austin, TX

                                        1. re: heyzeus212

                                          interesting they chose a campus-area restaurant.
                                          there are sooooo many others to choose from.

                                          1. re: dinaofdoom

                                            Why campus-area restaurant?!? I avoid that area like the plague. Anytime someone recommends a restaurant over there, I just assume they have some UT memory associated with the place. Typically, the parking is awful (although downtown is getting just as bad), the atmosphere leaves much to be desired, and the service is typically poor. I realize I'm generalizing, but this is why that area is lower on my list of places to go for food. There's no restaurant over there where the food is worth the hassle.

                                            1. re: drdelicious

                                              I had no idea where El Greco was... at first, I thought maybe that it had replaced Milto's.

                                              Ruby's is the only campus restaurant I can think of that I'm willing to drive to.

                                              1. re: drdelicious

                                                i think it would have been a lot more interesting to choose some place like, say, the oasis, where there's a gorgeous view (and pricey rent) but crappy food.

                                                1. re: dinaofdoom

                                                  Oasis makes a lot of money though so the show would only be negative publicity.

                                                2. re: drdelicious

                                                  Parts of Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmare's show involve Gordon interacting with locals about the restaurant, and walking around the neighborhood of the restaurant. El Greco is situated in a much more pedestrian friendly, and photogenic neighborhood than many other Austin restaurants. I would guess that location is as much a factor as the actual restaurant itself.

                                                  -----
                                                  El Greco
                                                  3016 Guadalupe, Austin, TX

                                                  1. re: ChrisStein

                                                    oh, now that you mention that aspect, it makes more sense...

                                                    1. re: ChrisStein

                                                      Really? We live just around the corner so we'd better clean up the yard for the cameras. Wonder if they'll interview the bums outside of El Patio?

                                                      Only been to El Greco's once and it really was restaurant prices for canteen food and service.

                                                      -----
                                                      El Greco
                                                      3016 Guadalupe, Austin, TX

                                                      El Patio Restaurant
                                                      2938 Guadalupe St, Austin, TX 78705

                                                      1. re: ghastlyfop

                                                        I think I'm in for a "reservation" on the filming. Here's hoping I don't get the first nights...

                                                        1. re: amysuehere

                                                          One could watch it all from the safety of Boomerang Pies across the street....

                                                          1. re: ghastlyfop

                                                            ...great idea, except if I spent too much time in Boomerang's I'd gain 100 pounds.

                                                            1. re: rusty_s

                                                              What do you recommend at Boomerang's? I've been intrigued. (Who can say no to little meat pies???)

                                                              1. re: verily

                                                                It's been a while since I've been there. You've got to be in the right mood for a pie. But there are some mouthwatering pictures on the menu...

                                                                http://www.boomerangspies.com/Menu/ta...

                                                                1. re: verily

                                                                  I'd recommend staying clear of Boomerangs. Pies are not very good (gressy pastry, rip off filling portion sizes). Also the flavours are kind of strange - wanted a meat pie, got some over herbed protien and veg combo - hardly a meat pie!

                                                                  It pains me to say this as meat pies in Austin are a hard to come by, but this mob are not the real deal by any stretch of the imagination.

                                                                  1. re: McEwans_Exported

                                                                    I agree. Great concept but lacking in most areas of execution. I've never been to Australia so maybe they're truly authentic, but compared to a decent English pub or even Marks & Spencers, they're rather shoddy. I liked the last pie I had there, bug that was because of the gravy if contained. The "steak" tasted like texturized protein and the vegetables were out of a can. Maybe if Ramsey has a few minutes left over he can fix Boomerangs too.

                                                                    1. re: ghastlyfop

                                                                      Well, Vegemite is not the tastiest thing either, so maybe they are authentic for Australia!

                                                                      1. re: rudeboy

                                                                        It's been ages ago, but I remember them (Australian) being more like a mesh of an English meat pie and a Jamaican meat pie. Meat filling was English, while the crust was closer to the Jamaican (but not the yellow dough). Kind of a delicate stramboli; not a pie-pie. I still like Boomarangs though, just don't eat all the crust.

                                                                        Well, guess I wasn't "good enough" for the show. I emailed for a reservation early Monday morning and they emailed me a questionaire, but nothing since I gave them my answers.

                                                                        1. re: amysuehere

                                                                          you had to answer a questionnaire? seriously? wow.

                                                                          1. re: dinaofdoom

                                                                            AND...I was apparently rejected. sheesh...

                                                                          2. re: amysuehere

                                                                            I tried Boomerang's several days ago. Had the Traditional and thought it was pretty decent. It was very generously filled with ground meat.

                                                                            I wouldn't even consider eating at El Greco for the pre-makeover. I've seen enough Kitchen Nightmares episodes to be leery of the kitchen. Prefer to be ignorant about that stuff instead of seeing it displayed in all its green chicken, rat traps, and rotted vegetables glory on TV.

                                                                2. re: ghastlyfop

                                                                  Parking's going to be an absolute nightmare...

                                                  2. they are also doing groupon now deals this week.
                                                    very very strange...

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: dinaofdoom

                                                      Even now (as in right this minute, valid until 10 tonight) there is a Groupon Now deal as equipment is being set up outside. Its not a small unit - the space behind that dry cleaners across the street is completely occupied by trailers and trucks.

