Restaurant Revisited: In the Pits at Bryan’s Smokehouse

by in Shows, May 26th, 2013

Robert Irvine on Restaurant: ImpossibleAlthough Bryan’s Smokehouse in Lufkin, Texas, was a once-thriving eatery, it had fallen on hard times. Longtime owner Lynn Bryan struggled to keep up with new nearby barbecue spots, ultimately falling into debt. She looked to Robert Irvine and his Restaurant: Impossible team not just to improve her meat-focused menu, but to help her manage her employees more professionally and efficiently. Not one to shy away from any challenge, Robert rose to the occasion, and with only a $10,000 budget and two days to work, he revitalized both the interior of Bryan’s and the core of its management, all in an effort to give the eatery the second chance it deserves. FN Dish checked in with Lynn a few months after the transformation to find out how the restaurant is doing today.

Immediately after filming, Lynn says business “was booming,” and while it’s since slowed down, she’s hopeful that it will pick up now that the show has aired. She adds that she’s pleased with the new design of the space, as well as with the changes to the menu. “We have kept everything the same and just added a couple of the old things back. Just a couple, let me stress,” she explains.

She’s once again in charge of the restaurant, adding that Bobby no longer works at Bryan’s. “I have taken back over and [am] ready to run,” she tells FN Dish. “I have all new crew.” Taking Robert’s team’s advice to heart, Lynn confirms that her employees are “all trained.”

To the Restaurant: Impossible team that made the renovation possible, she says, “Y’all gave me enough for a lifetime, so a big thanks to all of you.”

Bryan's Smokehouse

Bryan’s Smokehouse before the renovation

Bryan's Smokehouse

Bryan’s Smokehouse after the renovation

Bryan's Smokehouse

Bryan’s Smokehouse after the renovation

More From Restaurant Revisited:

Wagon Wheel Family Restaurant (May 19)
Mom & Dad’s Italian Restaurant (May 12)
Smitty’s Restaurant (April 28)
Old World Italian Restaurant (April 21)
Joe Willy’s Seafood House (April 14)
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 (85)

  1. foodie82 says:

    OMG how drugged up is this BBQ lady?!! She runs out to meet Robert, and shakes his hand like a mad man, and by the end of the lunch service she's crying? Hey lady, I'm guessing the ribs you're looking for are in the fridge. I mean seriously, who 'forgets" where the food is in their own restaurant? And she left her business with her employees? Sounds like she went for a three year bender with Randy the "manager".

    You can tell Robert is walking on eggshells with her, sort of avoiding her as she cries, sniffs and gnashes her teeth through the whole episode. Watch it again and see how she eats in the first segment and then says she likes tough ribs, it's insane.

    Still Id rather eat here than some of the other places he's covered.

  2. Jo Ann says:

    I visited Bryan's yesterday!!! I was with my family. We enjoyed our meal very much!! I had the pulled pork sandwich—-delicious!!!!!! The sauce was wonderful!!! I am picking up some for the house this weekend…I loved the spiciness of it. It was thick and rich. I will be a regular customer in the future.
    I love having these treasures in Lufkin!!!! Chef Irvine Thank you for pointing them out to everyone!!!

  3. TikisMom says:

    just to give the chicken fried steak man a little help: was a play on the meal's name. you would say "it might have been a fried steak but there was no "chicken" to it" — meaning there was no meat or substance to it. he didn't literally mean chicken . . . smarten up people. too quick to judge.

  4. Carnivore In Lufkin says:

    About three years ago my son and I went to Bryan’s Smokehouse for the first time. It was so bad that we couldn’t eat it. We ended up throwing it in the trash. We saw the sign that RI had been there and we were very excited. We love to watch the show together. We decided to give Bryan’s another try. The first visit after we saw that RI had been there was great! The staff was awesome and the food was great! I had a pulled pork sandwich and my son had the ribs. I thought I had found a new favorite lunch spot. Unfortunately it did not remain that way. On return visits the quality and consistency of the food began to decline, not to the point of our first visit, but enough that the quality of the food for the price I was paying just isn’t worth it. I just never know if it’s a good day or a bad day and now I just don’t bother. I was really hoping for a better outcome.

