Slamma Jamma Chicken Parm
This was a disaster. The chicken parm had the consistency of an old tire and the sauce tasted like burnt Ragu. If you’re going to play in New York then your red sauce Italian game better be strong, Guy. Mr. Iracane might put a Sicilian hex on Guy’s for this misfire.
Rob thought the burnt exterior tasted like the asphalt outside on West 44th Street. Like most of the worst drinks that we had, the sweetness overpowered everything else about the dish.
Salted Whiskey Caramel Fool
Yeah, it looked like a fruit parfait and we wondered where our whiskey caramel fool was. Then we realized, we were the fools for ordering it.
Some of these mistakes can be chalked up to first night restaurant miscues. For example, our entrees came out about one minute after our appetizers and we had to ask them to bring them back in about 10 minutes. That was 10 minutes under the heat lamps, which might have overcooked Rob’s chicken parm. If we had gone another night, maybe the mains would have tasted better.
But other problems were more structural. Our booth was too high; Kris’s and my legs were dangling above the ground and we’re both more than 6 feet tall. Everything had too much sugar in it; an easy way to please tourist palates but horrible for quality control. And Guy’s is overpriced; dinner was $80 a person. Last Saturday night I had dinner at Dumont and it was $50 a person and we didn’t skimp on cocktails then eiether. Yet Dumont is recommended by New York Magazine, an accolade that I suspect will elude Guy’s. Dumont is also less than a 30 minute subway ride from Times Square if you’re a tourist and want to experience something beyond an overpriced Chili’s.
Guy’s problem is this: the restaurant business is low margin. A recent New Yorker article explained the lengths quality-obsessed restaurants go through to cut costs; they’ll get rid of tablecloths to save on laundry bills or not change the menu so they don’t have to pay for printing. And most New York restaurants stay small to keep real estate costs down and allow chefs more control over their product. When I think of my favorite places in New York the biggest is ABC Kitchen, which seats 100 people. Guy’s seats 500. That much real estate so close to Times Square is not inexpensive. So Guy’s needs to jack up the prices and cut corners in order for the restaurant to be profitable. I’m not sure that anyone could make this a good restaurant. It’s like a Transformers movie.
But Transformers at least had decent marketing. Guy Fieri is going to have to do more for his Bar and Kitchen. It’s half a block from Times Square but it’s on a side street with little foot traffic. The garish Times Square restaurants that New Yorkers love to hate stay in business longer than anywhere else in the city because walk-ins are so prevalent. Guy’s was mostly empty on its opening night. Guy Fieri got to where he is because he’s a marketing whiz so he better start selling the crap out of this place. The staff told us that he spent the entire past week putting in 12-hour days trying to prep the restaurant, so it’s not like he has no skin in the game (though I suspect Heartland probably has the most invested in the restaurant). Maybe when it has a more official opening it’ll start doing better business, but there are few compelling reasons to come back.
Good food is supposed to make you happy. I ate at Guy’s 12 hours ago and I feel like I need a colonic to get its grub out of me. So I’m not predicting a long run for Guy’s. You’re better off eating at the loading dock.
Oh, and as I mentioned earlier, there were misspellings on the menu, naturally…
(Lead photo via Greg Morabito at Eater. All others via Bobby Big Wheel)