12 Best Episodes Of Restaurant: Impossible, Ranked

With gag-inducing messes in the kitchen, feuding family members, and only two days to change it all, this could only be about "Restaurant: Impossible." Chef Robert Irvine has taken the foodies' world of reality television by storm, bringing spicy drama and sweet inspiration to "Restaurant: Impossible" viewers. The Food Network fan favorite's concept is simple enough: Chef Irvine, a renowned chef extraordinaire and his team visit a restaurant that desperately needs help. With a budget of $10,000 to refresh the space, tough love for unruly staff, and two days to make it happen, they bring order to the chaos, and accomplish the impossible.

With Chef Irvine's (at times) explosive leadership in the kitchen, you might think he is tough as nails, but actually, he is softer than people realize. He is highly philanthropic and provides impressive fundraising for the United States military through fundraising and donations from his business profits. He owns several restaurants and companies including Fit Crunch, a protein bar company, Boardroom Spirits, a beverage company, and Robert Irvine foods, which sells restaurant-quality meals to grocery stores. As busy and intense as he may seem, many people agree that what he accomplishes on "Restaurant: Impossible" comes from a place of genuine compassion.

With 21 seasons and over 200 restaurants in its repertoire, "Restaurant: Impossible" has left an impression on its viewers and has left us with some memorable episodes. Here are some of the best.

12. Drama at Mamma's (Season 9, Episode 10)

Mamma Lucrezia's is an Italian-themed restaurant in desperate need of a facelift, some financial guidance, and a family therapist. This episode stands out to fans due to its rampant family drama and relational conflicts. There are various points of tension between the owner Maria and her sister Adrianna, Adrianna and Maria's girlfriend, and even more turmoil between both of the sisters and their brother. 

Maria and her sister, Stefania, were co-owners, but after a brief betrayal by Stefania, they are now just a team united against their brother, who spitefully purchased the restaurant across the street. Maria claims that her brother yells at their restaurant guests, telling them to come over there, and flips off and heckles his sisters every morning on their way to work. Maria is not in a positive headspace, as she feels deeply betrayed by her brother, and exhausted from playing mediator between Stefania and Maria's romantic partner, who can't seem to get along. The Italian passion of the restaurant seemed to also hold true through the grudges of its people. 

Acting as an interim family therapist, Chef Irvine meets the brother, and they agree that the heckling will stop. He also facilitates a conversation between Maria and her brother -– the first in 10 years -– which results in them coming to a peaceful agreement, to support each other and wish each other success. In the end, the Drama at Mamma's was quelled, and Mamma Lucrezia's was transformed into a peaceful family business.

11. St. James Soup Kitchen (Season 2, Episode 15)

St. James Soup Kitchen goes down in history as Chef Irvine's "biggest challenge to date," and he says early on in the episode that he has "never walked into a more dire situation or tackled a more deserving location." 

St. James is a soup kitchen in Newark, New Jersey that's managed by Vesta, and that day-to-day is run by 80-year-old Georgianna Loney-Wilson. Georgianna serves tirelessly with their other volunteers, and immediately gains the favor of Chef Irvine for her sweet spirit and tenacity. Even with a broken arm, she has not missed a day of service.

Georgianna and the volunteers serve around 150 people a day and never turn anyone away. They have big hearts and a great cause, but they desperately need a whole new kitchen, building and structural improvements, and a lot more work than there is time. Chef Irvine's lead builder thankfully has a connection in town, who graciously donates several kitchen appliances, and works out amazing deals for the others. The climax of this episode is when the oven arrives and is too big to fit through the door. With time running out, Irvine picks up a sledgehammer and smashes the door frame to bits. That's certainly one way to attack a problem. 

This episode is particularly touching, as Georgianna and Vesta are genuine and a joy to watch. Today it remains a place of heartfelt service, with its new name, The Soul Food Cafe Soup Kitchen.

10. Turning Anger Into Action (Season 19, Episode 1)

If you enjoy fiery tempers that engulf their surroundings, look no further than this episode. In "Turning Anger Into Action," Chef Irvine visits Lane, an Air Force veteran turned restaurant owner in Louisville, Tennessee. This episode is a fan favorite for its angry owner and the drama between family members. Lane's son William tries to manage the kitchen, while Lane tries to micromanage his son. Additionally, Lane's daughter, Cheyenne is chronically ill and used to work at the restaurant. We learn that the two butted heads, which lead to Lane firing his own daughter, even though she was sick. It is clear that Lane's anger issues are getting in the way of things professionally, and personally.

