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 (191)

  1. Teresa says:

    My husband and I ate dinner there tonight. My first impression upon walking in the door was not a good one. The host was on his cell phone while seating us. I told our waitress that he did this and she promptly apologized and advised me she would have the owner speak with us. Within a minute or two, the owner did come talk to us and apologized. She was very pleasant. Our food was very good and the service was prompt. I was pleased that the issue I encountered upon entering the restaurant was addressed by both the waitress and the owner. We will be going back!

  2. Teresa says:

    Two more things to add to my previous comment. I was not aware of this restaurant being on RI first of all, secondly, we did not know there was a restaurant there until we saw the sign. Upon mentioning that we had gone there for dinner to our friends – they told us about the restaurant being on the show. We tape all the shows but have not seen the last 4 episodes! We watched the episode tonight.

  3. maartenesque says:

    Saw the episode and decided to try Joe Willy's this week when I was in the area. I had the pan seared scallops, tomato and spinach over linguini and it was absolutely outstanding. Salad was just so-so, and the coffee, which I was told had just been made, was not good. It was kindof late in the evening, so I'll forgive the bad coffee. I definitely plan to return. This is clearly one hard-working family and I wish them all the best.

  4. Sheila says:

    My husband and i decided to go there today (5-18-13) for a late lunch since we've seen the show….well, it was about 2P.M. and there were only two elderly lady's there at this time…..Not busy at all!…..so after being greeted nicely and seated by one of the server's, she ask us if we wanted anything to drink?….. We gave her our order of drinks….I therefore needed to use the lady's rest room…..There was no place for you to hang your purse on and the soap dispenser on the wall was disgusting…..so maybe that's why they used a bottle pump by the sink!….Anyway, I walked back to my table and almost immediately the server stops by to ask us if we have any questions about the menu…I'm like thinking to myself, "I just opened the menu up and didn't get to view it yet"….I say nicely that I needed a few more minutes…..So once we decided on our order (I ordered one of the Restaurant Impossible special Crab cake served with corn relish) and a cup of clam chowder, my husband went with a burger….meanwhile, I'm observing the place and admiring the decor ( which was nice)…..and during this time a couple walks in to be seated and I think the two elder lady's finally get their order which felt like it took 15 minutes after we arrived…..then, the air or the heat comes on and it smelt stuffy ( i couldn't breathe)….ugh!….I had to fan my napkin a couple of times!….then, 3 more people come into the place waiting by the hostess station ( I could swear that they were waiting there a good 10-15 minutes long til the server came out and apologized for not hearing the door bell….so after all of that, we finally received our food (I think it took a good 15-20 minutes, maybe more)…..but during our wait about 10-15 prior to getting our food while I was observing the place, I happen to notice the owner of the place sitting down at one of the tables eating a meal (hey, he has to eat too!)…..I thought the food was just OK!….I thought the crab cake was mostly breading ( they must of used minced crab meat) but it was crispy and the clam chowder was good until I got quite a few bites of sand…..UGH!…..however, the server did come by to see how everything was and I politely say "Good"!….And she ask my husband if he wanted another beer?…..He responds with a yes and she grabs his glass even though it had another good gulp in it……Needless to say, He was like wtf!….then I happen to notice out the corner of my eye as well as another patron did, I see a huge dust bunny fall onto a table from the vent above….Eeeew!….So to make a long story short….lol……I wasn't impressed!

    • It just sounded like you complained about a whole bunch of nothing…and don't whine about your food if you didn't say anything to the server! some dishes may come out bad, that's why they can be sent back and they'll improve your dish to what is should taste like.

    • Marjorie Jane says:

      Sheila — It's no wonder your husband wanted another beer with lunch! LOL!

    • Carl says:

      Wow….you actually had to wait 15-20 minutes to get hot food at a restaurant? If I were you I would have gone over to the owner and kicked his ass. The nerve. Having to wait 15-20 minutes to get food. Unheard of!

      I'm sure glad however that you let the people in charge know your concerns by telling them that things were "good." Keeping them in the dark about the problems makes it much more of a surprise when you stab them unexpectedly in the back by whining on this web site.

      That outta teach em.

