If you watch Food Network's "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives," you know that the show's star, Guy Fieri spews accolades at nearly every eatery he stops — gushing about garlic fries, cheering for chili, and drooling over dry-rubbed steaks.
But the 44-year-old didn't get quite the same treatment when it came time for The New York Times food critic Pete Wells to review Fieri's new mega-restaurant, Guy's American Kitchen & Bar, a 500-seat eatery smack in the middle of Times Square.
In a rare zero-star review (which some are calling the writer's harshest ever), Wells dedicates none of his more than 1,000 words to anything positive, instead making the piece a series of searing questions for Fieri — questions about the food that paint a very unappetizing picture.
"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?" Wells asks.
"How did Louisiana's blackened, Cajun-spiced treatment turn into the ghostly nubs of unblackened, unspiced white meat in your Cajun Chicken Alfredo?"
"Why did the toasted marshmallow taste like fish?"
The drinks didn't fare much better.
"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?"
And the reportedly atrocious service didn't escape the scathing review either: "When you have a second, Mr. Fieri, would you see what happened to the black bean and roasted squash soup we ordered?"
"By the way, would you let our server know that when we asked for chai, he brought us a cup of hot water?"
Wells also notes limp, cold fries, gray turkey, syrupy sauces, cafeteria-like vegetables, uninterested hosts, and the pet peeve of every foodie worth his weight in locally grown produce: entrees being wedged onto the table while diners are still eating their appetizers.
The reviewer even manages to sneak in a criticism in the usually neutral information section of the article, which typically details things like the restaurant's hours, address, and price point. When it comes to the "atmosphere" description, Wells notes it includes "500 seats, three levels, three bars, one chaotic mess." Ouch.
And for those thinking that Wells might have gone a little hard on poor Guy (who also owns several restaurants in California), well, we here at omg! haven't dined at the restaurant and can't really chime in on that one, but you can't say that the writer is only impressed with fancy fine dining spots. Earlier this year, he gave a solid two-star review to Mission Chinese Food, a small storefront restaurant on Manhattan's Lower East Side, where most items cost $12 or less. On the other hand, he recently gave another not-often-used goose egg to New York's venerable "21 Club," where jackets are required and dinner for one this Thanksgiving will set you back $95.
Other publications seem to agree with Wells' assessment. In October, New York Post critic Steve Cuozzo wrote that he wouldn't feed food from Fieri's new Times Square restaurant to his cat.
"Well, they must not like their cat very much," Fieri said in an interview late last month with "CBS This Morning" after he was asked about the Post review. "I know what I make, I know how I cook. I know the success of my food. I mean, you can't have eight restaurants and be doing it wrong, or that wrong."
Though some potential diners might have been turned off by the review, Fieri's got one customer who still plans on stopping in: fellow Food Network star Alton Brown, who, on Wednesday tweeted: "I am planning on visiting Guy Fieri's NYC eatery this weekend because it can't be as bad as all those snooty New Yorkers say. #wishmeluck"