Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Restaurant Impossible - Spunky Monkey Bar & Grill Update

Photo - Facebook
Tonight on Restaurant Impossible, Robert Irvine and crew are going to Auburn, Washington to makeover Spunky Monkey Bar & Grill.  When Robert first sees the restaurant, he encounters 'inches of dust, mounds of grime, years of neglect, and an owner who doesn't seem to care at all.'  Aside from the health code violations, there is also below average food and design complications.  As I normally do with Restaurant: Impossible episodes, I searched around the Internet to read stories, comments and reviews about the Spunky Monkey Bar & Grill to get an idea of how the restaurant is doing since Robert Irvine visited, and here is what I found (note - all reviews are post Restaurant Impossible):

Positive Reviews:
  • "The menu is great, and the decor is fantastic.  We had great service and a new found feeling of appreciation from the staff.  We will be back.  Try the beef & blue burger."
  • "Altogether, decorations and atmosphere are awesome....Food was great. Portions are awful and we either need more food for the sides or a lower price point."
  • "This was our first visit back since Restaurant Impossible was here and I have to say, I was impressed!"
  • "The service was fantastic,  the food was delicious and my drinks were amazing!..The only reason for 4 stars is because the stool chairs are not the best comfort-wise, the bathrooms were not upgraded by restaurant impossible at all, and there's no way for anyone disabled to come enjoy some marvelous food."
  • "We've visited twice since the Restaurant Impossible remodel. We've found the menu offers variety and exciting new options. The service is excellent and attentive. The chef has delivered our food and chatted with us about our experience. The owner has been present and attentive as well."

Negative Reviews:
  • "This place used to be fun, but they took out all the entertainment and replaced it with gray paint.  I'm all for a facelift and new menu, but what's the point of going to a bar in Auburn if there's nothing to do?"
  • "The food lacks seasoning, and the portions are too small. Ground beef is undercooked and isn't safe for human consumption. Desserts are tasty but too small. The meal cost $50.00. Although I like the atmosphere as well as the staff, I doubt if I will ever be back. Hopefully sales are up, but had the market been studied more closely, more sales could have been captured. And Oh My God! Those awful, uncomfortable chairs!"
  • "We did NOT enjoy our lunch from the moment we arrived.  Once in the door we had to walk up 5 or 6 steep steps to the restaurant which was challenging for one friend who uses a cane.  The restaurant was nicely decorated with monkey themed canvases on walls, but the chairs at our table were small round unpadded child size and very uncomfortable."
  • "We are so GROSSLY DISAPPOINTED with Spunky Monkey's choice to allow Restaurant Impossible to absolutely obliterate, and RUIN, their main theme....While we never believed this restaurant was 'in trouble,' or in need of any type of facelift (for heaven's sake, it was MEANT to be UNIQUE), we know that the owner's decision was most likely made in hopes of drawing a new/different crowd."
*Reviews from Yelp and Tripadvisor

Other News and Updates:
  • An article in the Auburn Reporter about the makeover in October has over 200 comments (even with Facebook account required comments), so this caused quite the buzz locally.  Many people referred to the Spunky Monkey as a dive bar and some didn't even know they had a restaurant.  There were also comments about the crowd it attracts.
  • The Spunky Monkey has a website and keeps an up to date Facebook page in which they are active and respond to customers.  Because of this, there is a lot more information about what has happened since the makeover.
  • Here are some pictures of the makeover.
  • On the restaurant website they said Robert Irvine didn't like the Caesar salad, but they have added it back to the menu and are letting customers vote for which items they want back on the menu.

Updates from looking at their Facebook Page:

Nov. 9th - The Spunky Monkey responded to a complaint about how Restaurant Impossible ruined the place with "We're sorry you weren't pleased with the new design and menu, but are glad our service was great. Unfortunately, the prior business model was not profitable, and we were rapidly approaching closure."

