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Great Hatchet Jobs In History

[ 68 ] November 14, 2012 |

I suppose one could argue that devoting real estate in the New York Times to a review of a Times Square “restaurant” serving Southern Southwestern corn dog batter to particularly gullible or intimidated tourists is overkill. But when it’s directed at 1)the profit-taking brand extension of the most Irritating Person in the World, and 2)it’s funny, I say Wells is doing God’s work:

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? 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?

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?

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?

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?

Donkey sauce? SMC (super-melty-cheese)? As a connoisseur of bad early-90s infomericals, the latter seems especially perfect given the shared name with the Tom Bosley-promoted marketing scam that’s not sophisticated enough to rise to the level of being a pyramid scheme:

Before this restaurant closes, I fully expect servers to start pitching worthless merchandise that can be sold in a Las Vegas gift shop for a 300% profit!!!!!! The mark…er, customers would probably be getting a better deal. Anyway, this definitely belongs in the canon with Bruni’s takedowns of Harry Cipriani and Ago.

Comments (68)

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  1. John Protevi says:

    Very enjoyable. I guess the moral of the story is to visit the places Fieri visits, not the ones he owns.

    A quibble: doesn’t “hatchet job” imply unfairness? This review seems eminently fair.

  2. Halloween Jack says:

    If you liked that vivisection, feast your eyes on this.

  3. bradP says:

    When are you going to touch on the hatchet job Loria and Samson did to the Marlins and what fans they have left?

  4. JREinATL says:

    1)the profit-taking brand extension of the most Irritating Person in the World,

    I have no love for Fierri, but really, if someone wanted to stick my name and face on a Times Square tourist trap that I didn’t have to do anything for except show up a couple times a year to take pictures, I’d totally do it too.

  5. Anonymous says:

    So this is WASP humor.

  6. wengler says:

    And how is Times Square now better than it used to be?

    • Uncle Kvetch says:

      And how is Times Square now better than it used to be?

      Depends on your definition of “better.” I have to walk through it every day on my way to and from work. Thirty to 40 years ago that could be a very unpleasant, if not downright terrifying, experience outside of normal business hours. Now it’s just a question of weaving through throngs of glassy-eyed tourists and people dressed up like Minnie Mouse. Annoying, but not terrifying.

      Other than passing through it on my way somewhere else, I don’t spend any time there: there’s really nothing of interest. But I didn’t spend any time there before, so that’s a wash.

      I often wonder how many of the people who bemoan the “grittiness” of the old Times Square ever actually experienced anything more than a brisk stroll through it in daylight hours.

      • Bill Murray says:

        Now it’s just a question of weaving through throngs of glassy-eyed tourists and people dressed up like Minnie Mouse. Annoying, but not terrifying.

        still sounds pretty, perhaps even more, unpleasant

        • Richard says:

          Not as unpleasant as porn theaters and porn stores and junkie hookers. The old Times Square was really pretty squalid and actually scary at night. The current Times Square is pretty much tourist traps but thats better than what it used to be.

          Will always remember a trip to New York in about 1981 and walking in front of the New York Public Library, one of the great buildings in the country, in the middle of the afternoon and being accosted by a line (ten or more) of drug dealers openly and aggressively selling their wares

        • Uncle Kvetch says:

          still sounds pretty, perhaps even more, unpleasant

          Unpleasant, yes, but certainly not moreso. The tourists can be maddening but there’s no comparison.

          This is something of a pet peeve of mine, and I’ve gone back and forth with Roy Edroso on it a number of times. I’m a huge fan of his but his paeans to the old, scary NYC stick in my craw sometimes. I don’t like the slick, homogenized, corporatized city that’s emerging any more than he does. But you can only bemoan the loss of “grittiness” if you’re the kind of person who didn’t easily get fucked with back in those days. Being a skinny little four-eyed pipsqueak myself, I find it harder to go in for that kind of nostalgia.

          • Now I feel retroactively tougher and scummier.

