Guy Fieri, the rotund, tattooed, spiked-and-bleached-haired, enthusiastic host of the Food Network show “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” recently opened a new, massive 500-seat restaurant in Times Square called Guy's American Kitchen & Bar.
If it were impossible to bring diner/drive-in/divey food to such a location, no one told Fieri, whose commitment to that style is no secret.
The trouble is, critics aren’t mincing words, excoriating Fieri for his poor attempt at the American food he's made a career of chronicaling.
The New York Times has published a Pete Wells-penned review damming the restaurant, and it’s making its way around the web with a mixture of amusement and sadness. The piece was written entirely in rhetorical questions that don’t need answering.
“Has anyone ever told you that your high-wattage passion for no-collar American food makes you television’s answer to Calvin Trillin,” Wells wrote, referencing the down-home journalist, “if Mr. Trillin bleached his hair, drove a Camaro and drank Boozy Creamsicles? When you cruise around the country for your show ‘Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,’ rasping out slangy odes to the unfancy places where Americans like to get down and greasy, do you really mean it?”
He wasn’t the only one who took issue with the restaurant. It should be noted Wells wasn’t necessarily the harshest.
Joshua David Stein at the New York Observer defended Fieri, if only briefly, in one of the more damaging reviews: “It would be disingenuous to claim that Times Square represents anything but a regurgitation of the American dream, monetized, metastasized, made blindingly bright by light-emitting diodes and shoved back down the gullets of those souls unlucky enough to have mistakenly stumbled into the red zone, or worse, like moths to the incinerating flame, have actively sought it out. To deride Mr. Fieri for opening his restaurant there as if he’d taken a dump in the Louvre is silly.”
David Roth of New York Magazine did a close reading of the menu: “It seems no stretch to say that it is the best thing Fieri has ever written — a golden-brown Infinite Jest. The menu features a classic Steak Diane, to remind you that Fieri still knows his technique. The names of many dishes are little deep-fried koans: Malibu Oysters, Slamma Jamma Chicken Parm, Fully Loaded Baked Potato Soup.”
“Sugar by the truckload has the run of the menu,” Steve Cuozzo wrote for the New York Post. “It glazes commercial-grade salmon and hulihuli chicken. It pops up in a dip for mozzarella and pepperoni scrunched inside a leathery panko crust. In 'Thai chili' form, it bleeds through 'California egg rolls' filled with chicken, avocado, ginger, peppers — but tasting of none."
Nick Greene figured out Donkey Sauce for the Village Voice: “The story behind Donkey sauce goes thusly: Guy Fieri mixed together a bunch of stuff. I don't know what exactly because at this point, I was terrified of being seen with my notebook and couldn't write any of the specifics down as my waiter spoke. Guy tasted the sauce and said one would have to be an ass to dislike it. Hence, 'Donkey' sauce.”
Fieri is the owner of a number of restaurants across the U.S., including Tex Wasabi’s Rock-N-Roll Sushi-BBQ.
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