    • Betty says:

      I think waitin 15-20 mints for food it's NOT bad at all if u don't like waitin well just go to mc Donald's

    • Mr. Blue to you says:

      Sheila, if you hold that sand from the clam chowder under your tongue long enough; it will turn into a pearl.

  5. JEANNE says:

    I WATCH "RESTURANT IMPOSSIBLE" EVERY WEEK.
    THE MAJORITY OF THOSE RESTURANTS IMPOSSIBLE, OWNERS, DESERVE TO GO OUT OF BUSINESS. NONE OF THE OWNERS HAD A CLUE AS TO WHY THEY WERE GOING OUTTA BUSINESS! CONTINUE TO LOSE HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF $$$$ AND CONTINUE TO STAY OPEN. BUT!!!! NO!!! THESE IDIOTS CONTINUE, WASTING TIME, MONEY AND ENERGY AND KEEP PAYING THE MOST DISRESPECTABLE EMPLOYEES WHO DON'T GIVE A RATS ASS FOR THEIR BOSSES OR OTHER STAFF WHO DO CARE, JUST AS LONG AS THEY GET THEIRS!
    WHERE IS THE HEALTH DEPT? DO THE OWNERS HOMES NEED A REMAKE BECAUSE THEY COOK IN THEIR RESTURANTS WITH ROACHES, FLYS, AND VOMIT MAKING VERMIN?
    JOE WILLY IS A PIECE OF#***###<<<!!!!!
    AS LONG AS HES IN CHARGE, I EXPECT FAILURE! HE TREATS HIS FAMILY LIKE SLAVES! HIS WIFE IS SKINNEY FROM OVER WORK! LOOK AT JOE…ARROGANT…THICK HEADED AND RUDE TO THE CORE! HIS WIFE DESERVES A NEW PRINCE! GO FOR IT DENA! LEAVE THAT SMUCK! HIS SON SHOULD WORK IN A REAL PLACE OF BUSINESS! HE WILL NEVER CLIMB THE LADDER OF SUCCESS AS LONG AS JOE RUNS THE PLACE! MAYBE DENA SHOULD WORK 24/7? BUT DRAT! SHE MIGHT BE LATE TO WORK!

    • Guy in Virginia says:

      Your keyboard is stuck on Caps Lock.

      • MISTY says:

        DID YOU EVER HEAR OF THE WORD EMPHASIS??? JEANNE WAS PLACING EMPHASIS ON WHAT SHE HAD TO SAY. SHE MAY HAVE BEEN HOLLERING TO ATTRACT ATTENTION. MY CAP KEY IS NOT STUCK. I AM PLACING EMPHASIS ON THE TOTAL SUBJECT.

        • Jeremy says:

          Emphasis in typing looks like THIS. It is used in a selective fashion – not on EVERY word.

          What you ladies have done is called typing in all caps. It makes you look like morons.

          • MISTY says:

            WHAT IS, IS?

            AS IF WE DID NOT KNOW THAT WE WERE REALLY TYPING IN ALL CAPITALS.

            REALLY THIS IS ALL CAPITALS???

            WE JUST HAVE A DIFFERENT EMPHASIS FROM WHAT YOU DEEM TO BE EMPHASIS.

            DID YOU KNOW THAT TYPING IN ALL CAPS IS CONSIDERED AKIN TO HOLLERING.

            MORON IS AN OLD FASHIONED NAME. YOU GIVE AWAY YOUR AGE.

            YOU ARE PROBABLY A PART OF THE GOLDFISH SWALLOWING GENERATION.

            MISTY

          • terri says:

            Stop yelling!
            [polldaddy 7787158 http://answers.polldaddy.com/poll/7787158/ polldaddy]

          • Misty says:

            Terri, That was a good response. Very few people that I meet in NJ area know that all capital letters means that one is yelling. There is a lovely Christian lady in my life (38) and she thought that I was mad about something when I typed in all "Capitals." I explained to her that it is just easier for me to type in "Capitals." NOWn WHEN I GO TO TYPE TO SOMEONE NEW, I take the time to mention to them that I JUST LIKE TO TYPE IN CAPITALS. I am getting better. A lady from S.C. is the first person who told me that typing in Capitals meant hollering. Misty.

