They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Whoever “they” are, I think they are right, because moving to a city where there isn’t a single Chili’s Bar & Restaurant for miles has made me obsessed with Chili’s.
In the past week, I’ve desperately dreamed that I was eating at Chili’s. I’ve mentally salivated over Awesome Blossoms. I’ve had lustful thoughts about the smells of their skillets. I wouldn’t sell my soul, but I might sell something valuable for one of their Baby Back Ribs. I’ve rewatched the video interview wherein Tom Hiddleston proclaims his love for Chili’s chicken sandwich. I actually posted on twitter that I would gladly own and operate a Chili’s franchise if I could live in a romantic garret above the restaurant with a pet raccoon named “Old Timer”.
The weird thing is I don’t usually think about Chili’s and how much I love their salt and pepper seasoned fries or cheap margaritas or delectable Old Timer burgers. Living in New York City means I have access to so many amazing restaurants that are run by young innovative chefs and old world immigrant families who are bringing their best recipes at fairly reasonable prices to pretentious weirdoes like me. Right now, for instance, I’m sitting in Cafe Steinhof, this amazing German bar and restaurant in Park Slope, and I just had this outrageously delicious lunch of kielbasa and roasted potatoes. It was so, so good. So are the guacamole and margaritas a block down at Fonda or the bacon macaroni and cheese at the Double Windsor across from Prospect Park or the Greek food at Souvlaki in the LES or the lamb korma at Sonar Gaow on 6th Ave.
What I’m saying is that I am tremendously spoiled for outstanding cuisine that’s within my administrative assistant’s budget. There’s no major reason for me to miss a chain like Chili’s. I get to eat there a few times a year when I visit family in the suburbs or find myself in an airport with a Chili’s To-Go, and it’s great! It hits the spot and gives me nostalgia for growing up in Delaware, but I never, ever violently miss it.
Well, I never missed it until this past week, when I ate at Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar in Times Square.
Last Friday, one of my best friends and I went out for dinner at Guy Fieri’s restaurant in Times Square. It’s become totally famous in the last week since I dined on pepperoni mozzarella sticks there, but not for its cuisine. This past week, New York Times food critic Pete Wells published a hilariously awful review of the restaurant. Unfortunately, for me, my friend and I went before the review came out, with the misconception that the food would be decadent and ridiculous, but still delicious. It wound up being none of those things.
The food was…bland. Boring. Overpriced. Basically, much as Pete Wells described it. No one in the restaurant was smiling, laughing or having a good time–except for my friend and I, and we surmised that it was because we were the only ones there ironically*. We saw two couples on dates there and both couples looked sadder that Romeo and Juliet, and yet not suicidal because they were so sedate from all the empty, flavorless calories they had just ingested.
“I just…I just thought it would be like a journey through Guy Fieri’s mind,” I said forlornly as I dipped flavorless fries into a small tub of ketchup.
My friend laughed, but I was serious. My only encounters with Guy Fieri are watching him eat quality American dive food (which is rich, flavorful and full of joy) on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (which is playing non-stop in the ladies room), basting a hunk of beef in tequila on television and watching him, drunk out of his mind, red and sweaty, try to drunkenly enter an apartment building on 3rd Avenue under the assumption it was a bar.
So, I’ve always thought of Fieri as the Tracy Morgan of chefs. I assumed that eating in his restaurant would be the most outrageously gluttonous and delicious dining adventure of my life.
I was wrong.
“I just wish…I just wish I was at Chili’s,” I told my friend. “I’d rather be at Chili’s. Their food is so, so, so much better. And cheaper.”
I really did. I wished I was at Chili’s.
I still wish I could have gone to a Chili’s instead of Guy Fieri’s restaurant. At least there they don’t lie to you. Guy Fieri’s “seasoned fries” have only the scantest amount of salt and pepper on them. Chili’s straight up fries are coated in salt and pepper and you have as much ketchup as you want already on the table.
So if you’re craving flavorful and simple American cuisine, please go to Chili’s. Please do not go try Guy Fieri’s Restaurant. Don’t give that weird, bloated buffoon any more money. Sure, I once went to a pancake diner in Jersey City that was featured on his show and had the best pancakes I’ve ever had, but Guy Fieri didn’t make those peanut butter pancakes. Hardworking diner cooks did.
Go to Chili’s or go someplace local that squeezes their soul into their food, because I can assure you, Guy Fieri only pumped corporate investor money into his place. And money doesn’t taste good.
Also, Chili’s is really awesome, guys. Don’t let any pretentious buffoons tell you otherwise.
Featured image originally via wikipedia. Then I was mean and bitter because I had a bad experience at his Times Square restaurant so I edited it like a meanie.
*Living ironically is an unfortunate side effect of being in your late twenties, single, bored and living in the outer boroughs of Manhattan. It’s a total cliche, but sometimes it passes the time. I HAVE NO REGRETS.