Thursday, April 28, 2022

Smith's Soul Food Bistro - Restaurant Impossible Update

On this week's episode of Restaurant: Impossible, Robert Irvine and his crew are in Gastonia, North Carolina to makeover Smith's Soul Food Bistro.  Smith's Soul Food Bistro is owned by Cheryl, who is a former basketball coach who wants to help kids in her community by giving them jobs at the restaurant. Unfortunately, Cheryl does not know how to run a restaurant and Smith's Soul Food is in danger of closing.  Robert will need to teach Cheryl how to operate a restaurant so the restaurant can be saved and the kids still have a place to work.

As I normally do with Restaurant: Impossible episodes, I searched around the Internet to read stories, comments and reviews about Smith's Soul Food Bistro 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:
  • "Alright Gastonia, I see you. Out here with some down home southern comfort food. When most people think of southern food, they imagine a lot of fried food. They're not wrong, however, there is fried food, and then there is fried food done right. I ordered the daily special, which for today, happened to be the fried ribs, something I've never had before. I'm used to ribs slathered in some type of sauce, so I was skeptical of this take on the southern classic. These ribs were so perfectly seasoned you wouldn't dream of asking the waiter for sauce; it was so tasty! Even the sides were hitting the right targets. I didn't feel like I was eating in someone's restaurant, but rather the kitchen of someone's sweet grandmother whose been cooking for the family her whole life. Grandma's Mac and cheese? Yes please. Definitely get the yams as a side and you will not be disappointed. The staff was wonderful as well. They definitely put the "family" in family owned restaurant. From the outside, you may not give this place a second thought as you drive by, but I urge you to drop in. The inside received a recent facelift and was beautifully done. Not to mention it's all against the musical backdrop of some smooth jazz. All in all, it was a great experience. I'm not sure what the COVID charge was all about, but for just 42 cents, I can let that one slide."
  • "I was looking for some good ol' Southern food and was recommended to check this place out. Turns out, this place was redone in December 2021 by Chef Robert Irvine and will be airing on an episode of Restaurant: Impossible next month! They have a New Orleans vibe with the jazz music playing overhead paired with the gold and black decor. The staff is nice, and the food is great."
  • "My visit to Smith's was impressive and warm. The atmosphere was lovely and the service was very very warm, caring and pleasant. The food was outstanding especially the fried chicken dinner with the greens. "Soul food" at its finest! Place like this, you would expect in Charlotte downtown, but it's in Gastonia and that's Great!!...for me. lol. Will be an avid client."
  • "Owners/Chef were so nice. This was a great place for our lunch! Food was superb. The highlight of our meal was the taste testing of their new sweet potato and sea salt caramel egg roll. I would go to this place for coffee and an order of just those! Freaking amazing!"
  • "Beautiful decor, friendly staff, and great food. The atmosphere is top-notch. The owner makes everyone feel at home. Looking forward to my next visit."
  • "Absolutely amazing soul food...I had Fish and Grits with a side of collards (BEST IVE EVER HAD) and my husband had the steak Philly, Mac and cheese and breaded Buffalo wings. Everything was delicious and our server was endearing, kind, and funny. Would recommend all day every day. Wish we lived here so we could eat here all the time!"
  • "Excellent home cooking with a genuinely good feeling of family and friends! Such an asset to the Gaston community. While I was eating in their dining room, I observed a drive thru community food giveaway. A heart for the people that they serve."

Negative Reviews:

  • "Once we saw they were getting a makeover and a refresh we decided to try again. They took our number for some reopening party the next day and said they'd call with info. They didn't. We tried again and they were closed for personal reasons. A couple weeks later we tried but they were closed again during normal business hours. Finally we got an order in and it was all the same drama as before. Low budget sides, low budget service. ALSO. If you're a business, you need to answer the phone like it. Don't make customers feel like they're calling your cell phone, it's tacky. "Hello, thank you for calling Smiths Soul Food, what can we get you to eat?" Keep it simple if you can't knock it out of the park on your own. Businesses like this make it easy to go to a chain instead."
*Reviews from Yelp, Google

Other News and Links:
  • The Restaurant Impossible makeover for Smith's Soul Food Bistro happened in December 2021.
  • Here is the Smith's Soul Food Bistro website and Facebook page.
  • Smith's is having a watch party for the episode when the episode premieres.
  • Cheryl also owns Legacy Events Center, which is right next to the restaurant.  Smith's Soul Food does a lot of catering for Legacy Events Center.
    • Here is the Legacy Event's Center Facebook page, which is where the watch party is. 
  • In 2003, Chicago State was punished by the NCAA for actions under coach Cheryl Littlejohn which included violating practice and ordering students to skip class for practice. Apparently the violations were so severe that players began keeping their own private practice journals.
    • Before that, Cheryl Littlejohn was the coach of Minnesota who also was punished by the NCAA for actions under coach Littlejohn.  An investigation found Littlejohn had given money to a player, bought clothes for others and encouraged players to lie to investigators. She also was found to have arranged free housing for recruits in 1998 and arranged for student managers and assistants to oversee improper workouts in 1998 and 2000. (Link)
  • Here are the reviews for Smith's Soul Food Bistro from Yelp and Google.


The reviews for Smith's Soul Food Bistro since the Restaurant Impossible makeover have been very positive with people liking the food, atmosphere, staff and owner.  It seems like people really love the food and are appreciative of what the restaurant does for the community.

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

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