Restaurant Revisited: Something’s Fishy at Joe Willy’s Seafood House

by in Shows, April 14th, 2013

Robert IrvineJoe and Dena White, owners of Joe Willy’s Seafood House in Fishkill, N.Y., looked to Robert Irvine to save not only their restaurant but their family too, as the stress of their declining business had put a load of frustration and tension between them. It was up to Robert to hone in on the most-critical issues plaguing Joe Willy’s and work with his Restaurant: Impossible team to attempt to fix them in only two days and with just $10,000. He quickly learned that many of the restaurant’s problems stemmed from its poor-quality food, made by Joe, the head chef, so he focused his efforts on implementing an improved menu that Joe could execute with ease. After 48 hours of renovations, Joe Willy’s reopened to a dining room full of guests with Joe and Dena at the helm, now working harmoniously. We checked in with Dena a few months after the transformation to find out how Joe Willy’s is doing.

Since its Restaurant: Impossible experience, the restaurant has enjoyed a significant boost in business, Dena says, explaining that “sales have tripled to quadrupled at times.” Since they’re now making a profit, Dena notes that it’s “much easier to pay bills, rent and staff, and make improvements,” and says that they’ve begun to catch up on their debt.

Diners and management alike have been wowed by the changes in decor in the dining room, particularly the bar that Robert added. It’s perhaps one of the most-important renovations to take place at the restaurant, Dena tells us. “Not only is the bar one of the keys to our success, but it brings in extra cash.” She adds that the new sign is likely responsible for drawing in first-time patrons.

Robert’s custom menu, too, has garnered rave reviews from guests, who especially enjoy the Pan Seared Scallops and Shrimp Topped Salmon. Dena adds, however, that customers “were also demanding that [they] bring back items on [their] ‘old’ menu,” so the eatery now features a combined list of offerings.

Joe has yet to pursue culinary training, but Dena tells us that he “finds himself watching Food Network almost every night when he comes home.” He’s embracing a more proper leadership role, delegating tasks to staff and tempering inappropriate outbursts, and recently he “got everything fixed” in the kitchen, which now features a brand-new dishwasher, according to Dena.

Dena has reduced her hours at her other job to just one shift per week, and she and Joe have enjoyed more time to themselves, as they’ve decreased the restaurant’s operating hours. “Our decision to close for lunch Tuesday through Thursday has given us a little more time for us,” she says. “We feel a little more human.”

More From Restaurant Revisited:

Sweet Tea’s Restaurant & Catering (March 24)
Soup to Nuts Diner (March 17)
Caseyville Cafe (March 13)
Maniaci’s Italian Restaurant (March 10)
Dinner Bell Restaurant (February 27)
Nanny Goat’s Cafe & Feed Bin (February 20)
Sapori D’Italia (January 23)
Windseeker Restaurant (January 16)
Whiskey Creek Steakhouse (January 2)
Rising Sun Bistro (December 19)
Boys & Girls Club of Southwest Missouri (December 9)
Bronk’s Bar and Grill (December 5)
Rohrer’s Tavern (November 28)
Poco’s on the Boulevard (November 21)
Oleander Bar and Grill (October 17)
Valley Inn (October 10)
Whistle Stop (October 3)
The Maple Tree Cafe (September 26)
Michele’s (September 19)
Paliani’s Restaurant (September 12)
Frankie’s (September 5)
Gusanoz (August 29)

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Comments (193)

  1. Clint says:

    Dena, hang in there. The restaurant looks amazing. Joe, ease up and enjoy life. Hug your wife and kids, because at the end of the day, they are really all that matters. The rest can be replaced…

  2. Misty says:

    Dena, Stop the guilt. You are a saint. Enough karma all ready. I wish you the best.

    Message for Joe:
    Who cares what you got Dena for Christmas when so much money is owed to "Others" to support your dream? Is her gift even paid for? ALSO:


    You proved to all how dark it is in your little world in your head. M.

  3. Misty says:

    Dena, Stop the guilt. You are a saint. Enough karma all ready. I wish you the best.

