(keep reading to learn what happened)
Season: 2 | View All Season 2 Episodes
Original Episode Air Date: October 30, 2008
J Willy’s Barbecue House Address: 52885 SR 933 N South Bend, Indiana 46637
J Willy’s Barbecue House was a South Bend, Indiana restaurant featured on Season 2 of Kitchen Nightmares.
Though the J Willy’s Kitchen Nightmares episode aired in October 2008, the actual visit from Gordon Ramsay happened earlier in the year in February 2008.
It was Season 2 Episode 6 of Kitchen Nightmares.
In the Kitchen Nightmares episode, Gordon Ramsay visits J Willy’s Grille and Bar.
The restaurant is located in South Bend, Indiana – most famous for being the home of Notre Dame University.
However, the restaurant is in massive debt – $1.2 million to be exact.
I’m not sure how you can dig yourself out of that hole, but Gordon Ramsay is obligated to try!
The owners contacted Chef Gordon Ramsay to save them by giving them a new start on things which might help elevate the reputation of their place.
The place is owned by John Williams, the eponymous J Willy.
In addition to John, it’s also owned by a husband and wife pair, Rick and Tricia.
That is – there are three owners in total.
The couple lives three hours away from the place which is why John usually handles everything in their absence.
However, Rick and Tricia blame a lot of the issues on John.
When you have a situation like this, crisis tend to happen a lot (hence Gordon’s visit).
With declining productivity and fewer customers, the place is drowning in $1.2 million of debt and is being pressured to shut down.
Gordon reaches the place, orders pizza and sits with John to have a talk.
Additionally, you should know that the pizza comes along with a pork sandwich covered in cheese and a ranch dressing.
Surprisingly, Gordon Ramsay actually said that the pizza with ranch was his favorite dish ever (/s).
Lol, not quite – ranch on pizza is disgusting, and Gordon Ramsay made that clear.
The barbecue sauce came in a large plastic container and the food is canned and frozen.
After seeing this, Gordon stepped into the kitchen and found there was no head chef and every staff member of the kitchen believed they were cooks.
They were reheating food to save it from going to waste and it wasn’t a surprise for Gordon to see that the kitchen was a atrociously dirty.
He immediately asked all the staff to clean the kitchen before going any further with the rescue.
Gordon brought in fresh vegetables and ingredients the next day and taught the staff a new recipe of burger made from all fresh ingredients.
This burger recipe was supposed to be an evening menu.
With the right ingredients used you can pretty much slay anything.
Gordon’s team did a makeover over the night and brought some major changes in the kitchen.
He asked them to produce and sell their own barbecue sauce.
The menu was shortened to make sure the kitchen focuses on the meal and uses fresh ingredients.
As part of the change, Gordon Ramsay tweaked the name from J Willy’s Bar and Grille to J Willy’s Barbecue House.
John also seems more motivated and ready to handle managing the restaurant.
Overall, it was good for a fresh start.
So was the Kitchen Nightmares J Willy’s Barbecue House episode a long-term success?
Keep reading to learn what happened next and if this South Bend Indiana restaurant is still open in 2023.
J Willy’s Barbecue House Update - What Happened Next?
Now that we’ve recapped the J Willys Kitchen Nightmares episode, let’s talk about what happened to the restaurant after Gordon Ramsay and his crew left South Bend, Indiana.
While the initial restart went well, things quickly went downhill.
After a few weeks, they kept of following the changes that Gordon brought to their place and won a competition for the best signature barbecue sauce.
However, an improvement in food quality would not be enough to save the restaurant.
Is J Willy’s still open after Kitchen Nightmares?
J Willy’s BBQ closed on February 4th 2009, which was less than a year after the J Willy’s Kitchen Nightmares episode aired on TV (and almost exactly a year after the actual visit from Gordon Ramsay).
Unfortunately, Gordon Ramsay’s changes weren’t enough to save the restaurant.
I think Gordon Ramsay knew the chances weren’t good, because he only said that the restaurant had a “glimmer of hope” at the end of the episode.
That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement from Gordon Ramsay of the business’s future prospects!