Nov. 11th - The Spunky Monkey responded to someone who tried to eat there but didn't want to go upstairs with, "Hi Tammy, we apologize for your experience. The downstairs area is no longer restaurant space, and we've relocated all service to the upstairs area. We are currently awaiting Liquor Board approval for family dining, which would allow all ages dining in the upstairs area pictured below.... Then on Nov. 26th, they updated with, "We finally have approval for families to dine, and we would love the chance to serve your family. We apologize for the wait, but are glad the liquor board finally has granted us the permit for upstairs."

Nov 18th - A comment about not being allowed to dine at the restaurant because a patron brought kids with him was responded to with, "We're so sorry you weren't able to dine with your family. The show producers did not integrate us into the remodel, and they moved everything to the upstairs area. We were informed by the liquor board that we are only authorized to have minors in the downstairs area (which the show did not remodel). We have installed railings in hopes we will receive the adjustment to our licensing to allow all ages upstairs. We definitely were not intending to exclude anyone, particularly families. We are waiting for the liquor board to approve the new layout."

Nov. 20th - The Spunky Monkey brought back karaoke to the bar stating, "It took us a few weeks to find our bananas, wires, and to bring back the fun, and we thank all of you who have patiently (and anxiously) waited--Karaoke is back and better than ever! The same great sound, a beautiful new place, and a new, but unforgettable host! More fun announcements to come....stay tuned!"

They also followed up with, "When we requested the remodel, we didn't ask for any changes in our entertainment. It took us time to reconfigure everything. This is our first announcement of what the new Monkey platform will be, and we're already receiving excellent feedback!"
There are also many comments regarding the change from locals on that post.

Dec. 11th - The Spunky Monkey brought the pool tables back to the bar stating, "It's taken five weeks for us to adapt to all the changes, but we are excited to say we have karaoke going strong (with some host's tips benefitting D.A.W.N.), we have TV's (yay!), and today---we have pool tables (black felt is being installed tomorrow). We STILL are committed to being the PREMIERE fun, laid back, quality place to have dinner, drinks, and fun (or all three!), and we're glad you're along for the ride. Cheers!!"

The bar/restaurant also followed up after some comments and stated, "We understand there are some who are disappointed, and we definitely do appreciate your work and support. We realized an immediate spike in business and a number of large event bookings due to the reinstall of the tables. With the revenue, we are investing in a makeover of the downstairs that will parallel the ambiance and experience of the upstairs" (I added a photo from after the makeover to now below)

Jan. 8th - The Spunky Monkey stated, "The downstairs is under construction now, and family dining will return when it's complete Regulations from the State aren't allowing minors in for now. We promise to be all ages fun very soon."

Left - After RI makeover, Right - Pool Tables added, tables removed (Facebook)


The reviews for the Spunky Monkey Bar & Grill are definitely mixed after the Restaurant Impossible makeover.  People seem to like the interior and decorations, but there were many complaints about having to go up stairs and about uncomfortable seats.  Most people thought of Spunky Monkey as a bar rather than a restaurant, so some of the regulars were not happy with the changes.  Judging by the online comments and uptick in the amount of reviews for the restaurant/bar, the makeover definitely generated some buzz and had locals talking.

Before Restaurant Impossible visited, it seems that the downstairs area was the dining area and the upstairs was the bar area.  Restaurant Impossible updated the upstairs of the Spunky Monkey, and turned it into the dining area, without touching the downstairs.  The restaurant did not have liquor board approval for family dining upstairs, so this essentially made it impossible for anyone to bring minors into the restaurant to dine.  The restaurant apparently got approval for minors at the end of November, but in January, they were saying minors still weren't allowed in.

The restaurant seems to have gone back to being more of a bar instead of a restaurant.  They have removed tables and chairs upstairs and have replaced them with pool tables.  They have also added their popular karaoke back, which many of the regulars seemed to miss.  The Spunky Monkey has said that they are planning on renovating the downstairs for dining so minors will be able to dine at the restaurant.

I'm not sure if Restaurant Impossible is to blame for the permit issue upstairs, but maybe the restaurant would have been better off if the downstairs was made over.  The kitchen is downstairs, so it makes sense to not have servers go up and down stairs.  Also, as this restaurant was more of a bar to begin with, it may have made more sense for this place to be on Bar Rescue.

