(keep reading to learn what happened)
Season: 5 | View All Season 5 Episodes
Original Episode Air Date: March 30, 2012
Zocalo Address: 3600 Lancaster Ave Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104
Zocalo was a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania restaurant featured on Season 5 of Kitchen Nightmares.
Though the Zocalo Kitchen Nightmares episode aired in March 2012, the actual filming and visit from Gordon Ramsay took place much earlier in late 2011.
It was Kitchen Nightmares Season 5 Episode 17.
In this episode of Kitchen Nightmares, Gordon Ramsay heads to the City of Brotherly love.
Right off the bat there are obviously a lot of big problems with Zocalo, a Mexican themed restaurant in Philadelphia.
You can see the strain the restaurant has put on its family of owners.
The overworked husband, Greg Russell and disinterested wife (Mary Russell) can’t seem to agree on anything.
They purchased the Zocalo restaurant back in 2008, but it’s really not working out.
Their marriage is on a knife edge as a result of all the stress and it is taking a toll on their children that also work there.
Basically, the Zocalo Kitchen Nightmares episode exists for both business and personal reasons.
Despite these issues, things seem to go well at first at the Zocalo restaurant
Ramsay can’t comment enough on how fantastic the restaurant looks when he first walks in.
The decor is authentic and tastefully done.
This is pretty much where the good news stops for Zocalo though.
For starters, the prices are too high.
The owners’ daughter (who also works as a waitress) admits it herself that she can’t afford to eat there.
There are also way too many options, and Ramsay is left wondering how the chef can cope.
He is also shocked to find out how little time the wife spends at the restaurant.
It only gets worse once the food arrives.
Ramsay doesn’t have anything positive to say about the dishes and even says you would “get shot” for serving the food in Mexico.
Ouch! A simple “not very good” would suffice lol.
At least Greg agrees with Ramsay on the quality of the food being below par when confronted.
Soon Mary is caught lying about setting the food prices and an argument starts.
Mary ends up stomping off, unwilling to talk it over with Gordon.
Gordon returns at dinner service.
He soon sees that Greg is completely out of his depth.
The kitchen backs up fast, with long waiting times for food.
Greg is not blameless, as he refuses to let his kitchen staff help with any cooking.
Making matters worse is that most appliances aren’t working and Greg needs to rely on the microwave.
Plus, they still have the huge menu to contend with.
Gordon talks to Greg, pointing out how he is taking on too much work, while his wife looks by.
The next day Gordon talks with Mary and their two children while Greg watches on a TV screen.
Ramsay tries to motivate the rest of the family to help Greg out more.
They all cry as they realize the strain Greg is under.
The family reconcile and seem ready to go on.
Ramsay then shows them the revamped kitchen.
To streamline things further, he also introduced a brand new menu and tablet ordering system.
Lastly he organized a group of culinary students to help out through in-kitchen training.
Dinner service starts much better, but communication breaks down once more between Mary in the front and Greg in the kitchen.
Gordon is forced to take Mary aside and tell her to get her act together.
The rest of dinner service runs smoothly and customers are left happy with the improved service and food.
At the end, Gordon Ramsay says that he can’t remember a Kitchen Nightmares episode where he was rooting for the owners more.
He also called Greg one of the nicest people that he’s ever met.
So was the Kitchen Nightmares Zocalo episode a long-term success?
Keep reading our update to learn what happened next and if this Philadelphia PA restaurant is still open in 2023 and beyond.
Zocalo Update - What Happened Next?
Now that we’ve recapped the Zocalo Kitchen Nightmares episode, let’s talk about what happened to the restaurant after Gordon Ramsay and his crew left Philadelphia, PA.
The weeks after Ramsay’s intervention things improved dramatically at Zocalo’s.
With the simpler menu, new ordering system and help from culinary students the quality of food and service went up and up.
With much less stress from the day to day running of the restaurant the family’s relationship also strengthened.
Greg and Mary have new hope for their marriage and being partners again.
Unfortunately it seems like it wasn’t enough to save Zocalo from closing down.
Is Zocalo still open in 2023?
Zocalo closed in January 2013, which is a little over a year after the visit from Gordon Ramsay, though less than a year after the actual Kitchen Nightmares Zocalo episode aired on TV.
Why did Zocalo close?
Well, it seems like the mountain of debt building up through the years must’ve caught up with them.
It is also reported that there are court documents revealing tax liens and debts of over $100,000 against the owner, Greg Russell.
According to Philadelphia Magazine, the restaurant had to deal with the following debts:
- A Philadelphia city tax lien of over $40,000
- Federal tax liens totally over $28,000
- A “confession of judgement” against Greg Russell of $39,000
Additionally, the restaurant didn’t have very good reviews – I’ll share some real Zocalo review examples below.
Unfortunately, these money troubles mean that Zocalo is permanently closed as of 2023.