    Message for Joe:
    Who cares what you got Dena for Christmas when so much money is owed to "Others" to support your dream? Is her gift even paid for? ALSO:


    You proved to all how dark it is in your little world in your head. M.

  4. Bev Stull says:

    Why don't you share the recipes you show them how to make.
    I would love the the , Stuffed Clams in the shell, and the Scallops, the Tuna.
    Come on we all love your show.
    Thanks Bev in Ohio

  5. Kbr1119 says:

    Lynn is awful. Please stop having him. He is not a designer. He is awful. Just horrible

    • DEE says:

      I think lynn was AMAZING!!!!

    • Lorin says:

      I thought Joe did a nice job on this one. I loved the fish on the way. I think he's pretty good.

    • sisgldnhair says:

      I loved it!!

    • George says:

      Lynn is one of the top designers on the show. As much as I like Taniya (the other top one, who, by the way, is eye candy herself), his designs are awesome.

    • Robin says:

      Lynn is actually one of my favorite designers on this show!

    • joe says:

      for a gay he is not a great designer

      • Steve says:

        Lynn is GAY? You just made my fantasy come true. He's good-natured and talented.
        Where can we look at your designs?
        I redid my condo living room and it was $22,000, and that was using some furniture, lamps and artwork I already owned.
        I would love to see what you come up with for $10k that would transform an entire restaurant, as well as provide new seating, tables and refloor the entire area.

    • Steve says:

      It's easier to be critical than correct.

      Let's see your work.
      I used to do scenic in a nightclub and know just how far Lynn stretches $10,000. Lynn thinks fast, makes decisions and of all the designers I appreciate his color sense and distribution of colors the most.

    • Barbara says:

      I totally disagree! He may not be my favorite, but he comes up with great, fun ideas.He truly excelled in this episode.

  6. Mark says:

    This owner was an ass. His wife were so in to helping him. I am so surprised that they stuck around. Ladies… look around, this fool is a pos. So many other real men will treat you better. I was shocked at this episode. This boy was a total loser. Please move on and lose this ass.

  7. Unofree says:

    I PRAY the changes that Robert did for the resturant Joe Willys and the therapy he did for the family really works. I would really hate for the wife to have sacrificed so many years and it not work. To The Owner listen to your wife,children and employees along with the tools Robert gave you if you want this resturant to work. Otherwise say goodbye to your family. Your wife is SERIOUS ABOUT THIS IS IT FOR HER IN CASE YOU WANT TO KNOW. GOD BLESS YOUR FAMILY AND RESTURANT !

  8. SueC says:

    I live a few miles from Joe Willy's and haven't been there yet & been one of the ones who drove by not realizing there was a restaurant tucked away there. He's near a water park so you'd think he would have gotten customers from there. After watching the show, I'm still hesitate about going, if he washed dishes by hand all that time it's a wonder there wasn't some sort of outbreak of something or the health department didn't shut him down. Just thinking about his standards.

  9. LSG says:

    I am so disappointed that Lynn cut that beautiful fish in half. If I had been the one who caught it and paid to have it stuffed, I would not have been a happy camper. He did not have a clue about the sentimental value of something like that – they should have requested permission. It does, however, add to the redesign on the logo. Loved the "fish scale" wall.

    I can only hope that Joe becomes less of a jerk and realizes that his wife is a 50% partner in the business.

    • Don says:

      It looked just like a plastic fish……….besides, when they do these shows , the owners sign a contract and consent to all menu changes, design changes, etc and that food network and the show can change and do what they want. That is the contract they sign. Remember, this was a FAILING business, that Food Newtwork came in to help redo and put on the map, so I am sure they were okay with it.

    • Jason says:

      You can buy a fiberglass version of that fish all day long at just about any souvenier shop in any coastal town. That's probably what that thing was, though I do agree with you that Lynn stinks as a designer.

    • Gay says:

      Make up your mind–you either like it or you don't…

    • Stacy Cruz says:

      Its TV baby! I volunteered on this episode and I can tell you the fish was plastic, not a REAL catch that had been stuffed or caught!

  10. Geekyj19 says:

    It was a good episode!

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