Saturday, August 31, 2019

Restaurant Impossible - Besse's on Clear Lake Update

Tonight on Restaurant: Impossible, Robert Irvine and his crew are in Tomahawk, Wisconsin to makeover Besse's on Clear Lake.  Besse's on Clear Lake is a small-town steakhouse that has been open for over 30 years.  The restaurant is supposedly one month away from closing and Robert needs to remind owner Brenda about her passion for the business to help get it turned around.  Brenda has no concept of her finances and the staff has not been properly trained.

As I normally do with Restaurant: Impossible episodes, I searched around the Internet to read stories, comments and reviews about Besse's on Clear Lake 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:

  • "Stopped in tonite for a cocktail and was pleasantly surprised with new remodel of the interior! Bright, fresh and pleasantly updated from the bar to the decor and restructured eating area. New windows allow beautiful view of the lake. Did not visit the restrooms but saw they were now cleverly hidden and no longer in table view! It was just a cocktail visit but looking forward to new menu on our next visit."
  • "Great food. The remodel looks amazing! Best of luck to Brenda and staff! We can not wait to come back again in a few week! Try the steak frits and the curry walleye. It will blow your mind."
  • "Went to Besse's at 5:30 weeks after the Food Network TV completed the $10,000 facelift. Was nice to see all of the interior improvements along with a fresh innovative menu. We had a party of 3 who all chose different selections including walleye with potato pancakes; walleye & oyster curry with soup & corn ragu pasta with a salad. All were good tasting unique dinners.Go early, by 5:30 in the summer to get a table or prepared to wait. That's usual anywhere in the northwoods in the summer. Besse's has a great view of Clear Lake offering inside & outside seating. Service was ok & was nice to meet Brenda, the owner."
  • "Went here to check out the remodel and it looked beautiful! My meal was delicious! I ordered the jumbo shrimp with pesto cous cous and grilled asparagus. I could eat it all day. Everyone in my family enjoyed really their meal."

Negative Reviews:

  • "Having heard that this restaurant had just gone through a 'make over' for a TV program, we were excited to try it. Bottom line: service needs help - the hostess was tucked away in the corner by the bar and only when we asked the bartender about a table did she volunteer to take our name. We had a glass of wine at the bar while we waited for a table, sounds like all the bar staff had turned over since the makeover (a month ago?). We ordered cheese curds as an appetizer - didn't taste like they were made locally. Actually the salads the came with the entrees arrived before the appetizer, iceberg with a few tomatoes and olives, hubs salad was wilted, mine was kinda rusty. Entrees - I had the steak & hubs had ribs, both good but when I asked for plain butter instead of the compound blue cheese butter I was told they didn't have butter in the kitchen. What? Server was very inexperienced - he said he had only been there a couple days. Seemed to be a theme. I would have given it 2 1/2 stars if that was an option"
  • "So.....we visited as a party of six on a Friday evening and arrived to a pretty well-filled dining room (including the owner having dinner alongside the bar). Our server was very young and not only could not answer menu questions I'm not sure he was legally allowed to bring us drinks from the bar which took about 15 minutes which might have been a great time to take our dinner orders, but that didn't happen. We finally order dinner and wait 20 minutes for the arrival of two appetizers including another shot at the chicken livers even though the menu didn't note they were topped with the wonderful ragu that was used during the RI reveal. Should have known better. Once again we are served chicken livers drowned in prepackaged beef gravy. Appetizers are eaten and we wait for soups (which eventually arrive lukewarm) and salads. The appetizer dishes are left on the table and remained there for the remainder of our visit.Another long wait between the soups/salads and the arrival of the first entree. Again, we are a party of six. Half duck entree arrives as we near an hour since we placed our order. FOUR minutes later, three more of us get our dinners. Two half-rack of ribs (see photo) that while the meat was falling off the bone were very dry and a fish fry (walleye) that was a filet and a half (who serves you half a piece of fish?). Another SIX minutes (now a total of 10 minutes since the first entree was served) and the two "grilled" shrimp entrees are brought out and oh my. First, $22 for a shrimp entree with FOUR shrimp is a head scratcher. Even more of a head scratcher is what was the cook (can't use the word chef here) and server thinking that would have them serve shrimp that are so charred that the entire bottoms are black and crispy enough that it flakes onto the plate?...In the meantime, the owner finished her meal and left. That meant it was play time for the service staff as six of them are drinking and having a party behind the bar (fortunately not our young server) with two of them even dancing to the music that is playing in the corner of the bar....Not sure how long Besse's will stay open after it is featured on Restaurant Impossible, but I do know we won't be visiting again and won't be surprised to see the word "Closed" next to its name on the websites that track what happens to the restaurants featured on RI."
  • "Pathetic, terrible service. Terrible waiters, and yet the busboys were doing the best job.... I ordered the Chocolate Lava Cake for desert, had I known I was buying a $6 cupcake with cold infused chocolate when it should be hot, I would have just made it myself. I was served bread as an appetizer, no plate to use to spread butter on so that's nice. Our water glass's where put upside down on the table when I just watched the table get washed down with a dirty rag, now please tell me why I would want to use that LET ALONE how it is sanitary. We got seated, food was bland and we never got asked if we wanted refills on drinks, or how our meals where, so lower your damn prices for the trash you are serving."
  • "The menu has changed. There is no salad at all, no soup option either. Menu is very limited---a choice of 5 or six dinner options- no sides to choose from. A very "dry" deep fried lobster tail(fried with the shell on???) and that's all that's on the plate. Bring back the old Bessies, PLEASE!! I would not rush back. There are many other dinner options for the Northwoods area visitors and residents to choose from."
  • "Service was terrible. Our waitress was more interested in drinking her beer in the back than serving her customers. Never once did she ask us how we were doing, we never got another drink, and the kids working there started clearing our plates without even asking if we were finished. I was very dissatisfied."

