By Ginna Parsons | NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The reviews are in and they are largely good.
On Wednesday, the newly revamped Woody’s restaurant on North Gloster had its grand reopening after getting a makeover from the Food Network’s “Restaurant: Impossible” television show.
Celebrity Chef Robert Irvine and his crew had two days and $10,000 to breathe new life into the longtime restaurant’s decor and tweak its menu.
The big unveiling was to begin at 7 p.m. Wednesday, but it ran a bit behind, and the first wave of patrons who had reservations weren’t seated until about 8:30.
Braden Bishop and his party of four had reservations for 10 and were seated at 10:30.
“I was impressed with the new setup,” the Tupelo High School teacher said. “My wife and I had been to Woody’s a handful of times, mainly for rehearsal dinners and anniversaries. Woody’s was always the place in Tupelo where you went for special occasions.”
Bishop was impressed with the new light, airy decor.
“It’s not as dark anymore and the front is real open,” he said. “I’m a food connoisseur and I don’t like eating in a dark environment.”
Bishop and his wife both had New York strip steaks.
“She had the grits with hers and I had seasoned wedge fries,” he said. “It was fantastic. A very good cut of meat. It was a little more than I would typically like to pay, but for the experience, it was worth it.”
Bishop’s mother-in-law, Belinda Black, picked up the tab for her daughter and son-in-law and her son.
“The food was good, but I was a little disappointed,” she said. “If you’re paying $28 for a steak, you expect to get bread and salad. But it was just the steak and a side item. I had the catfish, which was very good, kind of crispy on the outside. The kids did say their steaks were really good – tender and cooked appropriately.”
Black was not disappointed with the decor, though.
“The north dining area was clean and airy – it looked like something you’d see in New York,” she said. “One of the main things I noticed was they’d taken down the heavy drapes in the dining room. Instead they had a soft, clean fabric – not even drapes really. And I loved the white chairs.”
Black said she was surprised they didn’t have white tablecloths on the tables, which were painted white to match the chairs.
“Especially with the prices, you’d think they’d have white tablecloths on the tables,” she said. “I miss that.”
Black said she and her husband had their wedding rehearsal dinner at the restaurant almost 40 years ago.
“That was our anniversary restaurant,” she said.
Joe Moffatt, who used to own Joe Joe’s Espresso, and his wife, Hollie, had reservations for 10:10 p.m. and were seated about 11.
“We weren’t sure what to expect,” he said. “The decor and design were totally different. They uncovered a lot of woodwork that had been there all those years but covered up. They got rid of most of the red and everything’s lighter now. It feels like an old, established restaurant that’s up-to-date.”
Moffatt said he had the hanger steak, which was OK, but what knocked his socks off was an appetizer – the beef sliders.
“They were one of the best things I’ve ever eaten,” he said. “They were fantastic.”
Moffatt said most of the salads and appetizers on the menu looked new to him, but the entrees were largely the same.
“They kept their steaks and changed the sauces a bit,” he said. “My hanger steak had a demi-glace sauce. Someone else at our table had the Tupelo honey-grilled shrimp and it was really good. Had a Thai taste to it – coconut and red pepper. And it came with a ginger slaw that was really good.”
Moffatt said he was surprised that the bar area was largely untouched.
“In that sense, the restaurant and the bar aren’t really integrated well,” he said. “I don’t know if they have any plans to change that or not. I think they need a little time to smooth things out.”
The two-day revamp of Woody’s was filmed by the crew from the Food Network. The episode of “Restaurant: Impossible” featuring the Tupelo restaurant will air in the show’s third season, which begins in February.