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South Portland cafe to take its reality-TV bow

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South Portland cafe to take its reality-TV bow

SOUTH PORTLAND — For two months, the Fogg family has had to keep quiet about what went on behind closed doors during a reality-TV makeover of Uncle Andy's Diner.

But on Wednesday, Aug. 27, at 10 p.m., they'll relive the restaurant's turbulent remodeling, along with a national Food Network audience.

Owners Dennis and Tina Fogg will host a viewing party for their episode of "Restaurant: Impossible" at The Gold Room on Warren Avenue in Portland. Dennis, who is also a stand-up comedian, will also be part of a stand-up comedy show at 8:30 p.m., before the episode airs.

Reservations for the viewing party, available for a $5 donation to Maine Charitable Resources, are required; attendance will be capped at 125.

The episode, called "No Laughing Matter," was filmed over three days in early June when "Restaurant: Impossible" took over the neighborhood to give the long-time Mill Creek diner a $10,000 makeover.

The Fogg family, which has owned Uncle Andy's at 171 Ocean St. for 10 years, announced in May that the restaurant had been selected for the show. Despite a loyal following, Tina and Dennis Fogg were both working second jobs because their breakfast-and-lunch business was struggling. 

Since Uncle Andy's grand reopening, Fogg said the business has had an uptick in popularity, with people often stopping in just for a photo. The family is now preparing for the influx of customers expected to follow the national spotlight.

Recent reviews of Uncle Andy's new menu have been mostly positive, but Fogg said he and his crew, now six employees larger, sometimes have trouble keeping up with the business, often causing long wait times for customers.

"We're so busy," he said, "it's not like before."

The diner's old set-up allowed Fogg to make his signature animal-shape pancakes and home fries while cracking jokes with regular customers. Now that a new window separates diners from the open kitchen, Dennis said he "doesn't get to entertain as much."

While the family is excited to see the show, Fogg said he's also nervous, because the producers sometimes purposely "picked at" emotional triggers during filming to encourage family conflict.

"They took a lot of footage," he said. "It could come out any way."

But, he admitted, the pros of being on TV have outweighed the cons.

The increased business has allowed the Foggs to finally pay their adult children for working at the restaurant (they previously worked just for tips). Fogg also said the family has paid off debt, and Tina has been able to work fewer nights as an Alzheimer's nurse.

Fogg has also done more traveling than ever with his stand-up comedy routine since filming ended. Now that he has television credits, he said, "You never know what could happen." 

"Restaurant: Impossible" host Robert Irvine's touch can still be seen in Uncle Andy's new menu and the diner's more formal, updated interior. But bits and pieces of the old Uncle Andy's have crept back in.

A boldly lettered "Customers Wanted: Apply Within" poster has returned to the front window, along with a life-size cut-out of Sheldon Cooper, the character played by Jim Parsons on "The Big Bang Theory."

"People like that stuff," Fogg said.  

Sheldon, however, is wearing a new Uncle Andy's T-shirt.

Shelby Carignan can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or scarignan@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @shelbycarignan.