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. melissa says:

    after watching the show everyone has their opinion of MUSKRAT. I think that it gave a family a new start and a new beginning. At least the grandson and daughter decided to leave. they were not meant to be in the food service industry and they were honest about it. I hope that they will stop serving that rodent dish even if its seasonal. I wish the grandmother and granddaughter the best and I would love to eat there some day when I visit deleware. GOOD LUCK to your family

  2. applestycx says:

    The muskrat is not on the menu at all times. It is a seasonal offering and they open at a designated time to specifically serve it to people who are there to buy it. It does not come to the restaurant intact and covered in hair. It is cleaned and ready to cook. Robert was looking for the shock value and it worked. Unfortunately a lot of the people commenting here did not listen to everything being said regarding the muskrat. This is something they serve at a specific time and their customers buy it and the business makes a profit on the sales. Everybody is happy. It is not being served when the business is open its normal hours.

  3. Paula Lee says:

    Did Anna Marie's stay open? Anybody know?

  4. Andrew says:

    Im willing to try the rat If it was not dry looking and had some BBQ with it. Smoked muskrat. That doesnt sound bad. haha

  5. Rich says:

    To all you interior designers out there 2 days and ten thousand dollar budget. If the business turns then they can refinish the ceiling, first the "dead wood" had to go ie. grandson and daughter. Good Luck Wagon Wheel.

    • Arda says:

      I watch the program religiously – BUT….your designers don't understand the value of antiques or real wood. They do wonderful marvelous things inspite of their ignorance

      My log home burned……only one end of the house. Entire house was saturated with black soot. My Insurance adjuster worked up a bid. A Low bid…..where they sprayed all the log walls inside with Killz, and he thought that would be just dandy. PAINTED LOG WALLS and could not understand why that wasn't just fine with me.

      I had to hire an attorney to fight them and get my home back to the condition it was in before the fire and I had been paying for way more than enough insurance on the house. Fortunately or unfortunately, I won. The logs cannot be cleaned without smelling like burnt wet wood and looking just as bad, so they razed the entire house and I have a new log home.

      For you to paint that beautiful expensive wood………well, you are wonderful at some things, but just as you expect your restaurant owners to accept criticism, you and your designers need to admit that you don't know everything about design. Painting wonderful wood is like selling your mother's expensive antiques in a garage sale so you can go buy furniture made of partical board….or is that particle board?

      Getting rid of the dead wood family members definitely needed to be done. Congrats on that.

  6. Rose Stayton says:

    Ate at this restaurant back in June of this year. It was one of the worst experiences I've ever had. I met two dear friends who drove almost an hour to get to the restaurant. There was a table full of "restaurant family members" that were loud, obnoxious and a detrament to the few other guests who were trying to eat. I ordered the crab salad. as soon as it was placed in front of me I could smell the crab. It was obviously old/out dated. My wonderful friend Gladys had the porkchop dinner. The porkchop was so dry it was inedible, the rolls that came out were burnt. He charming WWII decorated vetran husband had the portchop breakfast platter. His order did not come to the table correctly and no waitstaff were in the dining room that we could complain, until she came to give us the bill. When we pointed out everything that was wrong she simply stated, I'll tell the kitchen. Awful, Awful experience and would NOT recommend this establishment to anyone nor will I ever go there again! Sorry Robert, you fought a losing battle with this one! RStayton, Frederica Delaware

  7. Well people.. we are still alive and doing well here at the Wagon Wheel Restaurant & Bar. For those that are interested, MUSKRAT MAYHEM has begun at the WHEEL. Serving season starts January 9 and continues every Thursday until the end of the season. For those who want to steer clear of the Marsh Rabbit, we only serve this tender critter on Thursdays. We have introduced live entertainment to our offerings. Every Tuesday is either an Open Mic or a comedy show and we have Live Music every Friday and Saturday. Our Facebook page is at http://www.facebook.com/wagonwheelsmyrna for those who care to show their support!

    • P. Borden says:

      Just watched the episode about the Wagon Wheel. I think you will turn things around because you seem to be very ambitious and intelligent! I wish you and your grandmother nothing but the best in the future!

    • Marandala says:

      Good luck Jessica….wish we were local and could come in to show or support….love your attitude and work ethic!

  8. no name says:

    i think eating muskrat is gross!! IT' A BIG FAT RAT!! no one in there right mind would want to eat that. get real!! TAKE IT OFF THE MENU. GROSS!!

    • Cathy says:

      We may think it is gross, but the customers like it so who are we to argue? I myself wouldn't toucb it with a ten foot pole! <smile>

  9. Chris says:

    Muskrat, TV Entertainment, Muskrat, TV Entertainment. #RestaurantImpossiable you should start posting comments on the show. Peoples opinions are entertainment in themselves. Wagon Wheel, hope things are working out for you. Family business is tough stuff.

  10. Tom M says:

    I knew Sheila wouldn't make it. I think she thought that if she worked things out with Patty during the renovation, that Patty would give her the restaurant. I figure that when she realized that Jessica was definitely the immediate future of the restaurant, and she couldn't get Patty to rehire the spoiled brat grandson, she couldn't handle that or playing second fiddle to her daughter.

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