As of 2023, the old Zocalo Philadelphia PA location is occupied by an apartment building named Paloma University City.
So it seems like there will be no more food being served at the old Zocalo property.
Here’s what the old Zocalo restaurant Philadelphia location looks like in the most recent picture from Google Maps street view:
Zocalo reviews after Kitchen Nightmares
Overall, when the Zocalo Philadelphia restaurant closed, it had just a 2.5 star rating on Yelp, which includes reviews from both before and after the Zocalo Gordon Ramsay visit.
I’d like to say the reviews got much better after Gordon Ramsay…but I honestly can’t see much difference.
Here’s a sampling of a few Zocalo reviews from after the Kitchen Nightmares episode to give you an idea of what real customers were experiencing…
3 star Yelp review from November 2012:
Everyone seems to love to dump on Zocalo, so we went to check out how bad it was post-Kitchen Nightmares.
No matter what happened, we knew that the ($3.75) margaritas would save the night.
We went the day after hurricane Sandy, so it was quiet.
Not amazing food, but it was solid.
Reasonable value – 3 margaritas, two large entrees and an order chips and salsa (with chip refills) came to $40.
The margaritas were a bit weak, but they were cheap.
No major complaints.
2 star Yelp review from April 2012:
I remember when this was a great restaurant, decades ago.
So,as we’re walking by heading for Indian food, one companion tells us about the Gordon Ramsay makeover, so we go in.
Well, he may have changed the management and the menu, but he forgot to introduce the kitchen staff to their spice shelf.
My chicken mole looked nice, but the sauce had zero taste.
The steak tacos, while done with good meat [diner was not asked how he wanted his steak, by the way, and it was rarer than he likes] but the steak was totally unseasoned so didn’t have any pizazz.
I won’t be back.
2 star Yelp review from April 2012:
Yup, this place isn’t going to last. Sad, because it’s been here a long time, but ultimately, Gordon Ramsay failed it as well.
Sorry Gordon, this ain’t gonna work out.
As I’ve said before, the food is sub-par and way too overpriced compared to the quality (14$ for a terrible Chile Relleno), and the place is deserted.
Living around the corner from the place, I can vouch for the fact that there’s maybe 3-4 tables filled when I walk by them. On a Friday night. That’s just not going to work.
The staff is still positive that an upturn is on its way, but unfortunately I’m unable to share the same optimism.
Sadly, this one is going to the dogs. There’s just not much more to say here.
Hit up Mad Mex right in the area for a more trendy atmosphere, with (comparatively) better food and better drinks menus for the liquid-diet folks.
Kokopelli and El Vez are still my go-to’s for a Mexican craving in Philly.
3 star Yelp review from February 2012:
After the recent revamp of Zocalo, I was looking forward to trying it.
I went with a few friends and meant to get their in time for happy hour, but missed it by a few minutes.
I had a delicious margarita and very tasty (and fresh) chips and salsa verde.
The menu isn’t extremely extensive, but it has a nice variety and if I was looking to get dinner, I definitely could have found a number of things to try!
The service was very friendly and attentive and an all-around pleasant experience.
What happened to Greg Russell from Kitchen Nightmares?
After Zocalo closed, Greg Russell has continued working in the restaurant/hospitality industry.
He was the Executive Chef at the Marathon Grill in Philadelphia for around a year and a half.
After that, he was the General Manager at Joe Squared in Baltimore MD, a corporate catering service.
That’s where his LinkedIn page leaves off.
However, according to his Facebook page, Greg is now working as the General Manager at a Greek restaurant in Columbia, MD.
Overall, even though Zocalo closed, Greg Russell seems to have been able to build a succesful career in the restaurant industry.
I wish him all the best!
Did the Zocalo owners divorce after Kitchen Nightmares?
Sadly, it seems like Greg and Maria, the Zocalo owners, did divorce after Kitchen Nightmares.
Greg posted pictures from his own wedding in 2019, so it seems like he’s been divorced and then remarried.
What happened to Mary Russell from Zocalo?
I’m not sure what happened to Mary Russell after Kitchen Nightmares because she doesn’t have much of an online presence.
According to her LinkedIn page, she was searching for a positioning in public relations or event promotion.
I wish her all the best!
Final Thoughts on What Happened to Zocalo
After the visit from Gordon Ramsay, Zocalo seemed to be doing well from a food perspective.
However, the restaurant had large debts and tax liens that led to its closure around 1.5 years after the Zocalo Gordon Ramsay visit.
Greg Russell has had some other jobs in the hospitality industry and is currently working as the General Manager at a Greek restaurant in Columbia, MD.
Sadly, it seems like the Zocalo owners divorced.
The old Zocalo Philadelphia PA location is now occupied by an apartment building.
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Last updated: 2023-08-05 05:14