After a touching moment between Lane and Cheyenne, the relationship seems mended. As for William, Chef Irvine helped Lane relinquish some control. We finally leave Lane with more than a sinking anchor, and the chance to bounce back. Unfortunately, The Anchor closed shortly after filming and remains closed to this day. Supposedly, this was due to continued family drama.

9. Fight at Filomena's (Season 14, Episode 2)

With yet another hot-headed and memorable restaurant owner, "Fight at Filomena's" features a fiery Linda Johnson who hasn't kept a dime for herself, and who isn't great at accepting criticism. Linda is a memorable character, as she comes out with a strong and loud personality from the beginning. She quickly pulls out her "South Philly attitude" and fights against Chef Irvine's every word with gusto. 

The kitchen is a quiet and a well-oiled machine, until Linda walks in and starts interfering. Chef Irvine quickly realizes that the problem with this restaurant is, in fact, Linda. She knows nothing about the restaurant's finances, and nothing about how to run a business. He also points out, to her fury, that she is a cook, and not a chef. Only a few minutes into the episode, we see the two of them going head-to-head in multiple heated arguments, screaming, door slamming, and all. If she isn't screaming, she's crying, but consistently brings a dose of must-see drama to the episode. 

Despite Linda's resistance and somewhat challenging personality, the episode and Linda ended on a happy note.

8. Horton's Kids (Season 3, Episode 13)

In our opinion, Horton's Kids is one of the most touching episodes to date, with a unique celebrity appearance. Chef Irvine gets to showcase his altruistic nature through an exciting visit to Washington, D.C. at the request of the one and only, Michelle Obama (who's no stranger to food shows). Horton's Kids is not a traditional restaurant, but rather a children's community center. Horton's Kids focuses on helping underserved children in tough neighborhoods around the D.C. area, through support with education, home visits, and more. Chef Irvine and Michelle arrive with a plan to create an indoor dining room, improve the kitchen, and add a community garden.

When all was said and done, they not only tackled the initially planned items, but also added a whole new lounge area, activity center, computer room, and meeting room. This episode is a fan favorite, and memorable for the cause, the presence of the (at the time) first lady, and the sweet and deserving kids that Irvine gets to spend time with. It's also one of the rare instances that we see the esteemed chef in a softer form, working on a project that has such meaningful benefits.

7. Dodge City, USA (Season 2, Episode 1)

In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Dodge City, USA is on the brink of closure after 30 years. With a tired Wild West theme, an owner with a sheriff's badge, and some new competition in town, there almost isn't enough room in town for the bunch of 'em.

In this episode, Chef Irvine tackles an excessive five menus, tacky decor, and emotional burnout of the owners, Doug and Debbie. They stand out as one of the kindest sets of owners that viewers have seen. Rather than getting up in arms as we often see, Doug reacts to the changes with a bit of sad acceptance. As the current decor is ripped apart, Doug tells the camera crew that it's painful to see his hard work get torn apart by strangers. 

It's hard not to love and sympathize with the sweet owners of Dodge City, and their earnest desire to turn things around, even if it's emotionally tough. In the end, Dodge City, USA was restored to a modern and booming business, and after filming, their profits grew tremendously and remained stable. Today, Dodge City, USA continues to thrive.

6. Dinner Bell (Season 5, Episode 9)

Ding, dong! It's another emotional episode filled with tempers, desperation, and a nearly physical altercation, which leads this episode to be one of the juiciest for fans of drama. Based in Madison, Tennessee, owner Tommy and his wife are two days from closing their restaurant, The Dinner Bell. 

Irvine's initial feedback is direct, borderline harsh, and seemingly tough to take. From "meatloaf that tastes like dog food" to bacteria-breeding meat storage, there are plenty of issues that lead Tommy to have a strong, emotional reaction. Early into the process, Tommy threatens violence to the chef if he doesn't back off. He says to the camera crew, "He's not that big. If he gets in my face ... " But unfortunately for Tommy, taller and much-more-muscular Irvine hears this and quickly confronts the suddenly backtracking Tommy. Chef Irvine reminds Tommy that such a move, would be the biggest mistake of his life. 

This episode goes down in history as one of the toughest to film due to the clashing tempers. In the end, however, there were smiling faces and progress accomplished. The Dinner Bell restaurant has since closed, after mixed reviews. Some individuals claim that Irvine and the show are to blame, while others say that it continued to be lackluster even after the transformation.

5. The Main Dish (Season 4, Episode 2)

"Hot dog! What a strange costume," is likely what entered the thoughts of passersby when they saw co-owner Lynn Tverberg dancing in a hotdog costume outside of a steakhouse, trying to wave down traffic. The Main Dish restaurant in Meridianville, Alabama doesn't sell hot dogs, but apparently Tverberg had zero luck tracking down a steak costume. This was a memorable and awkward first impression for Chef Irvine and was only the beginning of Irvine's project in "The Main Dish."

