Chances are, few people now will be comparing the Palos Hills' Valley Inn to grandpa’s basement.
In 2007, a Yelp website contributor who called herself Melissa S. from Palos Hills, said about the restaurant/bar: “This place is like having a drink in the basement of some old alcoholic grandfather's place.”
Some others Yelped that the food was good but the atmosphere was anything from “a state of disarray” to “a dirty, filthy place.”
Things are different now.
The Valley Inn just received a $10,000 facelift July 18 and 19 courtesy of the Food Network’s TV show “Restaurant: Impossible.” This is a show in which host Robert Irvine helps transform eateries and has been known to throw insults that make the comments that the Yelp critics appear tame. It’s not uncommon for him to sample a meal, have a sick look on his face and utter a word or two that has to be bleeped out.
Owners Frankie and Dennis Ristucci are under orders by the show to not talk to the media about the show, which could air in September or October. They were told that media photographers were not allowed to take pictures of the interior.
But customers are not under the embargo and during a recent lunch at high noon on Tuesday, there were plenty of reactions about the new digs.
“Wow, this is classy!” said Palos Heights’ Jean Noble when walking into the refurbished restaurant for the first time.
Tom Cunningham, an Orland Park resident and member of the Orland School District 135 Board, walked in and said “Holy, moly.”
Neither Noble nor Cunningham knew of the TV show’s involvement prior to walking in but both were taken aback.
“It used to be so gray in here,” Cunningham said as he looked around. “The tables are new and bright. A new floor. The walls are brighter colors. The lights. They didn’t gut the place. But it looks great.”
Noble had no idea the place was under renovation.
“This is a total surprise,” she said. “The food is great and the beer is always cold. That’s important. It actually seems bigger in here. The only thing I didn’t like was that they don’t have the specials on the board anymore.”
Some of the regulars were also impressed.
A man who wanted to be identified only as “Pope” said he watched a little of the rehab process from outside.
“I was amazed at how fast they did it,” he said. “When you see it on TV, you say ‘oh bull, they didn’t do this in two days.’ But they did it in two days. They brought in everything they needed. They brought in their own Dumpsters, their tents, everything. And I was really impressed with Robert Irvine. He never once refused to sign an autograph or take a picture with people. He was the nicest guy you want to meet.”
The Ristucci’s have run the business, located at 8300 W. 107th St., for 39 years. They said the building was built in 1938.
Another regular who only gave his name as Bob, from Oak Forest, said he’s been coming to the eatery for 31 years and while he wasn’t thrilled that the new liquor cabinet blocked his view of one of the TV sets, he said he liked the new atmosphere and likes the new food choices.
“The food has always been good,” he said. “They have the best fried chicken in the world. If you leave here hungry, it’s your own fault. But they added a few new items. I was here for dinner and had one of the new steak items and it was just phenomenal.’’