New spots for fall

Spiky-haired Food Network star Guy Fieri makes his New York debut with this tri-level Times Square space that reflects the chef’s boyish tastes. The menu features dishes like penne with chipotle sausage and shrimp and a beer-and-honey-glazed porchetta, while the walls of the top floor are covered in huge images of Fieri’s favorite cars. Beneath a 12-foot-wide chandelier made from Fieri’s retired pots and pans, drink one of the locally brewed beers on tap—exclusive to the restaurant—that Fieri helped create in collaboration with Heartland Brewery. 220 W 44th St between Seventh and Eighth Aves (646-532-4897). Early September.

All Fieri’d Up

It’s early Wednesday afternoon, days before its scheduled opening, and Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar is three floors of hustle and hubbub. A swarm of worker bees buzzes throughout the sprawling space, setting tables, installing light fixtures, vacuuming floors and holding spot meetings to confer about logistics.

“Welcome 2 Flavor Town,” announces a sign up front, above a wall stocked with merchandise: T-shirts reading “Knuckle Sandwich” and “Kulinary Krew,” a $30 Guy Fieri travel thermos and mug set, and stacks of Fieri’s best-selling books.

Into the mix strides a barrel-chested, cowboy-booted figure all in black. His tattooed forearms are adorned with a chunky silver bracelet and a biker-style black-leather band, and a pair of sunglasses are pasted to the back of his bleached blond head.

“This is coming together,” he says approvingly as he eyes the swirl of activity.

This, of course, is Guy Fieri himself, food-TV phenomenon and all-around culinary Dude in Chief. The California native is here on 44th Street, off Broadway, because he’s adding a new item to his ever-swelling résumé: New York City restaurateur. As you might expect of a man who wears his enthusiasms on his bowling-shirted sleeve, he’s stoked.

“This is it, man — we’re launching a rocket,” he says.

How you feel about this development — whether it’s the most exciting culinary news since the invention of the gas stove or a reason to have your stomach stapled and move to Philadelphia — is in the eye of the beholder. And when it comes to Fieri, there are rabid partisans on both sides.

The fandom runs strong and deep. Since he was launched on the path to fame by a Food Network contest six years ago, Fieri has become perhaps the best-known food personality on Earth and the one who’s taken the chef-as-rock-star trope to its farthest extreme.

There are the hit Food Network series: “Guy’s Big Bite” and “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” where Fieri tools around in a vintage muscle car stuffing his face with burritos and barbecue, delivering pronouncements such as “off the hook,” “downtown” or, when he’s really excited, “money.” There’s Guy Fieri cookware, the Knuckle Sandwich cutlery line, Guy Fieri Barbecue Sauce — even a line of jewelry.

He hangs with Kid Rock, chats with Letterman, gets parodied on “Saturday Night Live.” He’s toured the country with the Guy Fieri Road Show, a spectacle complete with an onstage DJ and female fans throwing bras.

“His popularity crosses all kinds of boundaries,” says Jon Bloostein, owner of Heartland Brewery and Fieri’s partner in the restaurant. “I walk the streets with him, and every kid and every grandmother want their picture taken with Guy Fieri. Everyone loves him.”

Well, everybody except for those who wish he’d choke on a spare rib. That faction may be outnumbered by Fieri’s fans, but their passions run at least as strong.

To the haters, Fieri’s shtick — the spiky bleached-blond hair, the bling, the surfer-dude lingo, the greaser-meets-cabana-boy get-ups — goes down like a rancid buffalo wing.

They cringe at his riffing about “tickets to Flavor Town” and blanch at over-the-top recipes for dishes with names like the “Baltimore Beef Bad Boy” and “Mac-Daddi-Roni Salad.” They post blog screeds with titles such as “Nine Reasons Why I Loathe Guy Fieri,” and share their revulsion in forums like the Facebook page “I Hate Guy Fieri.”

“I look at [Fieri] and think what a lot of people think: ridiculous and painful — even insulting,” Anthony Bourdain, another chef and TV personality, has said. David Chang publicly scoffed at “those dumb f – – king sunglasses and that stupid f – – king armband.”

Fieri shrugs it off. “People are always putting you in check, and that’s what makes us play harder.”

The 44-year-old dad of two grew up with hippie parents in Humboldt County, Calif., studied hospitality at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, and worked for a corporate restaurant group before opening a string of successful restaurants in Northern California, including Tex Wasabi’s, likely the world’s only sushi-and-barbecue restaurant.

He landed on TV after winning the second season of “The Next Food Network Star” in 2006. It was when he started spending time in New York City filming “Guy’s Big Bites” that Fieri first started thinking about owning a restaurant here.

“I’m walking down the street and there’s every type of food, with beautiful restaurants on every corner, and just these heavy hitters: Batali and Flay and Colicchio.”

