Searching for Guy Fieri At Guy's American Kitchen and Bar
I've been making fun of Guy Fieri for a pretty long time. I mean, look at him: If we ever get dragged into World War III, the Axis powers will put his chubby, bleached-blond head on propaganda posters to illustrate what us awful Americans are like. But I'm not alone, everyone makes fun of Guy Fieri. He's the ankle-high, tattoo-covered, goateed orange in the forest of low-hanging fruits. That's why, when I first read he was opening a new restaurant in Times Square, I thought, "I better get there and write about it before anyone else can." Oh, to have those fresh, first zingers.
Guy Fieri's Facebook page
Clearly, this was the exact wrong approach because A) Pieces were written before the restaurant even opened and B) I'm pretty sure I saw at least five other bloggers at Guy's American Kitchen and Bar plotting their clever asides about the pun-filled menu. Most telling, though, was that there wasn't much to make fun of.
For all the fun that I have made at the expense of Guy, I barely know anything about him. I know he won a contest on the Food Network in 2006 that vaulted him to a level of fame and ubiquity few celebrities (not just celebrity chefs) can match. I know that he's in a shitload of commercials, is remarkably wealthy, and that a former producer of his television show accused him of making homophobic and anti-Semitic remarks.
I've seen about a third of one episode of said show, Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, and all I can remember is the image of Guy dressed like some sort of badass bowler standing in a roadside restaurant's kitchen, tampering with the resident cook's decades-old signature recipe. I think he said it was missing paprika, and that adding the spice would make it "money."
What does it say about me, then, that I left work early on Monday afternoon to rush to Times Square to dine at the restaurant of a man I only know through cultural osmosis? I've laughed at his hilarious publicity stills (like the one below, embedded for giggles) and Twitter account (which is full of interesting syntax choices, like replacing the letter "c" with "k" [i.e. "The krew at Harris Teeter rollin the bbq sauce. Awesome !"]), but to hightail it to midtown Manhattan during rush hour for Guy Fieri? At points, I found myself jogging to beat what I imagined would be the huge crowds. What the hell is wrong with me?
One thing that certainly is wrong with me is that I'm not a trained restaurant critic. I'm not even that accomplished of an eater in general. I have the palate maturity of a spoiled brat raised on chicken tenders, though I've been told this puts me right in Guy Fieri's culinary sweet spot. Basically, I've made enough jokes about the dude to friends to convince myself that I am somehow qualified to give you an opinion of his restaurant.
According to the nice gentleman who welcomed me at the entrance of Guy's American Kitchen and Bar, I got there within the first hour of its opening. I don't know what I was expecting before I walked in. Twenty-foot-tall pictures of Guy Fieri's smiling face on every wall? Bleached Guy-alikes vamping and rhyming Guy-isms while taking orders? Guy himself?
Sadly, the room looks like any other American food factory in Times Square. I'd even venture to say it looks like it's on the higher end. It is absolutely gigantic: two floors split by a mezzanine that houses one of its bars. The walls are covered with faux-aged murals of muscle cars and Guy slogans like "Love, Peace & Taco Grease." Everything looks like a T-Shirt.