The line to get into stretched down the block Tuesday night – not because people wanted to get a glimpse of famous TV chef Robert Irvine – but because the makeover for the Food Network television show "Restaurant: Impossible" was hours late.
People with 6:30 p.m. reservations were being served at 9 p.m. and a crowd of diners lined Pacific Avenue, some starstruck and many hungry.
"It's really good," said Bob Smith, who sat outdoors with his wife, Donna at 10:15, only an hour past their reservation time. "I thought he catered to Santa Cruz, the town itself, with a lot of healthy choices like fish and hummus and salads."
The couple had eaten at Hoffman's before, but mostly preferred breakfast and lunch there. They said they would return for more dinners like the one they were eating of duck sliders, halibut chowder and the trio sampler of hummus, quinoa and tomato cous cous.
The English host with a checkered resume had been fired from the Food Network for embellishing some of his accomplishments but was hired back a year later, contrite after falsely claiming to have been knighted, to have been close to the royal family and to have cooked in the White House for presidents.
The format is similar to several other restaurant shows. Big name chef comes in to help struggling restaurant. Everyone yells a lot. There is drama and a big change. They all live happily ever after. The show spends $10,000 on remodeling and earns one can only guess from sponsors.
Owner Ed Hoffman and family applied to be on the show in the hope that it would save the debt-ridden eatery. It was popular for breakfast and brunch, but attracted few people for dinner, despite bringing in live jazz. About a third of it was a display case for the baked goods that Hoffman was known for.
It's also sandwiched between two other eateries, Kianti's which serves Italian food and Aqua Bleu, which does Asian fusion.
Now, it looks chic and new and New Yorkish, with fresh coats of black, white and brown paint.
"We don't come in with a plan," Irvine told the staff and diners toward the end of the night. "We do everything when we get here."
When he said we, he meant the restaurant's staff, which did most of the remodeling all night and day Sunday, Monday and Tuesday under his direction.
Everyone looked frazzled Tuesday night, as bright lights followed the cameras around to interview the early diners and Irvine made his pronouncements (see video). Staff members didn't know if the baked goods would be back or what the restaurant would be like when Irvine left.
As they were shooting on the patio, even the cameramen seemed tired.
"This was more chaotic than most of them," said one of them.