The most requested thing at Guy Fieri's newest restaurant—a three-level, 500-seat behemoth in New York City's Times Square—is the man himself. "Everyone asks me, 'Is Guy here?'" says Andrew, a waiter working the lunch shift. Of course, Guy, who lives in Northern California, can't be there every day, but when we stopped by a few months ago, the star of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives was in the house, making last-minute preparations for the restaurant's official grand opening. As he walked through the dining room, he shook hands, posed for pictures and signed butcher-paper place mats for his fans, then took a good close look at his completed restaurant. "This turned into a cool joint," he says.
Not too long ago, Guy's American Kitchen and Bar was a dilapidated 16,000-square-foot warehouse. Guy and his business partner spent one year—and $8 million—turning it into what it is now. "My restaurants are my children," Guy says. "But this one was like having quintuplets." New York City is known for its big crowds and tough critics, which Guy is learning how to handle. "Huge kudos to guys like Bobby Flay who make it in New York, because it's a whole different world," he says. Guy's biggest challenge was coming up with a menu that balanced quality with the speed and volume you need to feed a Big Apple crowd. "I wanted to do handmade pot stickers, but there was no way to do hundreds and hundreds from scratch," Guy says. "The menu ended up 50 percent of what I wanted it to be." But Guy is not disappointed: He's particularly proud of his Ain't No Thing Butta Chicken Wing wings with "bleu-sabi" sauce; the Dragon's Breath Chili; and the rotisserie special, Winner, Winner Chicken Dinner. If you can't figure out exactly what kind of food this is, that's sort of the point. "This isn't Italian food and it's not American food—it's Guy food," he says.
Now that the restaurant is in full swing, Guy admits there's one part of it that bothers him: Behind a stairwell is a wall of antique egg beaters—his business partner's design idea (Guy has never been a fan of eggs). "It kills me every time I walk by it," he says.
Photographs by Mark Peterson