*Visit Our Restaurant Impossible Update Page to see all Restaurant Impossible updates, and which restaurants are open, closed, or have been sold.  Also Like Us on Facebook  and  Follow Us on Twitter  


  1. Sounds like who ever picked the restaurant did not do much research.

  2. Anne Burrell is one of the worst cooks in America, so she should be leading the loser team.

  3. Originally I believe the bar was exempt to ADA requirements due to the age of the building (something about a grandfathering type of clause), with remodel I can't tell you why it wasn't addressed.

  4. I actually liked the show. The chefs made some nice, original dishes, and it was fun to watch Anne unleash her inner bitch on contestants that were acting like divas and douchebags (WARNING: Never, ever address Anne using the words, "Hey baby!" Her name is Anne....Ms. Burrell if you're nasty!)

  5. You know, while I have my issues with the formulaic way that RI "fixes" these restaurants, it kinda bothers when the former "regulars" make it a point to complain about the changes. I mean, for all the drama, most times we DO know that the restaurant is within days/months of closing because they aren't making enough money. The owner has to do SOMETHING. And it bothers me when people complain because, obviously, there weren't enough people that liked it before, was there? And they didn't go often enough to support the restaurant, did they?
    I get that coming back to a favorite place and find it with a reduced menu and increased prices can be annoying for people, the truth is that if enough people liked it so much before, the restaurant wouldn't have been in trouble to begin with,

  6. Spunky Monkey was definitely a dive bar, and we chatted with the owner when we went in after the re-do. She didn't offer a lot of specifics, but mentioned that Shannon applied, not her, and I think she did it in an attempt to bring in a different, more upscale, clientele.

  7. of all the shows from FNCanada that we would like to be able to watch ....and you pick Chopped ??? bOring!

  8. I'm glad Bobby Flay is back again. I like him and I really get a kick out of him on this show. I wonder how many contestants will be ringers this season. I suppose none is too much to ask.

  9. Some places I don't even know why they bother going to. You just knew this place wasn't going to survive, those two brothers had no business running a restaurant. Plus, after seeing the dead mouse and roach, the dirty ice machine, who is going to trust these guys and go even after the renovation? Reminded me a little of Soup to Nuts though not as bad (hard to reach that level). Wish they would go to places where the person at least has some what of a brain.

  10. These guys had no chance no matter what they did for them.

  11. Seems like the old fat owner was using the bar in order to recruit her girlfriends. Shannon obviously knew nothing about cooking or running a restaurant, and apparently she spent all her time across the street eating the chunky munky to make sure she kept her job and home.

  12. The Black Bobby FlayJanuary 17, 2014 at 9:35 AM

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  13. The Black Bobby FlayJanuary 17, 2014 at 9:37 AM

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  14. And there's one looking for their 15 mins... :)

  15. Mindy Thompson LoveallJanuary 17, 2014 at 12:59 PM

    It sounds to me as if the owners REALLY need to make a firm decision on whether or not this establishment is a bar or a restaurant with a bar. Very big difference. Once they decide they should clearly market (on the sign outside as well) it well as such so that there is no confusion whatsoever and then provide the experience that fits. Potential clientele need a very clear understanding of what this place is. If it is a bar, many people will not want to bring their children there. It it is a restaurant with a bar, they might experience more revenue so long as the "bar" portion of the restaurant is not one that allows it's customers to get "out of hand" as many dive bars can. What RI provided was some real class compared to filth and broken down look it was prior. I'd say stick with the class and attract those type of customers. They usually have more money to spend. Just sayin'.

  16. Those kinds of changes would obviously be beyond scope (time and money) of RI so it's probably just as well they didn't go there. I'm also willing to bet that neither Robert nor the crew would be knowledgeable ebough on what's required to risk going there anyway.