Other News and Links:
  • The Restaurant Impossible makeover happened in July 2019.
  • Here is the Besse's on Clear Lake Facebook page and they do not have a website.
  • On August 8th, 2019, Besse's on Clear Lake posted, "I would first like to thank everyone for being patient, its been kind of tough with learning a new menu and being busier than ever before. I appreciate the feed back from everyone good and bad. We are all working hard to make our customers happy. The menu will be changing knowing what people like on the new menu and what they would like back from the old menu. I am also working hard on training and finding extra staff so everyone is happy with service. Again thank you for your patients and feed back. We all look forward to serving you and trying our new menu items." (Link)
  • Here are pictures of the menu which were posted on August 22nd, 2019. (Link)
  • Besse's on Clear Lake is currently listed for sale for $300,000.  The listing states, "RESTAURANT POSSIBLE! -This absolute favorite among local residents and visitors, Besse's on Clear Lake, just had a fantastic make-over courtesy of Food Network's Restaurant Impossible! Known for mouth watering fare and upbeat socializing, Besse's is the place to be. The turn-key, beautiful establishment will delight the next owner. Located on premier Clear Lake, guests can dine overlooking the rippling water on the open air deck with seating for 20. Inside, there is ample bar space to enjoy a pre-dinner beverage, and uniquely designed tables allow up to 50 patrons inside the charming dining room. The spacious commercial kitchen has a user-friendly lay out, and a full basement offers great storage space. There is also room for expansion in the walk-out lower level where one could add a private party room or construct living quarters. This easy access location is on a busy snowmobile route, so winter enthusiasts love to stop in after a day on the trails as well."
  • The restaurant was listed for sale in February 2019, so it was for sale before Restaurant Impossible did the makeover.  It remains on the market, but the description has been updated.
  • There are a lot of pictures in the listing if you are interested in seeing the makeover.


The reviews for Besse's on Clear Lake have been somewhat negative since the Restaurant: Impossible makeover with there being a lot of complaints about service.  The restaurant let customers know that things have been hard with the new menu and increased business, but that they were working hard to make customers happy.  Besse's on Clear Lake is currently listed for sale for $300,000 and it was also listed for sale before Restaurant Impossible did the makeover.  The new description in the real estate listing uses the Restaurant Impossible makeover as a selling point.

*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

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