Searching for Guy Fieri At Guy's American Kitchen and Bar
For dessert, I tried the Baked Alaska upon recommendation from my server. I've maybe only had one other Baked Alaska in my life, but holy crap, this was delicious. I don't know what else to say. It's a thick, wonderfully consistent mound of Neapolitan ice cream, pound cake, and torched meringue, encircled by an orange liqueur that provides just the right amount of sweetness. This is a dynamite Baked Alaska.
In the spirit of journalistic integrity, I must mention that the Baked Alaska is not one of Guy's Signature Dishes.
I reserved what I thought would be the most important part of my meal for last: the gift shop. I've always had the overwhelming conviction that Guy Fieri is, above all, a commodity. If there really was a "Guy Fieri Experience" to be had, it would be at the gift shop. And after my meal at Guy's American Kitchen and Bar, I felt that I was being undersold.
What I felt most deprived of -- and this is going to sound weird -- was Guy's face. Guy loves his face for some reason. Whenever he visits a diner, drive-in, or dive, Guy stencils a colorful cartoon version of his head on the wall with the accompanying epigram, "Guy Ate Here," as well as a Food Network logo. Inside Guy's American Kitchen and Bar, his visage is pretty much absent. A smaller back room contains some framed pictures, and outside, above the massive sign, is an illuminated Jumbotron that plays clips of Guy Fieri on a loop. But once you enter from 44th Street, his absence is probably the most noticeable thing about the entire joint.
The gift shop, which is more of a gift shelf, has some aprons embossed with slogans like "Guy's American," or "Kulinary Kings." There are also a few mugs, shirts, and frying pans with flames painted on them (which seems somewhat redundant once they are put to use). Again, Guy's face is hard to find. It's on his cook books, but these were mostly presented spine-out.
Withholding Guy Fieri could be a strategy to disarm jackasses like myself who, based on some under-informed snobbery, think Guy's corniness is just the funniest thing in the world. What us jackasses don't realize is that there is preciously little to make fun of. Most every Guy Fieri joke is a lame retelling of another one (Even the extremely funny Bobby Moynihan's impression of Guy on SNL is just an extended visual gag). It's appropriate that Guy Fieri is one of the Internet's favorite targets, for that's routinely what the Internet has to offer by means of humor: recycled layers of the same joke. (Young people call these "memes.")
Whoever is (successfully) handling his image or managing his brand has ensured that the idea of Guy Fieri is solidified so concretely that there is nothing more to add. Not even to his own restaurant.
As I left the gift shelf, a middle-age couple walked in the front door. The man had on a Miami Dolphins shirt, and his wife rubbed her hands together in excitement and anticipation.
I wanted to tell them, "Forget it, Jake. It's Flavortown," but it was too late. They were off to try and find Guy.