  5. Pinkjay54 says:

    $11.00+ for a pork sandwich, two spoonfuls of coleslaw and sweet tea. I can't afford this place and then leave hungry. Back to Bodacious for me.

    • Robin says:

      Now "Under New Ownership" which was in the works when Robert was there, I'm sure unbeknownst to him. And I was thrilled to see him there, looking forward to the positive changes. After 2 visits with no ice and no ribs available, I was sad to see that Kathy had not seemed to truly take Robert's great advice. Icing on the cake was to find out she had not been paying vendors and owed thousands of dollars to East Texas vendors who are supporting families and have bills to pay. Saddest thing is that no matter who the owner is, that location has such a bad reputation now, it is probably not going to succeed.

  6. Terry Hagedorn says:

    This lady doesn't have a clue and isn't very smart. While the Pecan Tree is the state tree of Texas, it's not protected and can be cut down. there is no excuse for her not to use pecan wood. (An ancient relative on my mom's side developed the Govett Pecan variety.)

  7. brenda says:

    the food is not the problem, it is delicious! the service from employee is very unprofessional and rude.

  8. CDM says:

    Ok, I live near Lufkin and after the show aired we went to try it. First trip…..not so good, people working there were clueless. They had no Menu to look at and the walk in idea was NOT a good idea. No ice machine but a bucket of ice to scoop up for your drinks. Went back again because I did not try the pulled pork sandwich. Big change, different employees, two black guys that were friendly and knew barbeque. Generous portion and GREAT sandwich and fries were good (same bucket for ice). Went back and tried the ribs and Sliced beef, also excellent. We kept going back for some time and they said they were trying to buy it from the owner on the show, that did not happen. Too bad, because when she started coming around the staff and food changed and we have stopped going again. Been awhile, may try it one more time, but after the Hispanic woman who was there last time "alone" and served very slow and old tasting food, we will leave before we order.

  9. Charlie says:

    Who is your post pointed at???????

  10. keith says:

    We tried to eat there yesterday. worst food ever.

  11. Charlie says:

    My place runs like he showed. You place your order and sit down and in a couple of minutes you will have your food and you pay for it (at the window here) when you are done. If you forget to pay and just walk out I have your ticket and table number posted (behind the counter) and YEP I will chase you down if you forget LOL :) I live in a small town and my way works here but may not in larger towns ;)

  12. Charlie says:

    Me negative?????????? You are bigtime mistaken LOL I live for the American Dream period ;)

  13. Charlie says:

    Where did I say I wasnt happy for them??????????????? I just made a comment about BBQ that has been microwaved ( and that is GREAT ADVISE) for a BBQ joint in the south……….. I want EVERYONE that opens a bussiness to MAKE IT cause that means the SYSTEM works.

  14. Guns don't Kill. says:

    God will take it away? I thought all you Bible Thumpers were supposed to forgive everyone of our evil ways? Pray all you want, I will hold true to the fact that no matter what "god" you pray to, hard work and an honest life offer their own rewards.

  15. Charlie says:

    Happy I am not miserable what so ever. I am making it and will keep on making it LOLl :D I was just making a statement about a microwave and BBQ meat ;) Cook offs have a different standard that what MY customers want to eat PERIOD ;) I know this for a FACT

  16. Amanda says:

    Ah….I was wondering how much longer we would have to wait til you got your personal ad out here. I am just surprised it took you this long to drop the name in this thread. You don't come off as a bad guy Charlie…you come off as a know-it-all who is just commenting to promote your own business. Let me help you decide if you are going to continue to post here or not. Thumbs down for you.

