A Response to Pete Wells, From Guy Fieri
Earlier this week, New York Times food critic Pete Wells, apparently too lazy to call a town car to take him to another hip SoHo gastropub, instead wandered two blocks from his office over to TV star Guy Fieri’s “Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar” in Times Square. Mr. Wells, shocked to find the obvious tourist trap serving anything less than Per Se-quality fare, churned out the scathing restaurant review that everyone and their mother has since shared with you on Facebook.
Because Wells’ now-infamous zero-star “review” is written entirely in questions, we decided to give Guy Fieri a chance to respond. Note: We don’t actually know Guy Fieri, but we’re pretty sure this is what he’d say if he got the chance.
GUY FIERI, have you eaten at your new restaurant in Times Square? Have you pulled up one of the 500 seats at Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar and ordered a meal? Did you eat the food? Did it live up to your expectations? Did panic grip your soul as you stared into the whirling hypno wheel of the menu, where adjectives and nouns spin in a crazy vortex?
P-Wells, seriously…what’s harshing your vibe? Why so many questions? When did you become an angry food blogger? I thought you wrote for a newspaper. What happened, homeslice? Did your editor threaten to send you back to the obit desk if you don’t double your page views, pronto? This is all way harsh, bro.
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?
Yes. You’re right, that sounds like it must have been a really tough moment for you. You have a rough life, don’t you, Pete? Well, now you know what real pain is like. A burger description with too many words. Try reading a restaurant review that’s 12 paragraphs longer than it needs to be.
Did you notice that the menu was an unreliable predictor of what actually came to the table? Were the “bourbon butter crunch chips” missing from your Almond Joy cocktail, too? Was your deep-fried “boulder” of ice cream the size of a standard scoop?
So…first my restaurant’s menu isn’t fancy enough for you, and now you’re complaining that your serving of DEEP-FRIED ICE CREAM is too SMALL?? What did you want, a gallon of it? It’s fried ice cream! Petey, I admit I wasn’t shooting for a Michelin star, but the one thing I can say with certainty is that if you did not get enough food at this restaurant, you have a serious problem. Most of our appetizers have more calories then a four-person family is supposed to consume in a week. Chiiiiiiiilllllll.
What exactly about a small salad with four or five miniature croutons makes Guy’s Famous Big Bite Caesar (a) big (b) famous or (c) Guy’s, in any meaningful sense? Were you struck by how very far from awesome the Awesome Pretzel Chicken Tenders are? If you hadn’t come up with the recipe yourself, would you ever guess that the shiny tissue of breading that exudes grease onto the plate contains either pretzels or smoked almonds? Did you discern any buttermilk or brine in the white meat, or did you think it tasted like chewy air?
My bad, bro. You must have forgot to look at the back of the menu. That’s where our ten-course foie gras tasting options are.
Why is one of the few things on your menu that can be eaten without fear or regret — a lunch-only sandwich of chopped soy-glazed pork with coleslaw and cucumbers — called a Roasted Pork Bahn Mi, when it resembles that item about as much as you resemble Emily Dickinson?
You ate the whole menu?!? Wow, someone has some extra time on their hands. Not even my mom did that. Is everything OK at home?
When you have a second, Mr. Fieri, would you see what happened to the black bean and roasted squash soup we ordered?
Really, Pete, it’s the New York Times. Is this personal query really relevant to the masses? Perhaps you should have…I don’t know—reminded your server? No, no, never mind—you’re right. An angry online complaint is much more effective than asking in person for your personal problem to be fixed. Have you tried Yelp yet, Mr. Wells? You’d love it.
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?
Here’s a tip for the next time you go recreational slumming, Wellsie. You order a blue drink at a place like this for one reason, maybe two: it’s probably going to be giant, and it’s definitely going to get you (and your date) hella wasted. It certainly doesn’t matter two shits what it tastes like. People know this. In fact, you are the first customer to ever inquire as to what our giant blue “margarita” might taste like. I’m sorry it didn’t have the subtle cloying notes of a 1985 malbec. We’ll work on it.
At your five Johnny Garlic’s restaurants in California, if servers arrive with main courses and find that the appetizers haven’t been cleared yet, do they try to find space for the new plates next to the dirty ones? Or does that just happen in Times Square, where people are used to crowding?
Oh the horrors! I’m guessing this is also your first time eating at a restaurant where there was no silent waiter on hand whose sole job is to discreetly sweep the crumbs off your tablecloth in between the cheese plate and the sorbet course?
If a customer shows up with a reservation at one of your two Tex Wasabi’s outlets, and the rest of the party has already been seated, does the host say, “Why don’t you have a look around and see if you can find them?” and point in the general direction of about 200 seats?
Next time we’ll be sure to have a dedicated staff person to hold your hand, and another one to wipe your ass for you. Or, you know, you could invest in a cell phone and find your friends yourself—like everyone else does.
What is going on at this new restaurant of yours, really? Has anyone ever told you that your high-wattage passion for no-collar American food makes you television’s answer to Calvin Trillin, if Mr. Trillin bleached his hair, drove a Camaro and drank Boozy Creamsicles?
You’re really speaking to the people now, Pete. What down-home American doesn’t love a good C-Trill reference?
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?
You’re right, I’m the phony. You’re the real-deal populist. What does Calvin Trillin think about all this? Maybe we should ask The Ethicist? P.S. “unfancy” is not a word. Your copyeditor call in sick?