  17. I liked the show in it's original form "Chef Hunter" when it had no host, just an unidentified narrator. Then FN took that show and turned it into a star vehicle for Anne Burrell. I like Anne, but I think her strengths are in teaching and cooking. On the first season of Chef Wanted, Anne spent a good portion of each episode yelling and jumping up and down like a bug on a hot rock. On the following 2 seasons her approach was mellowed to more of a coach, which suited her, but by then it was too late. FN should have left well enough alone.

  18. There is only one owner, and her girlfriend, a victim of workplace sexual harassment. They do not own the restaurant together. Shannon was only around for the last four years, and no doubt the owner has done workplace recruiting in the past.

  19. Many times, a couple buys a restaurant together. However, on a few of the shows, the owner (male or female) has got a girlfriend who was originally an employee. Due to my own experiences watching bosses chasing younger women around the storage room, I find this a bit low-class. It is almost like RI is promoting sexual harassment.

  20. Mindy Thompson LoveallJanuary 18, 2014 at 1:12 AM

    I didn't see the part that eluded to any sexual harassment. Do you know these folks personally and know about this firsthand?

  21. Regulars will happily run a restaurant out of business just to keep things the way they like them. After all, what do they care?

  22. All I'm saying is that it seems petty to bitch about your favorite place changing when you know that they had to do something because they were failing. Obviously, the "regulars" weren't enough business to keep the restaurant going.

  23. As the article states, it just got old. And once it became apparent that it was faked, anyway, that (along with Mystery Diners and Restaurant Stakeout) got crossed off my list.

  24. I really like Chef Irvine and enjoy the show (I just go along with it and don't delve too deeply into the semantics) and I'm being terrible, but sometimes he walks a little like Mrs. Wiggins (for you young'ns that is an old Carol Burnett character). Oh well. Made me laugh a little.

  25. Based on what I've seen in the episode so far, I won't be the least bit surprised when I come back to this site in April and read that this one's closed down.

  26. Shannon stated that she had started working at the restaurant as an employee and then her boss started dating her. In most courts, that is sexual harassment. If Shannon breaks with her boss, what are the odds that Shannon retains her General Manager position, considering that she does not know how to cook, cannot maintain a clean restaurant or kitchen, and nobody respects her. You may recall when Chef Irvine asked if the employees respected her, since she was always at home with her boss, and most raised their hands no. Mixing business with pleasure is not a very good idea.

  27. I would not be surprised if it closed last week.

  28. Sorry but who gives a s-it if some kids can't go upstairs. You know everyone thinks they own a place but they don't lose everything they have when it fails. Think of the jobs that are lost too. Get over yourselves.! Canes, kids. Whatever maybe it's better to succeed than please a few people who won't spend that much anyway. Michael

  29. Mindy Thompson LoveallJanuary 23, 2014 at 11:36 PM

    Love the show Chopped, so was excited to watch Chopped Canada. Watching my first episode tonight.

    Because I am a critic/editor at heart, my first impression was hard to make because I was having a hard time getting past the host, Dean McDermott. Guess he was my first impression. It's impossible not to compare him to Ted Allen. Mr. McDermott so pales in comparison I noticed that while his voice sounded energetic at times, his facial expressions and energy (or the lack thereof) appeared lackluster, uninterested and even arrogant. They didn't match his voice. Sadly, his eyes were just dead, not connecting and completely unengaging. I hope that he has the ability to step it way way up as I hate to see anyone fail. I don't see him lasting long if he doesn't. Ted is just so genuine, engaging and full of life (which is easily seen in his eyes). The person who does his same job on the Canadian version of the show needs to have the same energy if not more.

    Aside from the host, I enjoyed the rest of the show!

  30. I wonder whether this place would have been a better candidate for On the Rocks or Bar Rescue than Restaurant: Impossible.

  31. Wish we could get a new host!!! Dean has zero personality. Seems so disconnected.

  32. Couldn't have happened to a more deserving guy!

  33. If they went back to their own cooking, they killed it.

  34. Aren't they required to be ADA compliant?

  35. If I may offer up this opinion....... The ones who complain are very likely ones who never have owned a business, a home, or anything of significance. Otherwise these complainers would know that the ones who have to foot the bill have to find ways to survive, to keep the doors open.

