Alison Cook – a two-time James Beard Award winner for restaurant criticism and an M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing award recipient – has been reviewing restaurants and surveying the dining scene for the Houston Chronicle for over 12 years. She recently had a mighty tall burger at Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen & Bar inside Cancun International Airport, and she decided to share this gastronomic experience with her readers on the Houston Chronicle.
Never say never” is a maxim I try to live by as a food writer. That’s how I ended up eating a preposterously tall burger at Guy Fieri’s Kitchen in the Cancun International Airport recently — and, to my great surprise, liking it.
Let me back up a little. I had spent just four days in Tulum, eating at Rene Redzepi’s Noma Mexico popup and at the magnificent Hartwood, the acclaimed live-fire restaurant right near the Noma site.
After nonstop ingestion of ant eggs, grasshoppers, beach greens, seaweeds, chiles, mamey seeds, tropical fruits and manifold Caribbean shellfish in forms raw and cooked, my traveling companion and I had reached that classic stage well-known to American tourists: by the time we made it back to Cancun for our flight home, we craved a burger.
We stood in front of the wall menu at Johnny Rockets, one of the many, many chain choices available in the airport’s vast Terminal 3. Uh-uh, we decided. Then my friend Misha spotted the Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen & Bar nearby, and we were overcome with the impish urge to try the TV megastar’s wares — the fruits of his travels across America for “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” his Food Network show.
Like many of the food-obsessed, we had read New York Times critic Pete Wells’ epic takedown of Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar in Times Square. That was the November 2012 review that opened with a question (“Guy Fieri, have you eaten at your new restaurant in Times Square?”) and continued with question after question until the bitter end, at which point the queries had devolved into “Why did the toasted marshmallow taste like fish?” and “Did you taste that blue drink?”
“It was a rhetorical tour de force, and unforgettable. Now, we had the chance to experience for ourselves the thrills and spills of Fieri’s vaunted “Flavortown!”
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