          • Glenn says:

            We can still get a little dose of grittiness in Hell’s Kitchen, right? Well, the name anyway.

            • actor212 says:

              It’s now called Clinton, sorry.

              But Rudy’s survives.

              • Glenn says:

                I refuse to call it Clinton. I got too much enjoyment from telling my mother, when I moved here 20 years ago, that i was living in Hells Kitchen. She already assumed I was going to be killed my first day, so that really freaked her out.

                • actor212 says:

                  When I was growing up, that was not an impossibility. Even me, a dyed-in-the-blood New Yorker and Manhattanite of blue collar background and street smarts stayed the hell out of there as much as possible.

                  And I had people!

                • Uncle Kvetch says:

                  Even me, a dyed-in-the-blood New Yorker and Manhattanite of blue collar background and street smarts stayed the hell out of there as much as possible.

                  I moved to NYC in 1987 and Hell’s Kitchen was recommended to me by a number of people as the Next Big Thing. I spent a sunny Saturday afternoon wandering the neighborhood and looking at various possible apartment shares, and by the end of the afternoon said “no fucking way.” Avenue B was less intimidating (which was really saying something in 1987).

                  I ended up moving into HK some 8 years later, by which time the transformation had already been massive…and it just keeps on going…

                  We can still get a little dose of grittiness in Hell’s Kitchen, right? Well, the name anyway.

                  Beyond the name…nope, not really (unless you know something I don’t, Glenn). But we’ve got more pretty boys per block than anywhere in the city, so it all evens out… 8^)

                • actor212 says:

                  Kvetch, Loisaida was tame in the late 80s. You picked appropriately. I remember walking in Alphabet City when two out of every three buildings was a burnt out husk, squatted by punks and drug dealers.

                  Good times!

                • mds says:

                  I remember walking in Alphabet City when two out of every three buildings was a burnt out husk, squatted by punks and drug dealers.

                  Luxury! I remember furtively crawling in Alphabet city when four out of every three buildings were burnt out husks, and the punks and drug dealers were afraid to squat in them. That was back when it was still “Phoenician Alphabet City,” of course.

                • Uncle Kvetch says:

                  Oh, and just an aside: my impression is that the whole “Clinton” thing is now dead in the water, and even the real estate agents have cottoned to the fact that the name “Hell’s Kitchen” has become downright chic. I never encounter “Clinton” anywhere except the occasional city map anymore.

      • actor212 says:

        I did, and I do miss it.

        Rehearsals would often extend well into the morning, and I would walk through the area, bright and glittery, with the arcades humming and Tad’s Steaks grilling mystery steaks right in the window. I knew many of the hookers by name, and once they realized I wasn’t about to pay for what I could get for free, we had really nice conversations.

        Brief, of course, since they were being watched from both sides of the law.

        It was nice to be away from the tourists and the commuters and the landed immigrants who moved to my city from the heartland and to be among people who grew up here, right here, right in the Kitchen or uptown or way downtown. The little briefcased men had long ago scurried home to their wives after “working late” and they were boring as hell in the gin mills of the day, whining about their long train ride home while salivating at the girls outside in their short skirts and fuzzy jackets in the winter and much, much less in the summer.

        So fuck yea, I miss it. I miss it a lot.

        • Uncle Kvetch says:

          So fuck yea, I miss it. I miss it a lot.

          Just to be clear, I didn’t mean to dismiss your perspective in any way…de gustibus and all that. Personally I’d like to think that there’s a happy medium somewhere between “excitingly gritty, but frequently terrifying” and “sanitized for your protection,” but we may never know.

          • actor212 says:

            No, I understand that my perspective is unique and, to be polite, unusual. When I was a teen, it was a pretty intimidating place, but I learned — some lessons were harder than others and I did lose significant sums of money in muggings — to fit in. It was not that different from any number of nabes, except the degree of difficulty was far higher.

        • Sherm says:

          Why do I suspect that you just lifted that entire comment from Revolutionary Road?

