Restaurant Revisited: Muskrat Mayhem at Wagon Wheel Family Restaurant

by in Shows, May 19th, 2013

Robert Irvine on Restaurant: ImpossibleIn Smyrna, Del., the Wagon Wheel Family Restaurant is indeed a family-run business, owned and operated by three generations of women: grandmother, daughter and granddaughter (Patty Gallegos, Sheila Furman and Jessica Furman, respectively). Their restaurant is known for its classic preparation of a local delicacy — muskrat — but beyond that, it has struggled to succeed, serving primarily frozen food in an old-fashioned space. If their business was to have any hope of thriving in the future, Patty, Sheila and Jessica would need Robert Irvine‘s support to revamp the menu with crowd-pleasing dishes that go beyond muskrat and to enliven the interior with a fresh, welcoming design. In just two days and with a $10,000 budget, Robert and his Restaurant: Impossible team helped this family learn to work together and ultimately reopened Wagon Wheel as a made-over eatery that they could be proud of. We checked in with Jessica a few months after the transformation to find out how the business is doing today.

Her mother, Sheila, is no longer working at Wagon Wheel, so Jessica will be relieving Patty and running the restaurant immediately after her graduation later this month. “I am excited to get back to work, to do what I wanted to since the beginning: make the Wagon Wheel profitable,” she tells FN Dish. “I want to become more involved in the community and create a place that people can go with their families to have a nice dinner with a great vibe.”

She plans to institute a system of guidelines at the Wagon Wheel, which she hopes will in turn create a more positive work atmosphere for the employees and pleasant dining experience for customers. “I feel that setting standards is an important part of returning the restaurant to profitability,” she explains. “Everyone is doing what they can and also what they want, because no one is in charge to reward good behavior or reflect on negative issues.” Increased communication between all workers at the restaurant — managers, front of the house and back of the house included — will also help to equalize expectations. “With open communication from not only owners and managers but with the entire staff, no one is left in the dark to wonder what is going on,” she adds.

Since reopening, the updated decor at the Wagon Wheel has been well-received by customers and staff alike. “My favorite part of the new design is the hostess stand and the divider wall,” Jessica admits. “It makes the restaurant look more professional and is a great thing to see when you first walk in the door.”

In terms of the menu, they’ve kept muskrat on the list of offerings. According to Jessica, “It is what we are known for and it is only seasonal.”

Looking ahead, Jessica tells Dish that she’s confident Restaurant: Impossible has given her and the business the foundation they need to succeed. “I feel that the show has really helped to set a basis of what I want to go back there to achieve.”

More From Restaurant Revisited:

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 (134)

  1. Paula DE says:

    I live about 10 miles from the Wagon Wheel and have passed this restaurant several times. Our family eats out every week. We have never stopped there because they serve MUSKRAT. After seeing how it arrives before it is cooked and what it looks like after it is cooked, makes me grimace. I still will never eat there, even if it is beautiful inside. Rat is Rat.
    If you remove it from the menu, I am sure some of us would try the establishment.

  2. Guest says:

    The report on this restaurant is very disappointing. Please revisit and tell us how the business is doing? Have they increased their revenue, have they kept Robert's menu, etc.?

    The "design" was not very pleasing IMHO. I hate to see natural wood covered with paint – especially with 1970's green paint. Having a hostess station is a good addition, if indeed there is a hostess!

    Come on, HGTV, let us know what is going on!!

  3. Guest says:

    Oh, Robert!! Please provide us with the Muskrat recipe!! :-)

  4. John says:

    I live in Smyrna. In case no one was actually listening (as Robert wasn't), they were only open for breakfast and lunch. They only opened for dinner on Thursdays during muskrat season. I won't eat it, but muskrat has been consumed on the Delmarva Peninsula for centuries as has snapping turtle. There is a dwindling population of trappers on the Delaware and New Jersey sides of the Delaware Bay who trap muskrat and have a limited demand for the meat. Robert came to town specifically on a Thursday, so the fact that muskrat was on the menu was not a surprise.

    John

  5. R U Kidding! says:

    Muskrat! Really people???? Ok soooo what happened to FDA approved? Can we say Rabies? Disease?
    Eat there? NOT IN THIS LIFE TIME! NOT EVER! But I will call their local Health Dept and the FDA to ask some questions.

  6. R U Kidding! says:

    OMG! Could Sheila whine about anything else? Bet her arm hurts from patting her own back so much!
    Can we say "Random Drug Test Her?" yeah, bet that would be a big "Positive" on a pee stick!

    • frank says:

      you dont even know Sheila, so only judge yourself_

    • Not Kidding says:

      You are right on the money, why do you think she can't make it in in the mornings? frank, you are wrong.

    • dearwood76 says:

      Right!?! I was thinking "Tweeker" before they even talked about being late…lol

    • No of family says:

      Love this comment and so true of her , this family didn't deserve this help funny they didn't mention. The brother and what he did on oct 24 2002 and how nasty rude and greedy they were to the family he devested that day! Some day what comes around goes around .

      • Jake says:

        so what happened to the Brother? I saw this make over on Restaurant Impossible so I made it a point to go there and took a couple of friends expecting something nice but man was I disappointed BIG TIME ! It was actually so bad that we got up and left and went to Dover and ate at Family Restaurant before it burned down. But I would like to know what did the brother do and how the family tirned into money hounds

  7. Channel says:

    I'am 22 and live in Smyrna. Before RI no one but the older generations would go to the Wagon Wheel. Now after RI still none of the younger generations step foot in that place. When the older people pass away who will bring in the money? When I saw the episode it only validated how screwed the people in this town are in the head. Both the mother and dauther were passive aggressive and the grandson, I don't blame him for walking out. But it goes to show you how small town ma and pop resturants are just falling with the modern times.

  8. Hawk says:

    Just watched this episode. Wouldn't eat here in a million years. Call me uppity but muskrat? Really? No thanks. Glad the Mom is gone. She is a mess. I doubt the cute college girl will be able to save this place. Grandma threw good money after bad. She should have closed soon after her husband died. She was obviously unfit to run this place and her emotional state is still shaky. Good luck to them but I doubt this place survives with this ownership.

  9. Claytonite says:

    I see so many comments about the muscrat, how foul, even a person claiming to be from the county and health violations? please. Other episodes showed rodents and roaches in other restraunts. Robert made NO MENTION of cleanliness, only menu (yes, and the muskrat). While very upsetting to some, it is not a daily offering #1, and #2, if you don't like it don't order! Just like if you don't like shrimp or burgers don't order!
    I am a transplanted local. Lived in Philly before this. You want to see dirty? Or weird food offerings? Go to chinatown!
    I hope this woman makes it. The menu is better, the decor is better.
    Try not to judge until you go again. And if you have no intention of going and trying to support the place. Shut up! move on! Eat somewhere else! And take your anger out somewhere else than this blog! Jeez!!!

  10. Greg says:

    Some of the restaurants look amazing after the remodel…and some look just ok or bad. This one was just OK. Sorry but the trusses were a terrible idea and waist of money. The 1x 2's on one wall were very bad looking. blah. To bad people are saying they are still doing bad. I would like to know how they do after the granddaughter takes over. Muskrat might be a local thing but I think they should drop it and focus on a new fresh menu.

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