          • GodBlessFred says:

            I knew a beaver once from South Carolina. It's name was Fred. He showed emphasis by gnawing loudly on trees. You should try it, he found it extremely relaxing.

            Alas, he died when a sliver of a willow tree pierced his esophagus. In an awful turn of fate vomited blood from internal bleeding until he died from loss of blood. As I recall no one tried CPR on him.

            I still think that you should gnaw on trees. I won't try CPR on you either. It'd be better than having to see your wall of capital letters you call emphasis.

    • Mr. Blue to you says:

      JEANNE, GOOD LUCK WITH YOUR CHAINSAW JUGGLING CAREER!!!!!!!!!

    • A. Blake says:

      I TOTALLY agree. The majority of the establishments on RI that are aired are so below standards they should have already been condemned (shut down). I must say that Joe and Dena have alot of courage 'tho to go so public with their business as well as personal problems. Fishkill. Just the town name puts me off from eating or going anywhere near it.

      • Mike says:

        Kill is the Dutch word for small river or stream, hence Fishkill means fish stream. There are many towns in New York with kill as the suffix because this area was settled in part by the Dutch.

    • katie says:

      JEANNE You gave me a headache with your YELLING. All I want to know is 'Is this place still in business and is that ridiculous fish skeleton still on the wall?'

  6. donna says:

    Dena should run the restaurant, she has the skills, abilities and winning personality. The cook should cook. She seems to have the skills but Joe gets in her way. Joe should continue to deliver fish. He just doesn't have the skills or personality to run a restaurant let alone try to cook. Please ! Partner with the area culinary school and offer an internship to area culinary school students. They love to get a "real world experience". Then offer a job to the best and brightest. That way as the restaurant improves you can afford to replace your children as they go off on their own. Joe can help increase summer business on the ice cream side of the house. As debt clears he can attend the area culinary school. Then he could expand the summer fare side and possibly cater. Start off with hosting children's parties on the picnic tables out front. Should be a lot of kids at the adjacent park. Get them over to your place through flyers and samples. That way co-owners Dena and Joe have their own space. Everybody needs a break after the last five years of discord. A little space helps the nerves sooth and the heart grow fonder.

  7. Chris mamunes says:

    Coming back from a funeral in Connecticut to Baltimore we took I84 so we could check out Joe Willys. Rolled in at about 5 not really hungry since we had a large breakfast with family. Got to meet Deana and her Dad! The youngest daughter was our waitress. Great service and loved the makeover. The PVC pipe fish bones really cool as was the bar. Ordered the Oysters and the Crab Cake, Being from Baltimore we didn't expect much from the crab cake. We are used to all lump fin crab cakes with very little filler. Joe Willy's crab cake was like most you get north of the Mason Dixon line. More like a crab croquette, breaded. BUT it was surprisingly really good as were the Oysters. We visit family a couple times a year in Connecticut and .will definitely be stopping for a full dinner next time. Restaurant Impossible is a great show and Robert is awesome. We went on Sunday June 2 and there were about 30 covers while we were there.

  8. Anthony Polidore says:

    Was there with Family for Fathers Day. AWESOME FOOD!! One of the best dinners we had in years! We didn't know this was on food network and always wanted to go there. Glad we did and is our favorite restraunt around. Staff are very pleasant and the decor very comfy. Sound level is low which is rare. It was the best night out with Family.

  9. Jean says:

    We ate at Joe Wily's last week. Saw the show and made it a point to eat there when in the area. The food was delicious. I had the pan seared scallops. Best ever. We also ordered the crab cake because I think Robert showed them how to make that on the show. I ever order them anywhere because they are usually full od bread. These were very crabby and delicious. I think the sign still needs work. It is just not that noticeable from Route 9.

  10. Christina says:

    We just ate at Joe Willy's last night (7/5/13) and had a great experience. We were greeted promptly by Dena and our server was very good. The dinner salads were nothing special & came with slightly too much dressing but my husband raved about the Shrimp Oreganata & I had the Soft Shell Crab Franchese. The crab was absolutely delicious and I would definitely go back to order it again. Decor still looked great and the place was hopping for early on a Friday night. Wishing you much more success!!

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