Or is it all an act? Is that why the kind of cooking you celebrate on television is treated with so little respect at Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar? How, for example, did Rhode Island’s supremely unhealthy and awesomely good fried calamari — dressed with garlic butter and pickled hot peppers — end up in your restaurant as a plate of pale, unsalted squid rings next to a dish of sweet mayonnaise with a distant rumor of spice?
If you’d finished your giant blue drink like a good boy, Pete, you wouldn’t be looking for hints of dill weed and cardamom in your calamari right about now. You’d be downing that deep-fried, extra-breaded goodness like the drunkass happy hour reveler you’re supposed to be at this point. Get with the program, homedawg. Loosen up. Let a few rip now and then.
How did Louisiana’s blackened, Cajun-spiced treatment turn into the ghostly nubs of unblackened, unspiced white meat in your Cajun Chicken Alfredo?
Let me get this straight…you ordered the Cajun Chicken Alfredo and you’re upset that it doesn’t resemble something more traditional? My bad, next time I’ll be sure to follow the ancient recipes of Tuscany, Alabama to a tee.
How did nachos, one of the hardest dishes in the American canon to mess up, turn out so deeply unlovable? Why augment tortilla chips with fried lasagna noodles that taste like nothing except oil? Why not bury those chips under a properly hot and filling layer of melted cheese and jalapeños instead of dribbling them with thin needles of pepperoni and cold gray clots of ground turkey?
Pepperoni lasagna nachos?!? I’m sorry, but that’s just good cooking.
By the way, would you let our server know that when we asked for chai, he brought us a cup of hot water?
Look, I don’t come into your office and ask you to print me out a copy of TMZ, do I? Don’t come to my place and ask for a chai. I don’t even know what that is.
When you hung that sign by the entrance that says, WELCOME TO FLAVOR TOWN!, were you just messing with our heads?
You’re right. Most New Yorkers would look at that sign and say, “Wow, I bet the chef here really knows what kind of merlots would pair well with a lavender panna cotta.
Does this make it sound as if everything at Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar is inedible? I didn’t say that, did I?
Now you’re just being a dick.
Tell me, though, why does your kitchen sabotage even its more appealing main courses with ruinous sides and sauces? Why stifle a pretty good bison meatloaf in a sugary brown glaze with no undertow of acid or spice? Why send a serviceable herb-stuffed rotisserie chicken to the table in the company of your insipid Rice-a-Roni variant? Why undermine a big fist of slow-roasted pork shank, which might fly in many downtown restaurants if the General Tso’s-style sauce were a notch less sweet, with randomly shaped scraps of carrot that combine a tough, nearly raw crunch with the deadened, overcooked taste of school cafeteria vegetables? Is this how you roll in Flavor Town?
Don’t front, Pete. I know you just searched Urban Dictionary to find out what “how you roll” means last week.
Somewhere within the yawning, three-level interior of Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar, is there a long refrigerated tunnel that servers have to pass through to make sure that the French fries, already limp and oil-sogged, are also served cold? What accounts for the vast difference between the Donkey Sauce recipe you’ve published and the Donkey Sauce in your restaurant? Why has the hearty, rustic appeal of roasted-garlic mayonnaise been replaced by something that tastes like Miracle Whip with minced raw garlic?
Dude. You ordered something called “Donkey Sauce.” That one’s on you, bro.
And when we hear the words Donkey Sauce, which part of the donkey are we supposed to think about?
You went there, man, not me.
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?
Oh, because now The New York Times Dining section doesn’t ever lavish praise on very expensive pieces of conceptual art that have nothing to do with quality food? Um….let’s talk about your last 20 reviews. I bet if I added some accent marks to my menu and threw a couple zeros on the end you’d be making up some fancy words and giving me three stars right about now. They’re french fries a la froid. How ’bout that?
Why did the toasted marshmallow taste like fish?
Maybe it’s CONCEPTUAL! Maybe it fell in the deep fryer. I don’t know, Pete, but everyone else here is stoned off their asses and think the marshmallows taste like sugar-coated boner pills.
Did you finish that blue drink?
I’m on number five. Just saying, it’d prob tone down your harsh if you took a sip or two.
Oh, and we never got our Vegas fries; would you mind telling the kitchen that we don’t need them? Thanks.
Oooh, he comes to a period, a much-anticipated, drawn-out, fin de triumph. And it only took you, oh…about 1,000 words to get there. You get paid by the word, don’t you, Pete? Coincidence?
It’s not so much that I disagree with your magnum opus, Peetso—it’s that I find it hard to believe someone who critiques food for a living really walked into Guy’s American Bar in Times Square, saw the sign pointing to FLAVORTOWN, ordered a Giant Blue Drink and a table full of fried appetziers, and then was disappointed—nay, horrified!—to discover that the cuisine here isn’t up to his exacting high-brow standards. Restaurants like this have a purpose, Pete, they’re for people—not you Ivory Tower-dwelling scribes, but real people—to drown their sorrows, forget about their miserable little lives, and eat some cheese-topped, grease-soaked, pepperoni-layered fried goodness on their three measly vacation days, before they head back to Omaha and go back to work. Really, Pete, there’s only one question you should be asking about my new Times Square restaurant: is it, or is it not a more totally bodacious experience than eating at Bubba Gumps Shrimp Co. down the block?
Personally, I don’t know. I’m rich, bitch. I eat at the Cheesecake Factory.