A Villages restaurant that carries the name of a celebrity chef and television star has shut its doors.
Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen and Bar has closed and is no longer doing business in Florida’s Friendliest Hometown. The restaurant carried the name of the popular restauranteur and Emmy Award-winning TV personality best known for hosting “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” on the Food Network. On that show, Fieri would visit communities across the country – just like those many Villagers came from – to pay tribute to local greasy-spoon-type restaurants.
News first broke of the Fieri restaurant opening in Florida’s Friendliest Hometown in April 2017 when it was announced that Honest John’s Whiskey and Provisions would be closing. The restaurant was located at the highly visible and at-the-time desirable location in Lake Sumter Landing next to Barnes & Noble.
Fieri’s restaurant – in the building that also formerly housed TGI Fridays – offered the same basic layout as its predecessors with some not-so-subtle artistic differences. Multiple hand-painted murals were added to the walls, including Fieri’s famous “Welcome to Flavortown” catchphrase.
In early August 2017, aspiring chefs and servers were busy filling out applications on the back patio of the restaurant. Some of those seeking jobs included those who had worked at Honest John’s, as they were told they were welcome to stay on in the new restaurant.
Later that same month, Villagers lined up early to be among the first customers to try Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen and Bar, which officially opened for business on Aug. 25. The restaurant offered a menu filled exclusively with American-fare that included burgers, wings, steaks, pastas and larger-than-life desserts – all mainstays of the previous two inhabitants of the prime Lake Sumter Landing location.
Despite carrying a celebrity’s name, things didn’t go so well for the restaurant. Customers were known to complain about the service and some of the food items. And at least one rowdy customer left the establishment in handcuffs earlier this year after a pair of 911 calls were placed by customers from the restaurant.
That customer, Steven Roland Read, yelled at his companion and customers and screamed to a bartender that he wasn’t leaving the restaurant. And when Sumter County sheriff’s deputies arrived a short time later, he continued his irate outburst at them and had to be taken to the ground to be put in handcuffs – all in front of a packed restaurant that included Villagers, families and children.
Issues with the food at the restaurant also seemed to persist throughout its 13-month lifespan. In June, a Villages-News.com restaurant reviewer said that in past visits to the eatery, the experiences “were average with a long wait-time to be seated.”
The reviewer pointed out that while décor was just as people would expect if they’d ever watched Fieri’s shows – relaxed, wall murals, car-themed, large bar with televisions and very clean – the experience and food left something to be desired.
First, the server said they were no longer offering Fieri’s signature skull cloth napkins because they were constantly disappearing. Then a high-priced steak salad arrived that had a lot of fat around the edges of the meat – considerably reducing the edible portion.
Three other guests enjoyed “average” meals – “nothing outstanding,” the review said – before it all went sour when it was time for dessert. After a 30-minute wait and a near fire at another table from a fiery Roman-candle-type contraption on a birthday dessert – the Fieri-famous NY Marbled Cheesecake adorned with pretzels and potato chips arrived. But instead of standing straight up like it was shown on the menu, it was lying flat on the plate, which led to an apology from the server as she said, “The kitchen couldn’t get it to stand upright.”
The final drawback, the reviewer said, was the acoustics inside the restaurant: “It’s extremely loud and it was actually difficult to carry on a normal conversation with our dining partners.”
In summation, the reviewer called the soon-to-be-doomed restaurant an average dining experience with a disappointing end at above-average prices.
“We’d anticipated delicious food and a memorable evening out,” the reviewer wrote. “Unfortunately, the only truly memorable moment was the misfiring Roman-candle gizmo.”
It isn’t yet known what restaurant will become the fourth establishment to try to make a go of it in the Lake Sumter Landing location that appears to be a prime spot but has seemed to be jinxed the past few years. Other nearby restaurants, such as Cody’s Original Roadhouse, VKI Japanese Steakhouse, RJ Gator’s, Johnny Rockets and City Fire American Oven and Bar are known to be highly successful and appear to do a booming business seven days a week. But that wasn’t the case for the three failed establishments in the location many thought would be the best available in the bustling Lake Sumter Landing area when it was first built.