Dennis and Tina Fogg are fans of the Food Network show “Restaurant Impossible,” so it was somewhat of a shock when they found out that their restaurant, Uncle Andy’s Diner in South Portland, had been selected to be featured on the show.

“There’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t seem to fit at first,” said Dennis Fogg. “We’re not a failing restaurant. We’re here 10 years, so we’re doing pretty good.”

“Restaurant Impossible” stars Robert Irvine, a British chef who swoops in with his crew to aid struggling restaurants, making over dining rooms, menus and staffs in 36 hours, all on a $10,000 budget. At the end of every episode, the show invites viewers to submit restaurants that need Irvine’s tough-love brand of intervention.

Dennis Fogg said the show’s producers contacted him about two months ago, saying it would be at least a year before they would film the episode. But the family’s story put it on the fast track.

Part of that story is the way in which producers learned about the diner. The four Fogg children – Kayla, Amanda, Andrea and Jason – each emailed “Restaurant Impossible,” suggesting Uncle Andy’s as a candidate for a makeover. And they didn’t tell their siblings they had contacted the show.

The 60-year-old diner at 171 Ocean St. is truly a family affair. Jason, 27, assists Dennis in the kitchen. Kayla, 21, handles media; Amanda, 30, is the general manager; and Andrea, 23, is a waitress and goes to school. Even granddaughter Brooklyn, 5, helps out.


“At first, the failing-restaurant thing sort of got me, because it’s not,” said Dennis Fogg. “But my kids were more worried about my wife and I striving and striving and not getting anywhere. Once I realized that, it was OK.”

Dennis and Tina not only work at the diner, they have other jobs. Tina is a registered nurse at Sedgewood Commons, an Alzheimer’s facility in Falmouth. Dennis, who is known for entertaining kids at the diner by pulling coins and grapes out of their ears, is a stand-up comic. He can also make pancakes in any imaginable shape.

“I just did a beaver and squirrel fighting with light sabers while a camel watched, and I’ve done a penguin on a skateboard,” he said. “Robert Irvine was amazed by that stuff too – he had me submit two clips from my comedy shows.”

On June 9, a film crew will set up cameras and get some background shots, Dennis said. The next day, Irvine and his team will show up. “They’ve got 36 hours after that to renovate and get the place open.”

The results will be revealed on June 11.

Dennis is the family ham, but Tina, who is more reserved, had to warm up to the idea of being on camera. “I’m excited about the makeover, and seeing it will bring people in,” she said. “It will be nice to meet Robert Irvine.”


Uncle Andy’s will be the first restaurant in Maine featured on “Restaurant Impossible,” which premiered in January 2011. It will also be the first restaurant that doesn’t focus on dinner.

When the Foggs bought the diner 10 years ago, they planned full service, with Dennis working days and his brother, Robert, working nights. After Robert died from cancer three years later, the family decided to stick with breakfast and lunch.

“I’ve watched the show enough to know that they open at night,” said Dennis. “If (Irvine) decides we should try nights again, we’ll hire some people and we’ll give it a shot. He knows what he’s doing.”

Dennis Fogg has already enlisted some extra help.

“I just hired my first person in six years to get ready for this,” he said.

Joe Coreau is now an extra pair of hands in the kitchen, and Dennis has contacted Southern Maine Community College seeking students who will pitch in during the filming. “I wanted to make sure we keep everything we could right in the community.”


For the Foggs, revitalizing Uncle Andy’s is important for the future of the Knightville neighborhood, which is slowly recovering from a downturn that started when the Casco Bay Bridge opened 17 years ago and routed traffic away from the area.

“Mill Creek needs Uncle Andy’s as a centerpiece for the area,” Dennis said.

Susan Axelrod can be contacted at 791-6310 or at:

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