We Might Need to Cut Guy Fieri Some Slack

I want to hate him, but I just can’t anymore.

Time To Read: 4 mins | January 20, 2017

‘90s rock is blaring. Every single surface is covered in American flags. There’s burgers and beer and female waitresses in shorts their parents disapprove of.

This would all be perfect, except for one minor detail: all this greatness is inside Guy Fieri’s Kitchen & Bar.

I honestly don’t have a good reason to hate the guy. I don’t know anything about him, have never Googled ‘tv host food wears bowling shirts’. All I really know is that he dyes his soul patch blonde. Not the entire goatee, mind you — just the bottom bit. Dude’s facial hair looks like a clock, with neon yellow hands permanently stuck at 6:30.

I can’t trust someone who thinks this is a good idea.

That said, I’d walked by his Playa del Carmen restaurant a dozen times, and it was constantly packed. It’s a total tourist trap, so the prices are relatively astronomical (that’s not including the toll on your soul) and there are thirteen million other places to eat within a few blocks. Meaning there was no reason to ever stop in.

But curiosity and masochism and rum happened, so on one of my final nights in the city, I ate at Fieri’s.

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What’s Sun Tzu say, know thyne enemy?

On the night in question, there was a band outside. I counted 7 American flags on 3 musicians, and 8 piercings between them. They didn’t sound bad, but they were playing loud enough to be heard from Cuba, so I opted to sit inside at the bar.

This decision made the night very interesting. You see, the restaurant has automatic sliding doors that pop open every so often, whenever a server has to run food or drinks outside, or whenever a customer needs to evacuate some beers. Meaning I was listening to a heavily ’90s playlist inside while listening to a ’90s band outside. I’d get fifteen seconds of Alanis Morrisette from the indoor speakers, then *whoosh* the doors open and I get fifteen seconds of Kings of Leon from a live band, then *whoosh* back to Alanis.

The visual entertainment was confusing as well. There were maybe half a dozen TVs inside – as many as a small sports bar – and every single one of them was simulcasting re-runs of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. They do this every day. I walked by during the NFL Championships and, instead of playing the Falcons game like every other bar on the planet, they were showing Guy make O-faces over BBQ ribs.

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You spend your entire meal at Guy Fieri’s Kitchen & Bar watching Guy Fieri eat better meals than you.

I read the menu while Foo Fighters played inside and Hoobastank played outside. Some of the items have kitschy names, things like Motley Que Ribs and the ’68 Cajun Sandwich, but lots of restaurants do this, so no foul there. Although I did take issue with the ‘Tatted Up Turkey Burger’ – don’t try to make a healthy version of something sound tough.

Also, everything is listed as coming with Donkey Sauce. What the shit is Donkey Sauce? Is this a Fieri trademark? Because it sounds like a sex thing. But not something people actually do, more like an Urban Dictionary move involving [redacted], two [redacted], and a small troop of impoverished mariachis.

Whatever. Now listening to Spin Doctors and Nickelback, I ordered a Mac & Cheese burger. The most over-the-top item on the menu. When in Rome, as it were.

The food didn’t take long, but it was enough time to space out and forget where I was. It could have been Texas or Indiana or Las Vegas. There’s exposed brick walls and a fully stocked bar and cute waitresses. I was relaxing at a tall bartop with a dark beer and friendly service. I was listening to Smash Mouth and Metallica simultaneously.

I buy the argument for a safe haven on vacation. If you’re in a foreign spot for a week or so, and you need a break from the local food, it’s nice to have a comfortable change-up to remind you of home. Fieri’s bashes you over the head with it – there’s less American flags in Washington D.C. – but I get it.

More than that though, I caught myself thinking that if I owned a bar, it’d wouldn’t look much different then this. Significantly less images of Fieri (preferably between none and negative three, if I’m honest) but otherwise, it was genuinely hard to find a fault.

The waiter apologized for the wait unnecessarily, and the food was good. Nothing incredible, but then it’s not supposed to be. A Mac & Cheese burger’s not intended to blow snobbish critics away, it’s meant to make red-blooded fat ass Americans feel happy for fifteen minutes, then sick a few hours later. It all cost too much; more than I’d spent on any other meal in Mexico, in fact, but still less than a similar experience in a big US city. Two beers and a burger the size of throw pillow for less than $15 isn’t bad.

I didn’t want to like Guy Fieri’s Kitchen & Bar. I still don’t like what he’s done to his lower face. But walking out the sliding doors, as the music transitioned from The Killers to The Offspring, I couldn’t help it.

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photo: look carefully — that house is actually above the clouds. random mountaintop near turrialba, costa rica

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Malcolm Freberg
Malcolm Freberg
American writer living permanently on the road. Believes rye whiskey is superior to bourbon, Belle is the best Disney princess, and that selfie sticks should be snapped in half on sight. Hosted a travel documentary for AOL & played Survivor a few times.
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