12/12/2012 01:37 pm ET

Guy Fieri Draws Crowds Of Irony-Seeking New Yorkers

A New York Times review of celebrity chef Guy Fieri's new restaurant has prompted a surge of diners to the mecca of tourist traps -- but not for the reason you might expect.

Restaurant critic Pete Wells' review bashed Fieri's American Kitchen & Bar in Times Square with a litany of questions directed at the Food Network star. "Did you notice that menu was an unreliable predictor of what actually came to the table?" Wells proclaimed. "Any idea why [the watermelon margarita] tastes like some combination of radiator fluid and formaldehyde?"

But instead of scaring diners away, the review -- which has been the most-read story on the Times' website in the last 30 days -- did the exact opposite, attracting the types of people who usually go out of their way to avoid Times Square: New Yorkers.

Locals are arriving in droves to see if the 500-seat restaurant is really as bad as Wells made it to be, BusinessWeek's Claire Suddath pointed out in a recent article. Suddath profiled several local New Yorkers who came to test the validity of the Times' article and see if the Awesome Pretzel Chicken Tenders really were as un-awesome as reported.

The verdict?

“I don’t know what [Fieri] was thinking,” Gary He, a 29-year-old Manhattan resident, told BusinessWeek, upon tasting Fieri's special Thanksgiving menu. “Maybe he’s just trying to replicate what your drunk grandma would make you for Thanksgiving?”

After Wells' review was published, Fieri appeared on the Today show to defend himself, describing the piece as "ridiculous, overboard and having an agenda."

Another Business Week article by economics writer Tom Keene criticized the negative revies as an elitist takedown of "the cuisine, the food, the diet of middle-class America."

But whether people are going out of morbid curiosity, to add their voice to the crowd-bashing, or simply because they are fans of Fieri's bleached tips, the consensus seems to be that the bottom line is doing fine. Even Suddath's generally-negative review admitted that "many more [seats] than I expected were full."

Apparently the adage that any press is good press is true, as Guy's American Kitchen & Bar isn't the only establishment that has survived following mixed media coverage.

The owner of the Southwest Shooting Authority, an Arizona gun store, reported a surge in business after his ad banning Obama voters went viral and garnered negative publicity.



Guy Fieri Barbs