Undoubtedly, many have already heard about or read The New York Times‘ scathing review of Guy Fieri’s new restaurant in Times Square. The review consisted entirely of questions–34 to be exact–featuring such ringers as “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?”
The reviewer, Pete Wells, went on to insult not only the restaurant, but also Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives brand, describing the show as Guy “rasping out slangy odes to the unfancy places where Americans like to get down and greasy.” The review ended with a single word, that in any other circumstance would have seemed complementary. But following two pages of seemingly endless swipes, the word–Thanks–only exuded snark.
While many applauded the review, hailing it a “critical masterpiece” and the “Best. Restaurant review. Ever. (No seriously: ever.),” few rose to Guy Fieri’s defense. Appearing on the Today Show this morning, Guy mounted his own defense, asserting the reviewer probably had “another agenda” and calling the piece “ridiculous” and “overboard.” Guy did acknowledge that his restaurant had its shortcomings, but nonetheless stood by his restaurant and food. And to add insult to injury, word leaked that the NYT held a staff party at Guy’s restaurant the day that the review dropped.
I think I’m one of the few to side with Fieri on this one–and not just because I’m an unabashed fan of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. I found the NYT review to be way over the top and under the belt. Reading through the first few paragraphs, I’ll admit that I was mildly entertained. But devoting over 1,000 words to snarky rhetorical questions denigrating not only the restaurant, but the low-country, “no-collar American food” this reviewer thinks Fieri and his brand represent, seemed, well, overboard to me, and certainly elitist.
Yes, the food and service at Guy’s was probably not up to par with The New York Times, or even most people’s, standards. But I think restaurant critics, and critics of any kind really, should adhere to the old standby rule: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. That’s not to say critics shouldn’t critique; that’s their job, and there’s nothing wrong with some constructive criticism, or expressing an opinion, albeit a negative one. What I have a problem with is unnecessary snark, sarcasm, and snobbery, and elevating one person’s view of what is or is not good food above all others. And the NYT review did just that.
In all honesty, the review might actually be a boon for Guy. They say no press is bad press, and Guy has certainly gotten a LOT of press for this. More people might actually go to the restaurant, curious to find out for themselves whether the Awesome Pretzel Chicken Tenders really do taste like chewy air or whether the slow roasted pork shank really does have “the deadened, overcooked taste of school cafeteria vegetables.” In the end, maybe Guy Fieri is the one who should say “thanks” to the NYT–for asking so many insightful questions.
Update: Other reviewers are chiming in, and though what they’re saying is not great, at least it’s more of a fair shot. Here’s Serious Eats review of Guy’s American Kitchen.