Did you hear? New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells reviewed Guy Fieri's new Times Square restaurant, Guy's American Kitchen, and he really hated it. Can you believe that? America's haughtiest paper disliked America's bro-iest chef's new venture in America's crassest den of commercialism outside of Las Vegas. Amazing. And yet—it turns out that other people who have tested Guy's American Kitchen, which opened in mid-September, have actually really enjoyed themselves. Here are 10 of those people (sic throughout):
- 1. "For my last day at Bijoux Intn'l Inc. I chose to try Guy's new restaurant out! What a great decision! It was delicious and right on price with the normal time square establishments!"
- 2. "The drink list is peppered with several unique takes on conventional classics, like the Caliente Margarita. This combo of jalapeño-infused tequila (made in-house), triple sec and agave nectar is enhanced greatly by the addition of freshly-muddled cilantro. The name is not misleading, it actually has some kick to it, but the flavors are all well-balanced, making for a refreshingly drinkable concoction."
- 3. Here is a story about how Guy's stayed open in the lead-up to Hurricane Sandy to feed hungry New Yorkers: "We ate at Guy's American Kitchen ... where Matt offered us a limited menu, had sent workers home so they could be safe before the storm, ended up short-staffed. They were planning to close at three, but people kept coming, needing to be fed. He'd been manning the lower bar and dining room without assistance from about noon. I ate wings, drank beer, watched the Giants win on three big screens behind the bar, forgot the impending storm, forgot where I was and thanked Matt profusely, tipping him almost 60%."
- 4. "If you don't mind a lot of cheese and shit baked into your clams (I don't) you'll be fine with the Malibu Clams, smothered in Havarti, spinach and onions."
- 5. "I'm loving the throw-back to Old-Americana. I'm guessing this restaurant is on its way to being the biggest tourist trap NYC has seen since, well, yesterday. But hey–it's neato looking."
- 6. "Other standouts included the small salmon filets glazed with jalapeno and apricot and served on a warmed palm-sized cedar plank; and the Steak Diane filet mignon, bite-sized medallions served on a bed of roasted shallots and cremini mushrooms with a brandy pan sauce."
- 7. "It is priced for Times Square, the food was better than I thought, but I did come in for the Guy Fieri name, I would have walked on by if it was just a normal place. Not that I am a Food Network Whore, but I did walk out with a T-shirt and a baseball cap, and I don't mind one bit."
- 8. "On our recent trip to New York we went to Guy's Restaurant three times. We loved the atmosphere."
- 9. "We had appetizers, dinner, deserts and drinks for 2 and the bill was only 85.00 which I tought was great for Theater Row. The food was amazing you won't be disappointed, everything is fresh to order!"
- 10. "The Big Bite is one of the signature offerings at the celeb chef's new restaurant near Times Square - during our visit on day one, we tried some of the food at Guy's American Kitchen and it was actually pretty good."
Not a single one of the 10 people above writes for the New York Times, of course (like Marilyn Hagerty, the North Dakota food critic who the internet mocked earlier this year for giving a nice review to an Olive Garden). Most of them aren't even professional restaurant reviewers, so who knows whether you can even trust their judgment about what food tastes good to them.
All the hubbub and high-fiving around Wells' cutting review reminds me of a time several years ago when I was visiting a friend who lives in Honolulu. As we wandered past a Cheesecake Factory in Waikiki, I marveled at how many people were milling around out front while waiting for tables to open up. "How long is the wait here?" I asked the hostess out of curiosity. "About two hours," she replied.
Once we'd gotten out of earshot of the restaurant, I exploded. "Two fucking hours to eat at the Cheesecake Factory?" I said. "They're in Hawaii! Why aren't they eating some delicious Japanese food or fresh-caught fish?"
My friend, who works in the tourism industry, shrugged his shoulders. "A lot of the people who come to Hawaii are from Japan or small towns in America where eating at the Cheesecake Factory isn't even an option. When they come here on vacation, they want a menu offering a million different things covered in cheese. Why should you care what they like?"
It was good advice.