'Big reveal' at Uncle Andy's: New look, same pancakes
SOUTH PORTLAND — The results are in: they've still got their signature horseshoe-shaped bar tables.
The Food Network reality TV series "Restaurant: Impossible" took over the Mill Creek neighborhood this week to give iconic local diner Uncle Andy's an extreme $10,000 two-day makeover.
The Fogg family, which has owned Uncle Andy's on Ocean Street for 10 years, announced last month that its aging diner had been selected for the show. Despite a loyal local following, Tina and Dennis Fogg both work nights to keep their struggling breakfast-and-lunch business afloat.
The Food Network crew begin filming the episode and immediately remodeling the restaurant on Tuesday, and, with the help of local businesses and volunteers, worked for 36 hours to renovate the diner for a grand re-opening Wednesday night.
The end product was a shocker: their previously open kitchen is partially sealed off, with a brown window panel now separating food prep from customers. But it looks like Dennis Fogg may still make his specialty animal pancakes with an audience.
Gone are the old booths, replaced by sleek tables and chairs. Muted chartreuse paint and a simple tile frame reading "ANDY'S" have replaced the diner's outdated wall decor.
There were no major changes to the outside of the building; there's still the same sign and windows.
Their new menu still features breakfast and lunch, but better quality dishes with "Restaurant: Impossible" host RobertIrvine's expert touch will cater to more foodies willing to pay a slightly higher price tag.
Irvine said Tuesday that fixing up Uncle Andy's presented a unique dilemma.
"The toughest thing is to change a small town iconic restaurant that has failed, drastically failed, after being built in 1954 to present day, is to change the interior to make it an iconic restaurant for 2014 onward," he explained.
But, he said firmly, "I never fail."
During remodeling Tuesday afternoon, about 20 people looked on as Irvine doled out some tough love on the diner's failure to an emotional Fogg family.
Watching was Ron Kramer, a frequent customer of Uncle Andy's and South Portland resident, who said the Foggs were a very nice family, but the food could use improvement.
"It can't get much worse, and that's fact," he said. "I think it's a good opportunity for them to turn it around and draw in a broader crowd, like from Portland and Cape Elizabeth."
Miles Vaughan, owner of Biddeford-based electronics company Digital Sky, was one of several local business owners, such as Paul G. White flooring and O'Shea Builders, volunteering at Uncle Andy's throughout construction Tuesday and Wednesday.
Vaughan said between trips inside the building during remodeling that it was "a mess in there."
His crew donated a $20,000 customized point of service system that would program the diner's new menu into tablets so servers can communicate with cooks, eliminating the diner's handwritten ticket system.
By Wednesday evening, more than 150 onlookers stood across the street for Uncle Andy's big reveal.
The Fogg family and Irvine filmed one final scene outside the diner, then moved inside to show them the remodeling and prepare service for the few dozen pre-selected people with reservations.
The full details of what took place inside the restaurant during filming will likely remain secret until the episode airs later this summer or fall.
But Pat Crockett, who frequents Uncle Andy's and has lived in South Portland for more than 40 years, was not worried about big changes to the iconic spot .
No matter what they change about it, she said, "It's the customers that make Uncle Andy's great. You go in there, you see your mailman, you know everybody."