          Well said, except I’m one of the briefcased men, I guess.

  7. CaptBackslap says:

    As a rule of thumb, refusing to eat anywhere with “donkey sauce” on the menu seems like a good idea.

  8. advocatethis says:

    You know, of course, that this place, despite bad reviews, will thrive. We have a number of good restaurants in Santa Rosa, but when out of towners show up it’s Tex Wasabi that they want to eat at.

    It does kill the soul.

    • Halloween Jack says:

      Reminds me of when people would visit me in Memphis and ask about restaurant options, and I’d run down a comparison of the best local barbecue places and some regional chains that Yankees probably haven’t been to, and they’d look at me blankly for a few seconds and then ask if there was an Applebee’s in town, because they knew what they did and didn’t like on the menu. AAAAUGH

      • actor212 says:

        Corky’s was really good, so good even the one in the airport had real taste.

        And Neely’s opened a restaurant up here in NYC that’s become a Thanksgiving tradition for me. Second best BBQ in the city after Virgil’s, in my book.

  9. KadeKo says:

    Back ages ago, as a teen, I ate at the Howard Johnson’s in Times Square on a school trip. Glad I did, because the next time back, it was gone.

    Knowing what I know now, it seems its decor hadn’t been touched in what must have been decades. That probably helped me become the Art Deco geek I am today.

    Don’t know if the current chain restaurants will be missed like that, or the “name” places either.

    • actor212 says:

      Man, the HoJos….right next to the Gaiety.

      Not that I, you know, went to any shows there. Or performed there. There was a, uhhhhhhhhhhh, rehearsal studio on the other side of it. Yea. That’s my story.

  10. Glenn says:

    “Before this restaurant closes”? C’mon. Times Square is an Enterprise Zone for crap. The Olive Garden there thrives, for f*ck’s sake (because, hey, you sure can’t get good Italian anywhere in NYC, right?).

    • Bill Murray says:

      but you can get Olive Garden throughout the country. There are many people afraid of the unknown

      • Glenn says:

        Oh, I get it. But that’s why Guy’s Ego Trip & Bar will do just fine. As seen on TV!

        • actor212 says:

          While it’s true that the theatre district supports crap…oh, god, Phantom again?????…it can also quickly shut a place down before you know it.

          All Star Cafe, ESPN Zone, the WWE themed restaurant, all bit the big one. Surprisingly, Mars 2112, which is to restaurants what the school cafeteria is to cotillions (literally. The restaurant had cafeteria seating) survived an inordinately and preternaturally long time: 1997 – 2012, missing its target by a full century. Chevy’s just closed, as well.

          You have to hit a sweet spot in the Deuce, especially smack in the middle of it, between Friday’s (which is overpriced but not extortionist) and Haru (which at least serves good food) and Carmine’s (ditto, usually)

          I don’t think it survives. It doesn’t have the kind of name recognition that Bubba Gump’s has or the quality of food that Virgil’s has.

  11. Steven says:

    Surprised not to see Karl Welzein mentioned in the comments here. Comments at The Observer got there almost immediately.

  12. mark f says:

    “Is this how you roll in Flavor Town?” is meme-worthy.

  13. actor212 says:

    I read this with literal gaping amazement.

    Fieri, if he had any shame, would be embarassed.

  14. Ruviana says:

    I must say, when I heard this was about The Most Irritating Person in the World I was expecting Donald Trump.

  15. 4jkb4ia says:

    That was worth reading when you saw that there were no stars, just “Poor”, and that Wells had made excuses for the 21 Club last week. Wells delivered on the evisceration part.

  16. 4jkb4ia says:

    I should probably say that I knew what “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” was before reading that, but I only had a vague idea of who Guy Fieri was.

  17. [...] Geier cited Pete Wells’s review of Guy Fieri’s Times Square profit-taking venture. And that was a great review — funny without condescending to the food in principle or to the target [...]

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