Will Peter Wells’ Scathing Review of Guy Fieri’s New Restaurant Fall on Deaf Ears?

New York Times restaurant reviewer, Peter Wells, lobbed what may be one of the most succinct and snarky take downs of any restaurant in recent memory. Well, at least one that’s owned by a famous television food-show personality. But to the masses that enjoy Guy Fieri’s on-screen persona and sloppy sandwich hijinks on his popular Food Network programs Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and Guy’s Big Bite will it really matter?

The review which was couched as a sort of question-without-answer session between Wells and Fieri basically served as a series of things the former found confounding about Fieri’s newly opened Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar in Times Square. The biggest complaints the reviewer had, to probably every restaurateur’s nightmare, was about the food. From the naming of items on the menu, to side dishes, flavor choice or lack thereof, and the inexplicable existence of several sauces, just to name a few complaints. He notes:

When you saw the burger described as “Guy’s Pat LaFrieda custom blend, all-natural Creekstone Farm Black Angus beef patty, LTOP (lettuce, tomato, onion + pickle), SMC (super-melty-cheese) and a slathering of Donkey Sauce on garlic-buttered brioche,” did your mind touch the void for a minute?

Wells rails on about the quality of service which he found to be lacking, and how much the restaurant toots its own horn regarding its offerings seemingly in a deluded fashion, or just outright gets by on goofy, kitschy items that aren’t appetizing.

Hey, did you try that blue drink, the one that glows like nuclear waste? The watermelon margarita? Any idea why it tastes like some combination of radiator fluid and formaldehyde?

Somewhere mixed in, it’s mentioned about Fieri’s other eight restaurants which the reviewer gathers are not run like this one. And even in the face of recent criticism of Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar Fieri has touted his success of other restaurants as an indicator that he knows what he’s doing. In late October after the restaurant was panned by the New York Post’s Steve Cuozzo Fieri fired back and said:

“I know what I make, I know how I cook,” said Fieri — affectionately dubbed “The Human Lava Lamp” by one foodie Web site.

“I know the success of my food. I mean, you can’t have eight restaurants and be doing it wrong, or that wrong.”

Is it possible he has a point?

Look at the location of Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar. It’s in Times Square. This is not what most reviewers would call the Mecca of good taste. Any New Yorker will tell you that Times Square’s main dining attractions are tourists – of whom really want familiar, easily accessible, and certainly high-priced, all Americana meals. So it is any wonder that Guy’s restaurant new location is more like an adult version of Chuck E Cheese? The place seats 500 and has the décor fit for the transient community it serves with dish items and names built for shits and giggles instead of well-savored contemplation. There’s something on the menu called Awesome Pretzel Chicken Tenders for goodness sake. That just screams, “Hey! We’re here in Times Square NEW YORK CITY and we’re eating at Guy Fieri’s restaurant! Here, somebody take our picture. We have chicken wings with dipping sauce hanging out of our mouths!”

Can it be safe to say that New York Times restaurant reviewer, Peter Wells, may not really be Guy Fieri’s — he of no formal chef training who studied cooking at the Stouffer’s concept kitchen — target audience?

But we do understand what Wells is saying. Just because you’ve made your career by chronicling places with fun names and warm Americana heart, doesn’t mean that it entitles you to roll crap in General Tso’s-style sauce and serve it up claiming that you’re channeling all the things people love. Give some of us a little credit. While it’s possible there may be many who will rally behind Fieri and claim as some already have on Twitter that Wells is just some uppity jerk, and there will be those who will flock to Times Square just to take a picture of Fieri’s Welcome to Flavor Town sign that hangs therein — there will still be others who will remember Wells’ following few questions:

Is the entire restaurant a very expensive piece of conceptual art? Is the shapeless, structureless baked alaska that droops and slumps and collapses while you eat it, or don’t eat it, supposed to be a representation in sugar and eggs of the experience of going insane?

Why did the toasted marshmallow taste like fish?

But those people will not be making Fieri money hand over fist. And he never really seemed the sort to prefer critical acclaim to having and operating a successful business. If he wants to be the Food Network version of a Red Lobster chain, we’re sure there’s not much that could stop him.

Wells gave his dining experience a: POOR rating

We’re going to say that the rating stands with the caveat that you actually care about the restaurant review and aren’t interested in trying out the “Place owned by the Diners, Drive-Thrus, and Dives guy after we see The Lion King. Should be awesome!”

In that case we’ll say the restaurant gets a “Poor” if we’re not considering the Times Square/Fan of Guy Fieri curve, which really probably makes it a “Fair.”

For another equally if not more impressively scathing takedown of Fieri, read Joshua David Stein’s New York Observer review. You’ll be wowed. Hat tip to commenter News Bunny aka the noreaster.

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