(keep reading to learn what happened)
Season: 3 | View All Season 3 Episodes
Original Episode Air Date: May 2, 2012
Mama Lee's Soul Food Restaurant Address: 6060 Montgomery Dr Ste 101 San Antonio, TX 78239
Mama Lee’s Soul Food Restaurant was a San Antonio, Texas restaurant featured on Season 3 of Restaurant Impossible.
Though the Mama Lee Restaurant Impossible episode aired in May 2012, the actual filming and visit from Robert Irvine took place before that.
It was Season 3 Episode 8.
Mama Lee’s Soul Food Restaurant in San Antonio, TX, is owned by Ken Lee.
Ken is a retired Air Force sergeant who opened the restaurant less than five years before the visit from Robert Irvine.
While in the Air Force, Ken cooked and thought that training would benefit him in the restaurant business.
Owning a restaurant is not as easy as Ken expected, and now he is struggling to turn a profit. Ken is also behind on payments for his bills due to the failing restaurant.
This is the main reason why the Mama Lee Restaurant Impossible episode even happened in the first place.
Robert, Ken’s nephew, was hired as the cook for Mama Lee’s but had no training in the kitchen.
The appliances in the kitchen are falling apart, so Robert Irvine knows this project will be a big one.
Because of the size of the undertaking, Robert recruits HGTV’s cousins, John and Anthony.
When Robert Irvine arrives, he notices the ample dining space that Ken is not utilizing.
He then meets the owner, and Ken tells Robert the restaurant is named after his mother.
She is an inspiration to Ken as she worked multiple jobs to support her children.
After leaving the military, Ken wanted to achieve his dream of owning a restaurant.
Locals are invited to Mama Lee’s so Robert can watch how the staff performs during a service.
The customers do not like the restaurant’s atmosphere, comparing it to a High School dance.
The waffle a customer order is bland, and the gumbo Robert eats is over-seasoned.
Robert enters the kitchen to tell the cooks about the terrible food and sees how filthy the kitchen is.
The kitchen hasn’t been cleaned properly in years. There are rodent droppings scattered around the kitchen and under appliances.
The TV cousins from HGTV decide to take care of the kitchen.
The cousins have twenty-four hours to fix the kitchen, including plumbing and electricity.
Taniya is the designer, and she meets with Robert at Mama Lee’s Soul Food Restaurant.
She is given a budget of $2,000.00, so she can only redesign the dining room, and Taniya will have to make the most of the little money she is given.
Taniya and Robert begin to take apart the bar, and Robert comes across a cockroach nest when he creates a hole in the wall.
The next day Robert meets with the design team. He is happy with the progress they have made.
John and Anthony worked hard in the kitchen, and it looks excellent.
The kitchen lacks the proper utensils and tools needed to run, so Robert brings them to Ace Mart, a local supply store.
The owner of Ace Mart offers to take care of the bill for Mama Lee’s, which is super generous.
A temporary kitchen is set up outside, and Robert shows the cook a stuffed chicken dish.
Ken sees the renovated kitchen and is impressed with how it looks.
The dining room redesign took longer than expected, and the relaunch began two hours later than it was supposed to.
Soon the renovations are revealed, and Ken loves the new bar.
Alma Lee, the eponymous Mama Lee, comes into the restaurant and is impressed.
The customers arrive and think the restaurant looks brand new. The soul food is a hit.
So was the Mama Lee Restaurant Impossible episode a success? Keep reading our update to learn what happened next and how the restaurant is doing in 2023 and beyond.
Mama Lee's Soul Food Restaurant Update - What Happened Next?
Now that we’ve recapped the Mama Lee’s Soul Food Restaurant Impossible episode, let’s talk about what happened to the restaurant after Robert Irvine and his crew left San Antonio, TX.
Things seemed to start off well for the restaurant.
A few months after the visit from Robert Irvine, Ken said that sales at the restaurant were up by more than 15%, which has helped make a dent in the debt he owes.
Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be enough to save Mama Lee’s Soul Food Restaurant for good…
Is Mama Lee’s Soul Food Restaurant from Restaurant Impossible still open?
Mama Lee’s Soul Food Restaurant closed in July 2013, which means it survived for a little over a year after the Mama Lee Restaurant Impossible episode aired on TV.
While I’m not sure if this is the reason that the restaurant closed, Mama Lee’s Soul Food failed a health inspection a month earlier on June 11.
The inspection found a bunch of issues, including live and dead cockroaches, rodent poop, and other insects.
While that might not have been the only reason that it closed, I’m guessing that it certainly didn’t help.
Unfortunately, it seems like the restaurant wasn’t able to keep up with Robert Irvine’s principles over the long term and fell back into the unhygienic habits that got it into trouble in the first place.
Robert Irvine shared a quote with a local news organization about the Mama Lee’s closure:
That’s very, very sad to me. We try our best to give the tools and physical plan to deliver a great product, but nothing is ever guaranteed. It’s up to the owner and staff to keep up what we put in.
As of 2022, the old Mama Lee’s Soul Food Restaurant San Antonio, TX location is occupied by a Nigerian restaurant named Lagos Buka Bar and Grill.
The new restaurant seems to have ok ratings, with a 3.5 star rating on Yelp and a 4.8 star rating on Google Reviews.
So while Mama Lee’s Soul Food Restaurant closed, at least there’s still a restaurant living on in that location.
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Last updated: 2022-06-17 06:17