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. Teresa says:

    We ate there over the weekend and I was not impressed at all. It was hot and four of the tables needed to be cleaned for the entire time we were there! There clearly was no supervision or direction for the employees. The food was tasteless and I was extremely disappointed. Clearly people that are about to go out of business should just do so.

  2. PaulHikeS2 says:

    Really wanted to try this restaurant while driving home from PA to NH two Sundays ago, but the hours on their website said 2PM – 9PM. It was just after noon, so I drove by since it was only a mile or two off the highway, convinced it must be a misprint on their site. Sadly, it was 2-9. Oddest hours I've ever seen for a weekend day.

    I will try it, as it is one of the few episodes of this show in which the product actually looked good. I noticed that unlike virtually every other episode, Irvine had very little criticism about the quality of the food. Just have to time my next trip to PA a bit better!

  3. jane says:

    my son was here from Minnesota …taking care of me after a serious surgery…on my first check up with my doctor my son really wanted to go to one of the restaurants that you re-did… ( we watch you all the time) we got there at 2pm on a thursday and it wasn't open….this was late April…is it open or not????? very disappointed from NY!!!!!!

  4. awitty03 says:

    I am certain the people commenting that the food and experience were outstanding must be friends or family members of the owners at Joe Willy's. Not only is the food sub-par, at best, but the service is some of the worst I have ever experienced. Thinking my first time visiting was merely a fluke, I revisited, only to discover it was STILL the same horrid food and, inexperienced and inconsiderate servers. From the time I walked in the door, all I could hear was the insanely loud crowd at the bar (which is ignorantly placed 10 feet from the door and four feet from the closest dining table). The waitress took forever to bring our drinks and messed up the order. The waitress also had no idea the difference between the fish offered. When we finally did get our food, several minutes after ordering, I was horrified to find that the salad dressing was outdated (Dena, the owner confirmed and apologized). Furthermore, they used boxed mashed potatoes and the most disgusting gluten-free brownies I have ever tasted. It's clear to see why they were suffering in the first place. If you are driving down route 9 and thinking of stopping, DON'T.

    • Mr. Blue to you says:

      As rude and judgemental as you are, you deserve to be served a smothered brick, and some deep fried nails to give your mouth something to do other than complain.

  5. CbrownBeacon says:

    Ate there tonight…food was just "okay" and did not warrant the increase in prices. The service was very sloooow. We waited at least 30 mins just for salad. After we finished our salads it was another 15-20 minutes for entrees. We barely saw our waitress. Not impressed:(

  6. gfahey says:

    Me? I just would like to know what the brand/type of flooring (wood design) that was used in this episode.

  7. awesome .. interesting blog

  8. Jeanne B. says:

    I was thrilled for Dena, Joe and the family when Robert and his team came in to help them and get a second chance for the restaurant and their family. So many people always point out the negative which is sad. The makeover and the show has changed their lives in a postive way. I hear only great things about peoples dining experience to Joe Willey's, and have only had a great experiences myself. It has changed their lives.Cheers to much more success! Thank you Robert and Restaurant Impossible for putting them on the right track!!!!

    • Kathi says:

      Is the hideous fish 'skeleton' still on the wall?

      • riaplus3 says:

        yes. but it's really really cool in person. :) Food was good. Service too. Crab cakes out of this world. (I have to say, the biggest improvement was the sign. I'd passed right by there for years and never noticed the place.)

  9. ljim wilson says:

    Loved this episode more than all the others I have watched. I wish you nothing but the best luck in your re launch. Unfortunately I live in Florida but if I am ever in Fish Kill I* will definitely stop in. Continued success Jim Wilson Bradenton Florida

  10. Sylvia says:

    Dena and Joe, I wish you all the best. I just watched this episode and I am very touched by you both. Wishing you strength and endurance and a lot of joyful moments and especially some calm relaxing time for you both together. I'd love to taste your food. It looks delicious to me. Living in Florida, this is not right around my corner. Be well!!! Sylvia

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