  17. JMW says:

    How about poor "grammar" — unless you're talking about Kelsey Grammer.

  18. tpa says:

    Grammar…not grammer. :)

  19. Mark says:

    "Overuse" is one word, not two. It's grammar with an "a", not an "e". And it should be "an all-around hateful attitude". "Attitude" is a singular noun that needs an article, and "all-around" is an adjective which needs to be hyphenated. If you're going to play grammar Nazi police you really ought to make sure your own is up to snuff.

  20. Penelope says:

    It's bated not baited – meaning to hold back.

  21. M.C. says:

    Yeah I bet so, that is just what they told me

  22. MattfromWA says:

    The fact that Robert got Lynn to be honest with her husband made it a success even if the restaurant fails.

  23. cms says:

    If there is any failure, it's on the part of the owner, not the show. Robert and his team did a great job, but once they leave, you're on your own, and if you don't keep up with what Robert gave you, you'll fail.

  24. Annie says:

    *they were telling…** is what I meant. Stupid auto-correct.

    Upon re-reading my post I realized that I may not have been clear. I meant that when Chef Irvine brought in customers so that he could see a service, what seemed like about half-way through the service they had run out of ribs. Mrs. Bryan was yelling and kind of freaking out about it. Seemed (rightly) very upset, angry and embarassed over it. Some of the servers had to go back to their tables and tell their customers they had to order something else because they were out of ribs.

    When the customers had left and Robert ordered food to try it they made a very quick, cursory comment that they'd found some more ribs to serve to Chef Irvine. Later that day they also had enough of their ribs for the barbecue expert to try.

    It is very possible that when they saw they were running out during the service they set aside 2 or 3 orders before they 86'd it for customers. However, the show did indeed give the impression that they couldn't find any more ribs where they were supposed to be, so they said they were out, then when things calmed down after all the food was made and sent out they found more.

  25. Annie says:

    I hate hickory. I agree with Chef Irvine, it leaves an unpleasant bitter taste. I was born and raised in central Texas and most the barbecue places I can think of as I kid that I loved used pecan to smoke their food.

    Now that I live in south Texas it seems like every one uses mesquite and it's nearly blasphemy to use anything else. Mesquite is also nearly the only tree that grows down here naturally and it grows here well. Takes over like giant sprawling weeds in no time. We have food barbecued and grilled over mesquite all summer and fall long because we trim back the neighborhood's mesquite trees in the late spring. There still always seems to be more than we, our family and our friends can use.
    As comforting as the smell of burning pecan is, though, I like the flavor of mesquite the best. May be a wood we use out of necessity, but it sure tastes good!

    Of course, the barbecue place that I consider the best in the state, which my cousins happen to own up in Fort Worth and has won lots of state, national and international awards uses hickory to smoke their meats, so, really, what do I know? ;)

  26. Annie says:

    Just a side note, I actually guffawed when she said she wanted to use pecan wood but couldn't since it's the state tree. Aaahhhhhhhhh-hahahahahahaa! Did she really get told that by someone (maybe by someone trying to sell her hickory wood) that would know? Or did she just for whatever reason thought you couldn't chop them so she never looked in to getting it at all.

    Honestly, the best I can figure on her line of thinking is that for as long as I can remember (heck, as long as my grandparents can remember) there's been this pervasive, stubborn myth that picking a bluebonnet, the state flower, is illegal. In the school yard every single spring my friends and I would argue about whether or not it was worth it to pick just one flower to take home, but risk getting caught by a police officer and getting sent to jail until we were 30 (somehow we'd decided that that must be the punishment for such a vile, evil and selfish crime.)
    it's a pretty ingratiated myth and most Texans I know that grew up here, be they 5 or 95, seem to believe its true (though I'm sure the adults assume the punishment is a small fine, rather than 24 years in prison.).

