Sure, celebrity chef Robert Irvine is known as being intense and demanding, maybe even a hyper, know-it-all foodie.
But Buzz Klavans, the 55-year-old co-owner of Cave Inn BBQ in Winter Garden, has nothing but praise for the host of the Food Network’s “Restaurant: Impossible” TV show.
Irvine and his restaurant-makeover crew visited Cave Inn BBQ for two days in March, overhauling the eatery’s menu, the look of its interior and even the way its staff folded napkins. The visit was filmed for a “Restaurant: Impossible” episode that first aired on May 21.
“Since the show aired, it’s increased business for us by a million and a half percent,” said Klavans, who co-owns the restaurant with his wife, Karen. “The show has been a game-changer, and has been the difference between being in business and going out of business. We’ve had the biggest following since we opened” last June.
Irvine gave the restaurant a brand-new menu, with items such as salmon steaks, Cornish hens, glazed pork chops, pulled-pork sandwiches and new barbecue sauces.
A unique, $6 appetizer called the “Dino Egg” also was added. It’s a soft-poached egg, wrapped in pulled pork, lightly breaded and served crispy golden brown, with mustard slaw, chipotle BBQ and Sriracha aioli, which is like a spicy type of mayonnaise.
Besides sharing his recipes, Irvine gave instructions on how many French fries to put on a plate and how to wrap silverware. Klavans said his staff had folded 200 sets of forks and knives in napkins in a way that Irvine didn’t approve. So he made them refold them all.
“He’s exactly like he is on TV,” Klavans said of Irvine’s intensity.
The eatery’s “Cave Inn” moniker and caveman-like theme stem from when Klavans was growing up in Boston in the 1980s. He reveres the days of hanging out with his brothers and friends, munching on turkey legs and huge steaks.
“To us, a grill in our backyard was ‘barbecue,’” he said. “We joked about eating a huge turkey leg and looking like a caveman.”
The new-look Cave
The restaurant’s makeover included redecorating the dining room, such as painting over its walls’ earth tones with a charcoal-grey color. Kitschy movie props from “The Flintstones” were removed, and large, modern pieces of art were added.
And the staff now dresses in black. Gone are the caveman-like costumes and the little bones in the waitresses’ hair.
“It’s looks more like an upscale restaurant now, and the staff has to reflect that,” Klavans said.
In addition to its food menu, the restaurant offers craft beer, wine, cocktails and fine cigars. It also presents entertainment, such as live music, karaoke and comedy acts.
The “Restaurant: Impossible” adventure was not the first time Klavans has been on the Food Network. In 2009, he and his barbecue-sauce-inventing brother, Skip, participated in the network’s “24 Hour Restaurant Battle,” in which they had to whip up a full menu and serve it to hundreds of people in Brooklyn, N.Y. The brothers lost the competition to another team.
While Irvine from “Restaurant: Impossible” has made many positive changes to Cave Inn BBQ, he was not able to alter the fact that the restaurant is in a bit of a hidden location.
The restaurant is at 13848 Tilden Road, Suite 192, at the Shoppes at Windward Cay. It’s next to the intersection of Tilden and Winter Garden Vineland roads and not far behind a Walgreens.
Klavans said city restrictions required him to post his restaurant sign next to Tilden Road, rather than the busier Winter Garden Vineland Road.
“I’ve had people walk in and say, ‘I had no idea you were here,’” he said.
But hopefully, he added, the boost in business he’s seen from being featured on “Restaurant: Impossible” with continue.
At the end of the episode featuring Cave Inn BBQ, Irvine said, “We turned this yabba dabba don’t into a yabba dabba do!”
The episode will air again at 11 p.m. Saturday, June 7; 2 a.m. Sunday, June 8; 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 11; and 2 p.m. Saturday, June 21.
For more information about the restaurant, call 407-614-8328 or visit www.caveinnbbq.com.