Lynn Tverberg and her husband, Ken have a country-style menu in place that is completely reliant on frozen and bland food. Chef Irvine helps them refresh and usher in unsightly hotdog costume to retirement. Today, Lynn and Ken are enjoying their own happy ending, after receiving an incredible offer, and selling the business. In an interview with AL.com, Lynn and Ken said they have stayed in touch with Chef Irvine, and the bunch remain good friends. As far as we know, Lynn never wore another hotdog costume. Thank goodness.

4. Josephine's Cooking (Season 15, Episode 1)

With a "soul food" focus, Josephine is another memorable owner who truly puts her heart and soul into her work and her community, and it's hard not to sympathize with her situation. Her son Victor has helped her in recent years, while battling her stubborn need for control. 

Based in Chicago, Illinois, Josephine's Cooking is a soul food restaurant that at the time of filming in 2019, was nearly four decades old. Irvine and Josephine's initial meeting starts with a tearful plea for help from Josephine, who says she has always watched Irvine, and prayed for someone like him to help her. Josephine and her strong will are a memorable combination that has lasted through the seasons. Chef Irvine and Victor agree that Victor will take over management, to relieve some of the burden on his aging mother. Today, you will find Josephine's Cooking is still standing, although it primarily gets its business from take-out orders, after COVID shifted the market.

3. Dumplings in Delaware (Season 16, Episode 1)

Yet another kind owner who is well-loved by viewers, is Ronald White of the Southern Grille in Ellendale, Delaware. This memorable episode grabs you by the heartstrings and keeps you invested in the journey until the end. Chef Irvine meets Ronald at the beginning of the episode and quickly learns that he feels burnt out, downtrodden, and hopeless. In a tearful discussion, Ronald expresses his desperate need for things to work out, and he is out of chances to do it on his own. 

Service is severely lacking, and "there are more flies dining on the food than actual guests."  It's hard to watch as Ronald faces the unhappy facts about his restaurant and food, as it seems to only sadden him further. Sympathetic viewers watch with bated breath while hoping for a renewed spark in Ronald, and for The Southern Grille. Finally, we see Ronald rediscover his joy in cooking, and join him in the emotional relief. With a happy and hopeful ending to the episode, The Southern Grille ended up taking on new ownership. That wasn't the end of the story though and, as of February 2023, it seems to be back open with White still at the helm.

2. The Trails (Season 2, Episode 10)

A true fan favorite is Stacey, the owner of The Trails restaurant in San Diego, California. Stacey and her genuine, energetic approach leave the viewers wanting more, and truly caring about the outcome of Stacey, and her business. 

After observing service, Chef Irvine learns that their menu prices are way too low to make a profit, and that there isn't an efficient workflow in place. Stacey is upbeat, positive, and receptive to Chef Irvine's feedback, which is refreshing to see. Today, The Trails is doing better than ever! Business grew by 80% after filming, and its revenue tripled. In fact, Stacey's appearance on the show gave her a bit of fame, and led her to go onto the show, Food Network Star. A surprise revisit later, showed that the restaurant and Stacey are on a good path. This is great for viewers to see, as Stacey is a fan favorite to this day.

1. Anna Maria's (Season 3, Episode 3)

This episode is almost reminiscent of "Hoarders," as it is not typical to see restaurants in such truly disgusting, horrifying condition. That was the case however, with the memorable and disgusting Anna Maria's. 

Based in Dunmore, Pennsylvania, Anna Maria's goes down in "Restaurant: Impossible" history as being one of the worst kitchens featured on the show. It is owned and operated by Mary Sileo, her ailing husband, Jack, and their son, Tucker. Upon his arrival, Irvine finds major restaurant red flags with layers of grease and grime that sent him away gagging. Abhorrent smells and rotting food behind the stove prompt a dramatic display to the current diners when he hurls a filth-riddled stove cover onto the floor of the dining room and tells the guests to leave for their own safety. 

Tucker is (shockingly), also the owner of a cleaning company. Irvine instructs Tucker to bring his team in to clean which they do, for 16 hours straight. Finally, the decor is modernized, the kitchen is clean and sparkling, and the Sileos have a fresh start. Unfortunately, even that didn't stop them from ultimately closing only a year later. The mess of Anna Maria's is unlike any that viewers have seen before and remains memorable long after its grime was cleaned. It is now under new ownership, and a new name.