Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Restaurant Impossible - Tootie's Texas BBQ Update

Photo - Facebook
Tonight on Restaurant Impossible, Robert Irvine and crew are going to Cathedral City, California to makeover Tootie's Texas BBQ.  Tootie's is supposedly weeks from closing and started to decline when the owner Eileen was battling cancer.  The restaurant is said to have tasteless BBQ, poor service, and is failing to bring in a lunch crowd.  This is the 2nd week in a row that the show has made over a California BBQ restaurant with 'tasteless' BBQ.  As I normally do with Restaurant: Impossible episodes, I searched around the Internet to read stories, comments and reviews about Tootie's Texas BBQ 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:
  • "Best BBQ in the valley! The tri-tip is to die for! The loaded mashed potatoes are mouth is watering as I type this!"
  • "First time dining at Tooties since Restaurant Impossible was here, and what a difference!  I haven't had a good barbecue like this in a very long time. The homemade sauces were great and the spicy 'cajon' sausage links I had in my sliders were perfect..... Eileen, the owner, served us personally and was extremely friendly and attentive....The decor has also drastically changed. The place looks brand new, bright and comfortable....Definitely coming back."
  • "Went to the "new" Tootie's with a party of six.  The post Restaurant Impossible look is terrific!  Much more personality!...The owner Eileen stopped by to check on us several times.  She was very nice and chatted about the Restaurant Impossible experience!"
  • "Food was great, decor was great, service was great, parking was great. Can't find a reason not to give it 5 stars."
  • "What an improvement. I couldn't give this place one star 4 days ago. It's getting 4 now. I love the burger and our server Christy. Eileen is so proud of her new place and I can see why. They will have to work for that 5th star!"
  • "Since the makeover - great space & food better!"

Negative Reviews:
  • "Even after drenching it with their watered down sauce, it still provided a less than appetizing experience.  Needless to say, most of the meal was left uneaten.  I expected more since this establishment had just been on Restaurant Impossible and gone trough a major overhaul.  The restaurant itself is cute and still has the smell of fresh paint.  But the appeal stops there.  I was majorly disappointed and will neither recommend it nor return."
  • "While it is kind of out of the way and a hole in the wall, the decor and atmosphere are awesome.  The service was good, friendly and attentive.  We were expecting the food to live up to its surroundings, but it totally fell flat.  The meat was bland and had to be seasoned liberally by the BBQ sauce they gave us (which in itself wasn't impressive)...Prices were a bit high for the quality of the fare.  If this place got a better chef, it'd be a true gem."
  • "We were sad to see the majority of the new menu items were gone and they were serving the same items they served in the past....The waitress mentioned they tried the new items for five days and only kept the most popular ones...I was so optimistic and ready to throw my support back into the new Tootie's, but unfortunately I cannot support this restaurant any longer. Good luck to the owner. I wish you the best."
*Reviews from Yelp, Urbanspoon, Tripadvisor

Other News and Stories:
  • The show description said that Eileen was battling cancer and the restaurant started to decline.  She also lost her husband to the terrible disease ALS in 2009, so she's had some tough years.
  • In a City Council of Cathedral City meeting on February 10th, Tootie's owner Eileen Smith "expressed her disappointment that no one from the City attended the grand re-opening of her restaurant. She indicated that Restaurant Possibility was at her location, a national T.V. show, and no one from the City came to show support. She feels that the City is not business friendly." (Page 5 of document) *Forgive the note taker for getting the show name wrong.
  • Eileen was nominated for "volunteer of the year" last year at the Cathedral City Chamber of Commerce awards dinner. (Photo)
  • A comment on this Facebook event said that the restaurant does lunch well, but needs to work on their evenings, while another comment on the same event (January 19th) said Eileen is not using Robert Irvine's recipes. 
  • Here is Tootie's Facebook page (which isn't kept up to date) and their website
  • Eileen owned a hot dog place next to Tootie's called Leenie's Weenie's, and knocked down the wall to add pool tables to Tootie's in 2012. (Link


The reviews for Tootie's Texas BBQ were not too bad before the Restaurant Impossible visit, but a lot of them referred to the restaurant being in a bad location and "off the beaten path."  The reviews since the makeover are average to above average with people liking the food and decor, and the reviews also complement that Eileen is active in the restaurant.  The few negative ones complain about the food and that the menu is pretty much the same.

This episode seems very similar to last week as it is a BBQ restaurant in California with a bad location, and owners that are active in the community.  The publicity Restaurant Impossible brings should help out with the bad location of the restaurant.  Maybe Restaurant Impossible is trying to help out owners that are good people and give back to the community this season? 

UPDATE 5/2014 - Sadly the owner Eileen passed away in May 2014.

*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. Since when is the city obligated to show up at her restaurant's reopening? Not going is hardly not being business friendly. It's a restaurant, not a new factory or other venture that is creating tons of new jobs.

    Also, only trying the new menu five days before reverting? It'll be interesting to see if the good reviews stay that way because it doesn't seem like she's that commited to change.

  2. He's most recently shown up as a talking head on Cooking Channels Unique Sweets. I love that show, but the smell of desperation is in the air.

  3. I am getting the feeling that the whole "RI" experience is running short of interesting owners, and it is getting to the point of just dealing with opportunists who are trying to get a free restaurant face-lift and some free publicity.