  36. I think Dean is a good host, but watching that Susur Lee host insult just about everyone got old real quick. If I were one of those contestants I would be offering him a small pox blanket when I got chopped.

  37. I think he actually wanted to fail because he let his sons back in the kitchen. Letting those 2 guys try to cook was tantamount to suicide!

  38. Thursday 2/27/14

    Took 2 friends to the Spunky Monkey Restaurant in Auburn,
    WA, WOW was that a BIG mistake. If there
    were a negative number I would post it.
    The restaurant was featured as a “restaurant makeover on restaurant
    impossible”, so I thought it was going to be inviting “NOT”.

    We walked in and there was no one to greet you, headed to
    the dining area, where a man in dirty clothes said “it’s closed, go up to the
    bar” this was at 6:20pm). We went up
    stairs to the bar, waited to be seated, took a few minutes, (only 5 people indr
    the bar 4 staff members); we were seated in a booth which had a broken table.

    After we ordered, It took the kitchen staff 45 minutes to
    deliver our meal; I have to give the wait staff credit, a couple of staff
    members, kept apologizing about the wait.

    I ordered, Beef & Blue Burger (salsa was slimy
    – scrapped it off) burger was cook per order, BUT the 5 wedges on the plate 2
    cooked 3 raw (gross).

    My Friends order the Fish Sandwich, fish was dry,
    roll seemed to be day old, the other ordered Steak, and it was as
    tough as shoe leather, veggies over cooked.

    This restaurant is NOT inviting, VERY POOR quality of food
    preparation and extremely long period of time between order and delivery.

    I paid the bill, because I was so embarrassed about the
    place I chose for guest.


    I will also be sending the show Restaurant Impossible a CC
    of this post.

  39. Good riddance Party boy.

  40. To Chip, the enabled son, you mean. I agree and I would have put big money down against him because you knew he wasn't going to change. This wasn't his "second" chance either; his mother was clear about that, but the dad was in denial and couldn't stop flushing money for his son. How bad do you have to be at business to fail with this refined restaurant, what his mother called a "gold platter" opportunity? Let's hope that someone else is teaching his son how to grow up and be a productive citizen.

  41. Very efficiently written information. It will be priceless to anybody who uses it, together with myself. Sustain the good work – for positive i will try extra posts.

  42. So sad. I think this restaurant's problems went much deeper than poor management. Family issues seemed to run deep. When a mother cannot hug her own son, something is terribly terribly wrong. The whole enabling thing denied by the father is something that he should have a better
    look at. Take some time to study what enabled children behave like.

    It means, "to make possible or easy."

    In a negative sense, enabling is also used to describe dysfunctional behavior approaches that are intended to help resolve a specific problem but in fact may perpetuate or exacerbate the problem.
    A common theme of enabling in this latter sense is that third parties take responsibility, blame, or make accommodations for a person's harmful conduct (often with the best of intentions, or from fear or insecurity which inhibits action). The practical effect is that the person himself or herself does not have to do so, and is shielded from awareness of theharm it may do, and the need or pressure to change. Enabling in this sense is a major environmental cause of addiction or other major issues.

    A common example of enabling can be observed in the relationship between the alcoholic/addict and a codependent spouse. The spouse (or parent) who attempts to shield the addict from the negative consequences (failure) of their behavior by calling in sick to work for them, making excuses that prevent others from holding them accountable, and generally cleaning up the mess that occurs in the wake of their impaired judgment. In reality, what the spouse (parent) is doing is hurting, not helping. Enabling can tend to prevent psychological growth in the person being
    enabled, and can contribute to negative symptoms in the enabler.

    If a child is not allowed to fall flat on their face, they'll never learn how to get up on their own and try again. Never. The failure of this restaurant (depending on how the parents handled the son and are now handling him), may be the best thing that ever happened to the son. He needs to find his own way without any intervention from parents. Love, yes. Money, no.

