First, there was Mariah.
Joining an increasing roster of celebrities who are getting into the ghost kitchen game, "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" host Guy Fieri has launched a virtual restaurant, Flavortown Kitchen.
Operating out of the kitchens of two Minnesota Buca di Beppo restaurants, one in Maple Grove and the other in Burnsville, Flavortown Kitchen's succinct menu is available strictly for delivery throughout the metro.
Fieri's restaurant is the latest celebrity-branded ghost kitchen from Virtual Dining Concepts, which is owned by Planet Hollywood founder Robert Earl. (His Earl Enterprises also owns the Buca di Beppo chain, which originated in downtown Minneapolis.)
Earl has tapped his circle of high-profile friends for his previous virtual restaurant endeavors, including Mariah Carey, who put her name on a cookie delivery company; Tyga, whose Tyga Bites delivers chicken; and Mr. Beast, a YouTube star now with a burger business. And he's not stopping there. Soon to launch are Mario's Tortas Lopez by Mario Lopez and Pauly D's Italian Subs by DJ Pauly D.
Earl was an early adopter of the ghost kitchen model. "I believe all restaurants, within three to five years, are going to be operators of some virtual brand," he told the Star Tribune in December. "It is the way to help them survive."
Flavortown Kitchen's menu offers wings, burgers, deep-fried appetizers and a couple of Italian-inflected entrees. Orders can be placed directly at guysflavortownkitchen.com or on delivery apps such as DoorDash.
Fieri's new venture got up and running far faster than his Chicken Guy! chain, which was supposed to open in early 2020 at Mall of America, but is still delayed. (You can order the Chicken Guy! chicken sandwich from the new ghost kitchen.)
Fieri has, rather famously, lent his TV-powered brand to restaurants before.
He opened the notorious Guy's American Kitchen & Bar in Times Square in 2012, only to be maligned by critics. Anthony Bourdain called it a "terror dome" and the New York Times' Pete Wells famously gave it a snarky 0-star review.
If early Facebook reviews are any indication, Flavortown Kitchen isn't emerging from its predecessor's shadow just yet. Complaints of cold food, delivery delays and raw chicken dot the comments sections. But the restaurant, which is rapidly opening across 26 states, is still in its soft opening phase, with an official launch the first week of March.
Sharyn Jackson • 612-673-4853