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Life After Restaurant: Impossible is Still Full of Change

Nine months after the television crews left, the décor is still Mediterranean but the menu has evolved and represents a mix of dishes that was developed by listening to customers.

The cameras are long gone and the crowds have thinned out but nine months after Restaurant: Impossible swooped into Benicia and gave Pappas Restaurant a $10,000 facelift, the venerable Benicia establishment continues the drive to stay profitable and popular. 

The owners of Pappas and their new executive Chef Patrick Robertson found that not everything Restaurant: Impossible and its British front man, Chef Robert Irvine brought to the table was palatable for patrons of Pappas. 

“The menus that Robert Irvine leaves with people are the product of an afternoon of figuring out what they want to do,” said Robertson during an interview on October 11, 2012.  “It took me six months to figure out what Benicia wanted us to do.”

The New York Times reports that many restaurants that get the Restaurant: Impossible treatment eventually change the menu after Irvine and company are long gone.  Pappas is one of those restaurants. 

Robertson read customer reviews on Yelp and listened to diners at the East Second Street restaurant and learned that not everyone was in love with the new menu. 

“You are driven by your guests,” said Robertson.  “If you don’t listen to their input and don’t pay attention to that, then you’re going to go out of business.” 

The menu at Pappas Restaurant today draws a lot on inspiration from the one Chef Irvine instituted but retains few of the actual menu items.

The new menu includes top sirloin steak and pulled pork.  When asked about the rub used on the pulled pork Robertson only said, “I am a fan of the three peppers: white, cayenne and black.”

Some items like the grilled pork chop date back to the days before Restaurant: Impossible came to town.  Others, like the fish tacos are new, and proving popular with customers.

“We came up with a menu we can run year round,” said Robertson.  “We want to feature the seasonal stuff with our specials so we can really take advantage of market pricing and the best seasonal items.”

The transformation from failing restaurant to successful business hasn’t run its full course.  “Next up will be a new happy hour to take advantage of the people in the industrial park getting off work,” said Robertson. 

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If there’s something in this article you think should be corrected, or if something else is amiss, call editor JB Davis at 707-628-0051 or email him at benicia@patch.com.

T. Gunter October 16, 2012 at 05:34 PM
These guys should just stop billing themselves as a "Greek" restaurant. Is it really that hard to fathom that Greek food is more exotic than the gentry of Benicia can handle?

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