                                                      Did have a tasty but not very beefy steak, ale and cheese pie in Boomerang a few hours ago - a great view from the window seats. Not much going on right now, although there were two fellows dropping local chefs' names over cans of Lone Star - either film crew or... a couple of Chowhounds?

                                                    2. the reservation confirmations already went out.
                                                      did anyone make the cut?

                                                      http://austin.eater.com/archives/2011...

                                                      1. personally, I am just not a fan of Gordon Ramsay shows. I also am not sure what qualifies Ramsay to turn around restaurants as he has struggled to keep his own restaurants open and has suffered losses in the millions.

                                                        Besides, the kitchen nightmare solution formula can be summed up with "use fresh ingredients, simplify your menu, cater to local repeat customers, modernize your interior, keep kitchen clean".

                                                        9 Replies
                                                        1. re: lixlix

                                                          Such a simple, obvious recipe but so often not followed. We were laughing it's the same fot Supernanny... Why are my children monsters? Fix THEM, Supernanny! Dogs/Ceasar too...

                                                          1. re: lixlix

                                                            How many Michelin stars do you have? I'm sure most restauranteurs (and prospectives) will be relieved to know just how easy it is!

                                                            1. re: ridgeback

                                                              Is this even a serious response? I wasn't aware you needed to have Michelin stars to state that you do not enjoy certain TV shows considering that Michelin judges themselves don't have any Michelin stars.

                                                              I'm not sure what else causes you to be contentious since it seems valid argument that a chef who aims to help flailing restaurants turn around should perhaps not have failed restaurants and unpaid bills.

                                                              http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05...

                                                              http://www.tasteandshare.com/profiles...

                                                              1. re: lixlix

                                                                If you're going to defend yourself the least you could do is to stick to the point. You wrote that you're not sure what qualifies Gordon Ramsay to turn around restaurants. The man operates many very well-regarded and successful restaurants around the world. Is there really anything more that need be said on the matter? You point to a couple lawsuits over one restaurant in NY as an effort to discredit the man. Before I was only being flippant. Now, however, I'm being contentious because I take exception to your continuing effort to vilify and discredit him.

                                                                1. re: ridgeback

                                                                  Its not just a few lawsuits. The man is many million pounds in debt. Perhaps if he took better control of his restaurants and actually went back in to the kitchen once in a while instead of resting on the laurels of his celebrity, he wouldn't have creditors everywhere, not just New York. The only well regarded restaurant he has is perhaps the one on Royal Hospital Road, the others have all fallen in grace in recent years.

                                                                  http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life...

                                                                  I'm not vilifying or discrediting him at all. I'm just reposting articles from fairly reliable and large journalistic sources. If you still enjoy his shows, then go watch it, I am just defending why I am not a fan of his which I have a right to do.

                                                                  1. re: lixlix

                                                                    You're misrepresenting facts and posting links to articles that don't say what you represent them to say. And once again, you are also changing the subject. The point has been your ridiculous claim that Gordon Ramsay is not particularly well-qualified to serve as a short-term coach to help turn around a failing restaurant.

                                                                    If you had said what that you're not a fan of his, or that you don't like his tv show, we wouldn't be arguing. Instead what you're clearly doing is vilifying Gordon Ramsay.

                                                                    1. re: ridgeback

                                                                      I think that it is kind of funny that he has those problems AND a show where he screams at people who have some problems of their own. More funny that people watch him scream at people. But the dude has a lot more $ than me!

                                                                      1. re: ridgeback

                                                                        I disagree. If I said something like "Gordon Ramsay is not qualified to teach how to cook " then I would be in the wrong since clearly he is an awesome chef.

                                                                        However, his record as a restauranteur is not nearly as successful as he would lead you to believe nor is the record of restaurants that have gone on "Kitchen Nightmares" stellar. I believe the closing rate of restaurants that have gone on "Kitchen Nightmares" is about 50% within 2 years of the airing of the show.

                                                                        I'm also not sure what facts I'm misrepresenting. Do you deny that the Gordon Ramsay corporation owes many millions of dollars? Are the allegations of unpaid debt in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to suppliers from his New York restaurant false? Should a coach for turning around a failed restaurant have these black marks on his own restaurant? Please let me know what is said in the articles and what I am misrepresenting because I have only been restating the articles verbatim.

                                                                        Your argument up to this point has been "at one point, Ramsay opened multiple michelin star restaurants thus he must be qualified to turn an eatery around". I feel that this assertion is more tenuous than my assertion of "restaurant owners who have failing restaurants, large amounts of debt, and 3 closed restaurants perhaps shouldn't be the best candidate of coaching how to turn a restaurant around".

                                                                        Maybe a few years down the line, if he returns his restaurant empire to glory will he be qualified to coach but as of now I see little track record of Ramsay saving a restaurant from failure.

                                                                        1. re: lixlix

                                                                          I would suspect Ramsay's failings are due to over-ambition, trying to run a global empire, and all the celebrity stuff. Getting a middling cafe to shape up is probably something he could do in his sleep. Making sure they're still in business in two years time isn't really part of his remit - most of the restaurants I've seen on the show wouldn't have had any chance of surviving anything like that long without intervention.

                                                                          But to bring this back to Austin board specifics - why not go to El Greco and see/taste the results of his handiwork? Isn't that what this thread was about, not the state of Ramsay's accounts?