It was only a thought in the back of his mind until his manager suggested he take a meeting with Bloostein. The two hit it off immediately, recognizing in each other a kindred intensity and what Bloostein calls a “disregard for conventional boundaries.”

The massive, 500-seat eatery, which opens Sunday, represents, he says, the most complete distillation of his tastes and his passions. That means bold-flavored, “no boundaries” food, of course — Tequila Turkey Fettucine, Root Beer Pork Ribs — but the Fieri mojo is broadcast in other ways: there’s a Fender Room decorated with guitars and vintage rock-star shots and images of Camaros and Corvettes.

“It’s very much a reflection of me,” says Fieri — who says the bling and bluster overshadow his sensitive, “simple” side.

“When people come to the restaurant, I think they’ll get a really good understanding as to what I am as a chef and as a person.”

Although he’s careful to be humble about opening an outpost in the country’s restaurant capital (“I come in with hat in hand,” he says), Fieri also says he’s got something to prove to those with “misconceptions about someone who’s on TV as a chef, and whether or not they can really cook.” He aims, he says, “to come and deliver the real deal and show folks what I can do.”

Of course, by opening a restaurant in Times Square, he’s clearly aiming at the tourist trade, rather than the city’s foodie set.

“I don’t think many New Yorkers will go other than for some kitschy appeal,” says Andrew Knowlton, restaurant editor of Bon Appetit. Although Fieri makes an “easy target,” Knowlton finds his TV presence “strangely appealing,” and says he’s likely to stop by and check it out. For one thing, he says, “I’m a sucker for a good plate of nachos.”

If that’s what brings them in, that’s just fine with Fieri, whose regular-guy bonhomie comes across as sincere and unforced in person — and who, whatever anyone faults him for, can’t be faulted for any pretense.

“Look, I’m not Mario Batali, I’m not Bobby Flay — there’s only one of those cats,” he says. “I’m not trying to be something that I’m not.”

New Guy in Town

Whenever I take a trip back to my hometown, I get the opportunity to watch good cable. I catch up on all of my favorite shows and spend hours upon hours watching The Food Network. I really like the program Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and am always amazed at how these chefs can make such interesting fare in such large quantities. I think the host, Guy Fieri, is pretty amazed, too. His larger-than-life personality always comes across—whether he’s visiting a diner in Texas or a barbecue joint in The Bronx. Of course, Mr. Fieri is a chef in his own right and you can check out his delectable delicacies on September 6 when Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar opens in Times Square. The crave-worthy menu features Guy’s signature bold flavors and creative spins on American dishes (make sure to try the pretzel chicken tenders). The three-story restaurant is also designed to reflect his big, bold American personality—complete with a Car Bar on the third floor. Definitely check out this new Times Square eatery, which promises a truly memorable dining experience. 220 W. 44th St. and Broadway, the restaurant is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week. Call 646.532.4897 for reservations.

Off the Menu

GUY’S AMERICAN KITCHEN & BAR Guy Fieri, the Food Network star, is jumping into the New York restaurant scene big time. No fewer than 500 seats will be available for fans who hunger for his sangria-glazed shrimp. Mr. Fieri’s partner in this $8 million, 16,000-square-foot enterprise is Jon Bloostein of the Heartland Brewery empire, so there will be special beers. The restaurant, on three levels of the former New York Times building, has an open kitchen fitted with rotisseries and a chandelier from which the chef’s old pots and pans dangle. Mr. Fieri, a native of California, where he has a chain of Johnny Garlic restaurants, sees New York as the “Super Bowl of food.” He said he puts “twists on the classics,” adding, “I like to hit those onion rings with sriracha.” (Sept. 6): 220 West 44th Street, (646) 532-4897.

Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar

We live in an age when chefs have become rock stars (and, in some cases, rock stars have become chefs). And there’s no better example than Californian celeb chef Guy Fieri, who has walked onto the greatest restaurant stage of them all: New York City. His restaurant, a fist pump from Times Square, is a culinary power chord, with arena-rock-friendly dishes designed to appeal to the food TV-obsessed masses. While his animated looks and populist spirit set Fieri up as easy to dismiss, the food at Guy’s can — like a hit song — catch on. The super crispy Vegas fries, coated in a buffalo sauce, are addictive. Sashimi tacos could use a little less sweet soy sauce but are otherwise quite satisfying, and the pretzel-encrusted chicken tenders give new life to a well-worn dish. There’s a large cocktail selection, including a very good spicy margarita and a coffee-infused martini. And hope that the lights aren’t turned on before one last encore: the deep-fried ice cream.

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Food Network host Guy Fieri, who already has several restaurants in California, opened an enormous Times Square eatery in September, dubbed Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar. The sprawling 16,000-square-foot restaurant in the former New York Times building has 500 seats, several private rooms, and an open kitchen.