Honestly, no matter what Gordon Ramsay did, I don’t think J Willy’s BBQ House ever had a chance to overcome its massive debt.
As of 2023, the old J Willy’s South Bend Indiana location is occupied by a vacant lot, after the property was torn down in 2015.
There is a July 2022 listing marketing the old J Willy’s Indiana property, with a “build to suit” opportunity for someone who wants to open a business there.
Here’s what the J Willy’s South Bend location looks like in the most recent Google Maps street view picture:
J Willy’s reviews after Kitchen Nightmares
At the time that J Willy’s BBQ House closed, there were only two reviews on its Yelp page – one positive (5 stars) and one negative (1 star).
Here are excerpts of the two reviews:
5 star Yelp review from December 2008:
I must give some advice to anyone eating at J Willys; ASK FOR J WILLY.
The owner John J Willy was a great host during the three times we have visited J WIllys Barbecue House.
He seems to be in for dinner every time we go.
The good points:
Great hot tasty food and you can tell it is fresh
The owner gave us a tour and told us some funny stories about Gordon and Kitchen Nightmares
The apple tart is to die for!!!
The BBQ sauce is the best my wife has ever had!
The kitchen is clean and all the workers looked like they were wearing gloves and keeping things sanitary.
I tried the draft beer and it is the coldest draft beer in town according to the owner, and it ws nice and cold.
They have about 20 selections of draft beer and a ton of imports so beer snobs should like the place.
The service was good and everyone was friendly
They make the sauce from scratch n premise and J Willy let us sample some that they were making fresh.
PLEASE fix the outside lighting
The ceiling tiles could use replacing
My wife says the spicey BBq is too spicey for her taste
1 star Yelp review from November 2008:
That’s right, the Barbacue House that brought Kitchen Nightmares to South Bend….
So after watching the show I have to admit that I was intrigued.
I’m no fool to camera tricks and precise editing to help add drama to a television show – but this place looked like a disaster on TV.
One wouldn’t think having your place of business on TV for a show like Kitchen Nightmare’s wouldn’t be the best publicity… and it wasn’t.
I showed up at about 7:30 and the place was empty.
There was one other table at the entire place and we were both informed that the entire bar was out of draft beer.
“Every draft is gone, it’s a ND home game weekend” we were told…
A few moments later more patrons arrived and were served draft beer sitting at the bar.
This should have been my first indication to hit the highway…
…[I cut this part because it’s very long]
As we left we told the hostess we were not pleased with the service, food, or beer… she told us she had no idea why they would state the bar is out of draft beer and made no attempts to compensate us for our meal/beer.
Not that this matters, but they certainly lost 4 customers and gained a one star yelp review.
Their sauce may be great, however if they can’t even serve and appetizer and a draft beer I’m not sure I would have made it to the main course.
The only other table at the restaurant left immediately behind us and headed to the LaSalle Grill (note my previous review…).
Why did J Willy’s close?
The owner revealed in a note that the prices of the food went too high and there were fewer customers to visit the place.
In addition, the owner did not want to provide low quality food to the customers and didn’t want to close the place down either.
He had the option to either close down the place or sell low quality food.
He refused to sell low quality food to the people and decided to close it.
I’m guessing that the restaurant’s massive debt also played a role in the closure.
Apart from this, Rick and Tricia also shut down their other restaurant, Damon’s Grill, due to bad reviews.
What happened to the J Willy’s owners?
Per the latest news that I was able to find, Rick is now busy working selling, finding and restoring classic cars.
I’m not sure what Tricia or John are up to – if you know anything, let me know in the comments section.
Final thoughts on J Willy’s Barbecue House
Overall, J Willy’s Barbecue House was definitely not a Kitchen Nightmares success story, as it closed just a year after the J Willy’s Gordon Ramsay visit.
The property was later demolished in 2015 and it seems to still be vacant to this day, though there is a listing for a new development.
J Willy’s was the only Kitchen Nightmares Indiana episode, but if you want to see another nearby restaurant you can check out my update for Cafe 36 in Chicago IL.
And if you want to share your thoughts on the J Willy’s episode, you can do so using the comments section below.
Thanks for reading!
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Last updated: 2023-04-26 06:50