Guy Fieri, the fist-bumping Food Network star, is best known as the host of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, in which he gets earnestly excited about unpretentious, backwater restaurants and frequently gets gravy in his goatee. (Fieri, who is roundish and bleached blond, looks like a children’s plush toy that joined the Insane Clown Posse.) He also has restaurants of his own, the newest of which is Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar, a 500-seater just off Times Square. But it is not necessary to have ever watched his show or patronized one of his places to appreciate the Fieri phenomenon. That you can get simply by parsing his menus.
In an era when dominant menu-writing styles run from abstract minimalism (Eleven Madison Park’s sixteen ingredients on a small square page) to gnomic (“Cardoons, Agrodolce, Pea Greens, Spaetzle”), Fieri tends toward giddy maximalism. The Hog Tied King roll, available at Tex Wasabi’s Rock-N-Roll Sushi-BBQ, a Fieri operation with outposts in Sacramento and Santa Rosa, California, showcases this sensibility: The roll, we are informed, contains salmon, bacon, cream cheese, Sriracha, green onions, and crispy onions, among other ingredients; it’s also fried. The Hog Tied is listed as a maki dish; if it did not have seafood, it would presumably have gone in the “Gringo Sushi” section. Regardless of whether you’d dare order one, it makes for a fascinating read.
The menu of Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar offers more of this strange sustenance. It seems no stretch to say that it is the best thing Fieri has ever written—a golden-brown Infinite Jest. The menu features a classic Steak Diane, to remind you that Fieri still knows his technique. The names of many dishes are little deep-fried koans: Malibu Oysters, Slamma Jamma Chicken Parm, Fully Loaded Baked Potato Soup. A larger number are paired with Seussian condiments, to heighten the sense of the fantastical: An order of wings, “brined and fried to delicious perfection,” comes with signature Buffalo Bleu-Sabi sauce. What makes this menu Fieri’s literary masterpiece, though, is its high-calorie comprehensiveness. T. S. Eliot, Hunter Thompson, and Sam Sifton could all find something to applaud in the descriptive power brought to bear on the Ringer burger: “Guy’s Pat LaFrieda custom blend, all-natural Creekstone Farm Black Angus beef patty, crispy rojo onion ring, Bourbon Brown Sugar BBQ sauce, LTOP (Lettuce, Tomato, Onion, and Pickle), SMC (Super-Melty Cheese), and a slathering of Donkey Sauce on garlic-buttered brioche.”
This Donkey Sauce presents a mystery to be unraveled. What could it be? (It involves mustard, mayo, Worcestershire, and garlic, apparently.) You could line up behind the tourists—who are indeed lined up—to experience it for yourself, of course. But Fieri’s craft is such that going to that length hardly seems necessary. Read it, eat it: The kick is the same.