    So, I can see where her line of thinking might be "Well, the state bird is the mockingbird and it's illegal to kill those and the bluebonnet is the state flower and it's illegal to pick those, so, since the pecan is the state tree, we can't chop one down to use for firewood. If you can't cut them down here, then we have no access to pecan wood."

    Well, the truth of the matter is, you can pick bluebonnets, it is technically legal to kill a mocking bird, and there is no law (at least not one I've ever found) against cutting down Pecan trees.

    It seems like if she actually had wanted pecan wood she would have called around to see if anyone supplied it to see if her suspicions and assumptions were true.
    I'm thinking that "pecan wood" crossed her mind once, but hickory was probably less expensive and easier to get, so she didn't think twice and used it.

    I'm still dying to ask her if she thought that eating pecan pie was also illegal since pecans are, naturally, the state nut and pecan pie seems to be one of the go-to desserts after barbecue around here.

  27. Annie says:

    Yeah, when I was reading reviews of Bryan's I saw people saying that when they complained about the food tasting bad Lynn and/or employees told them their "taste [was] off" and other such comments. My first thought upon reading that was of Amy's Baking Company since "your taste is off" seems pretty darn similar to "you don't know how to eat food!"

    Though, I'm sure if they managed to catch Lynn on camera shouting at Chef Irvine that his "taste is off," then Bryan's Steakhouse and Lynn would be sharing the limelight with Amy.

  28. nooneimportant says:

    Louie Meuller's in Taylor…. Now I'm hungry…..

    But joe-b is right — the best joints run out, as they won't sacrifice quality for quantity. Franklin's in Austin, Snow's in Lexington, etc. all are sold out before noon.

  29. MattfromWA says:

    More than her sob story I was talking about how badly she needed help running the restaurant. I'm sure Lynn has a bit of a dark side like we all do.

  30. Texas Snacks says:

    I love how in the same sentnce you tell her to"Learn to only speak good things for a change be happy". You then follow it up with childish name calling. Stay Classy. Jesus is watching.

  31. Bootsdaddy says:

    Ummm…no Snacks, that is Lynn responding to the Barbecue Fiend blogger. I copied and pasted it…that was her misuse of quotation marks. Personally I couldn't give a darn who is watching I'm not the one invoking Christianity at every turn…
    http://barbecuefiend.blogspot.com/2013/04/bryans-

  32. Bootsdaddy says:

    Texas Snacks thinks that I am telling her to "Learn to only speak good things…blah blah blah" That was pasted and copied from here:
    http://barbecuefiend.blogspot.com/2013/04/bryans-

    and what I meant about invoking Christianity is that on every website or quote she makes it a point to tell everyone about the "Christian owned business". Believe what you want but usually the one yelling loudest about their Christian good works….

  33. JoJosmom says:

    He didn't marry the designer…he married an Asian woman who is a Canadian professional wrestler. But she is not the designer.

  34. Danita says:

    I am from Lufkin, Texas where Bryan's Smokehouse is located and I am angered and embarassed by the owner. She has no one to blame but herself. I am Texas born and raised, living in Lufkin for 56 years! We do not greet someone by saying "Jeepers!! I mean…Jeepers!" I have NEVER heard that expression. She made people from Texas look like a bunch of hicks! So much of tbe true story was left off. She told FN in their follow up that business "was booming" right after RI left. I pass by her restaurant pretty much every day, some times several times a day, (small town), and there has never been many cars there. My parents and my brother tried it not long after the makeover, and there was a long wait (even though there were only a few people in the restaurant), and the food was not good and it cost the three of them almost $40 for lunch. She will never make it in this town with mediocre food at best and horrible service and high cost! She is not a true representation of a Lufkinite that tries to suceed.

  35. nymarian says:

    I am not a Texas native (would like to be, though. LOVE Texas) but I, too, have never heard "Jeepers" in Austin, Dallas, or any of the little towns I visited. I've also read other reviews about the high prices. Not good.

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