  43. Chippie Boy should of had that smirk removed along with the bad food. Too bad Robert didn't do that , too.

  44. Dude, you don't attempt to make a joint in fucking AUBURN into a hipster hangout-it just don't work.

  45. This is in a high-traffic area of Wisconsin close to Chicago & a big destination location for tourists, no in "rural Montana".

  46. I looked at their facebook page and the food pics look disgusting...plain french toast sprinkled with icing sugar served with 2 steel medicine cups of peanut butter and maple syrup and a side of what looks like dog turds. Also a gyro that looks like the 'spunky monkey' spunked all over it. Anyway, their facebook page appears to be advertising karaoke nights, trivia nights and art classes, and it looks like they've gone full-force into the dive bar theme. Their website (which features very loud music) states: "With a
    2013 remodel courtesy of Food Network's "Restaurant Impossible", rumors
    rapidly spread that everyone's beloved "Monkey" had become a
    restaurant. On the contrary, we reinstalled the karaoke set up, and
    host karaoke that's bigger and better than ever!". I'm sure RI was happy to "remodel" their bar. What a waste of time when actual restauranteurs could really use the help.

  47. Nut bag. You are a nut bag

  48. We drove 180 mi to eat on the 2nd night after the remake, and the food was excellent. Decor was nice, the view awesome.

    Service was pretty good, even with the server dealing with the new menu.

    We noticed 2 things that spelled future disaster.
    Our waitress said that Robert was a total jerk, and was unprofessional. That told us she had no respect for authority, nor willingness to improve herself or her job skills. It absolutely told of the staff attitude.
    The other apparent sign of future disaster, was that Chip was a total Dick!
    The "chip" on Chip's shoulder was unbelievable, unappreciative of not only his staff, but customers. We explained our long drive to support the new Pier West, and he seemed too busy to care. Being busy is understandable, not caring, is not. That man is not a people person, and should have been yanked from his duties as manager.
    I feel remorse for the cook staff now without a job that they excelled at, and remorse for the good times that won't be had there, by countless friends and families.
    That's the sad part.
    As for RI neglecting followup as one commenter suggested, I think that's laughable. Possibly the best view of any restaurant I've been in, a beautiful building, and great food shouldn't need a followup...ifor one can't make that situation successful, then that person is a dope.

    I'd like to see Robert give Chip a tune-up, but a true business person re-opening Pier West with Robert's model would suffice:)

  49. I think bringing the pool tables back was a good move. Skunk Monkey is indeed more of a bar, and pool is a key to a good bar. I have a friend who works there. In fact, I will go visit it in the next few weeks, and share my experience.

  50. Probably sniffing something, he sure acted like it

  51. I went there with my family, (including my dad who used to own a restaurant), shortly after the episode aired. Food was very good, service was passable; A for effort, and decor and view were very nice. According to our waitress, Chip was out and his brother took over ("Thank God.") He was there, was very personable, and thanked us for coming. However, it was clear from the episode that he did not want to be there permanently. If he found a decent manager, maybe he could have run it from out of town. But that may be wishful thinking.

  52. That's so sad...they were shown a better way for their diner by the show and yet decided to go back to doing what did not work in the first place

  53. It's not R.I.'s fault these restaurants fail. Most of the people should never have started these restaurants in the first place.Everyone loves the blame game.

  54. You expect a lot out of a reality show. They spruce up the restaurant, give them advice and guidance. They are not babysitters beyond the two days. It is the OWNERS responsibility to ENACT the changes. Most simply go back to their old ways of running the place. That is not RI's fault.

  55. Seems the mother was fed up with the son. Looks like she was right all long. He couldn't hack it.

  56. What you say is true (that they revert back), but it is ALSO true that RI doesn't really give sound business advice anymore. At least, if he does, we don't see it anymore.

  57. Sad to learn that they didn't learn from and utilize all that RI gave them. Very sad.

  58. Too bad, Tom did such a great job! Those simple, elegant lamps even cast a pretty pattern on the ceiling. Good for resale.

  59. Almost 2 hours from Chicago !!!!