Great Hatchet Jobs In History

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.

68 comments on this post.
  1. John Protevi:

    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:

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

  3. bradP:

    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:

    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. blowback:

    You beat me to it but I would add, make sure you read the comments as well.

  6. Scott Lemieux:

    I don’t mean “hatchet job” pejoratively. They can be perfectly justified!

  7. Scott Lemieux:

    Oh, I’ll get to that.

  8. Anonymous:

    So this is WASP humor.

  9. wengler:

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

  10. CaptBackslap:

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

  11. advocatethis:

    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.

  12. John Protevi:

    Okay, that makes sense!

  13. KadeKo:

    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.

  14. CaptBackslap:

    Many of the comments disagreeing with the review seem…oddly similiar.

  15. Uncle Kvetch:

    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.

  16. Mike:

    That doesn’t always work either. Went to Louis Family Restaurant in Providence and it was pretty bad. Plus, they let one of the dishwashers hang around in the seating area bothering the customers slurping his orange soda and sucking on the ice cubes while annoying us with whatever drivel popped into his head. Found a nice big bone in my chicken soup.

  17. Bill Murray:

    both of the fans they have left ought to be used to it

  18. Glenn:

    “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?).

  19. Bill Altreuter:

    For what it is worth, a friend of a friend worked for Fieri and reports that he is a really decent guy. I wouldn’t come on in his kitchen for a glass of water, but apparently he is not the douchebag he comes across as being.

  20. Bill Murray:

    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

  21. Bill Murray:

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

  22. rea:

    It’s the small bones in your chicken soup that you don’t find that ought to concern you.

  23. Steven:

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

  24. Glenn:

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

  25. rea:

    Loria owed Canada a world series, and it was time to pay.

  26. Richard:

    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

  27. Uncle Kvetch:

    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.

  28. Substance McGravitas:

    Now I feel retroactively tougher and scummier.

  29. mark f:

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

  30. Mike:

    Oh, I thought that was the under cooked rice.

  31. Glenn:

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

  32. Anonymous:

    I’m sure if you’re a straight white Protestant man, he’s a blast.

  33. Scott Lemieux:

    wouldn’t come on in his kitchen for a glass of water

    Ah, Steve Miller. That’s one of my favorite lines of music criticism.

  34. actor212:

    I read this with literal gaping amazement.

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

  35. Sherm:

    That was my first thought as well. A giveback to the Canadian baseball fans.

  36. actor212:

    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.

  37. actor212:

    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.

  38. actor212:

    It’s now called Clinton, sorry.

    But Rudy’s survives.

  39. Glenn:

    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.

  40. Glenn:

    oh man, I didn’t realize Mars 2112 closed! Say it ain’t so!

  41. Glenn:

    and yes, I’m kidding

  42. actor212:

    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.

  43. snarkout:

    Why would you go to Louis if you weren’t a hung-over Brown student?

  44. actor212:

    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!

  45. actor212:

    I went there. Once.

    I had a nine year old.

  46. actor212:

    It was surprisingly tasty!

  47. Bill:

    Ugh, I just hate it when the help gets all chatty like that.

  48. Mike:

    Nephew is a Guy fan. Made him pretty happy. He liked the pancakes.

  49. Uncle Kvetch:

    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^)

  50. actor212:

    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!

  51. Uncle Kvetch:

    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.

  52. mds:

    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.

  53. Uncle Kvetch:

    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.

  54. actor212:

    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.

  55. Bill Altreuter:

    Miles Davis is even better on the subject of Steve Miller

  56. Sherm:

    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.

  57. Ruviana:

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

  58. actor212:

    No disrespect to you personally, but NYC would be a helluva nicer place if the Island, Jersey, and Westschester commuters would start to telecommute more :-)

  59. Sherm:

    Agreed. Its a totally different place without the obnoxious commuters. And if I didn’t have kids, I’d leave the suburbs in a minute. Just can’t afford to raise them in the City.

  60. RhZ:

    The help? I hate it when *anyone* starts chatting with me when I am trying to eat my dinner/lunch. Doesn’t matter if its the dishwasher or the owner. Leave me be!

  61. 4jkb4ia:

    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.

  62. 4jkb4ia:

    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.

  63. Pestilence:

    or indeed any donkey parts

  64. Pestilence:

    +1

  65. Halloween Jack:

    All that does is remind us of what a dick Miles could be. Yeah, he’s better than Steve Miller, but what genius put them on the same bill in the first place? That’s worse than Hendrix opening for the Monkees.

  66. Halloween Jack:

    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

  67. actor212:

    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.

  68. Great Moments in Hatchet Jobs - Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money:

    [...] 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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