    This past season has featured more than a few owners that bordered on being sleazy.

  4. I just hope that the viewers/public aren't crazy enough to vote for any more cooks (on FN Star) who make oddball concoctions that almost no one would recreate or serve and/or try to convince us that we should like it because it's outside-the-box and "original". Ughhh

  5. I also don't understand what she expected from the city. Were people supposed to be required by law to go to her restaurant re-opening?

  6. I liked him at first while watching Next Food Network Star. But the longer the show went on, the more his confidence came off as cockiness. By the end, I was disappointed that he won. I feel bad that he was promised a show, then Alton Brown backed out on him. At this point though, I don't know if anyone is even interested in a show from this guy.

  7. Watch Law and Order then.

  8. Not funny and a short minded rebuttal.. Boooo you suuuck! Haha

  9. I agree with you on some shows, but what about this restaurant made you think that?

  10. I am surprised that I've read a few comments saying recently redone restaurants are not using Irvine's menu. I read that among the things restaurant owners agree to before Restaurant Impossible will come in, is a clause stating Irvine's menu must be kept for 6 months. Not sure if that's 100% correct as I read it in a newspaper article something like 2 years ago. Looking to see if I can find it online.

  11. I think because she's an active member of the Chamber of Commerce, she probably assumed many of them and/or a mayor or mayor's representative would show up.

  12. I agree with you, Wolfie. Very good point.

  13. I had a hard time connecting with anyone on the NFNS show that Justin was on. I hated the 'team' thing and just thought they chose very strange people that wouldn't be able to draw enough of an audience to keep a show. I think the entire premise of NFNS is something they should just get rid of. They definitely need some new faces, but maybe they need to hire a talent agency because FN is not doing well with choosing new talent.

  14. Great for Tooties! I wish people would quit being so negative! What a fantastic opportunity...and it's ok to be disappointed city member didn't show...Im sure she wanted to share in the excitement. Hooray for them and this new phase of their lives!!!

  15. I can buy the argument below (she's active in the Chamber of Commerce and therefore expected some turn out) but let's be real: this is a basic cable reality show, not something actually important.

    Cathedral City is small and not a tourist spot. The city may have had nothing to lose by going, but it also had nothing to gain.

  16. My guess is that if there is such a clause, it's so broadly worded that as long as they keep at least one item (which all seem to do) they are in compliance.

  17. I honestly found myself doubting the credibility of the owner. She looked nuttier than a fruitcake, and she just rattled off a list of family members that died in the past year or two, and then she had cancer 9 months ago, but is FINE NOW?? I have not met anyone that is FINE 9 months after being diagnosed with cancer.

    If everything she said is true, then God Bless her. But I think if all those things happened to most normal people, the last thing on their mind would be a restaurant this is LOSING $3K EVERY MONTH.

    Why hang on to a money-losing venture when you are having to pay thousands of dollars for cancer treatment?

  18. Or maybe her reputation in the community really sucks.

  19. I won't question the list of deaths in her family, I lost three of four grandparents, an uncle, and my father in law in two years. It happens.
    But depending on how early they caught the cancer, what type, and the kind of treatment it IS possible to discover cancer, go through treatment, and be in remission within nine months. My mother had breast cancer that was treated in roughly that time frame, and she was a nurse during that time. She'd go and get her chemo in the middle of her shift, then go back to work, so that part isn't out of the realm of possibility as well.
    If your only source of income is that restaurant, and it's losing that sort of money, yeah, you're going to worry about it. Even if you close the doors, you're out whatever money you're already under, and I'm sure it's hard to find a job while going through cancer treatments. Plus, the show didn't touch on this, but if she has some form of health insurance through the business she might be holding on for that, too. There's a lot they didn't cover because no one wants to hear technical stuff, they want the sob story and to see how bad the restaurant is, because it's a TV show and not her biography.

  20. I forgot to add that some of the money she is in debt might be taxes and (though I doubt it as she said she made payroll and her staff is small) some form of employee pay or pension. Not to mention bankrupting the business doesn't necessarily make the debts magically go away.

  21. I just don't consider this part of the job requirement.

  22. That's understandable. I don't fault any of the officials for not being there though.

  23. I wish her well...
    BUT... Dropping all or most of the new menu...
    Just days afterward... Foolishness.
    If it ticks up again to the 30-45+ minute mark in prep...
    Her own darn fault.

  24. Ok then the Mentalist

  25. Yes it is possible.. i did. And i don't recall her saying she was 'fine' now

  26. God Bless all of you that have had cancer. I have had my own maladies, and I cannot imagine dealing with the daily stress of a restaurant that is out of control and losing money at the same time. However, different strokes for different folks!

  27. Biff SchmuckatelliMarch 17, 2014 at 1:58 AM

    any place which uses cold bottles of sauce on the tables is not a real barbeque place. Real places smoke their meats outside in a smoker and make barbeque sauce from scratch and serve it warmed either on the side or on the sandwich (or meat). None of these "barbeque" places featured on this show is real. At best, it is an imitation barbeque themed restaurant. To get real good barbeque, you have to come to Texas

  28. She doesn't understand change. Xcuses is her name and alittle of Attention.

  29. The show is growing just plain tired. Its like going to too many weddings.....same script.....different people.