Friends who created fake New York City steakhouse with year-long waitlist open for one night only

Prank’s origins date back to 2021

Brittany Miller
New York
Wednesday 27 September 2023 17:27 BST
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People looking to eat at a high-end restaurant in New York City ultimately learned that the entire thing was an elaborate prank.

On Saturday 23 September, Mehran’s Steakhouse finally had a table available in its East Village location after previously having a waitlist with nearly 3,000 names on it. Around 140 diners showed up with no idea that the restaurant wasn’t real.

The origins of the prank date back to 2021, when Mehran Jalali and his 16 housemates were having biweekly steak dinners that he would cook in their Upper East Side apartment. As a joke, the roommates made a Google page where they could leave good reviews. Strangers eventually found them and assumed the reviews were real.

After more people got accidentally wrapped up in the prank, the roommates created a website for the steakhouse, and by 2022, the wait list had 2,600 names on it.

The group then attempted to make their prank real this past weekend, when they rented an event space in the East Village, and obtained a one-day liquor license and food-handling permits before inviting those who’d put their names on the reservation list.

Members of the press were able to attend the restaurant, including a New York Times food writer, as well as a reporter from the New York Post. The $144 main entree was called the Bovine Circle of Life, better known as steak and potatoes. The restaurant’s simple salad also came with an elaborate name, Agrarian Synergies.

A waiter even walked around with a gallon of milk, claiming it was from a cow from Uganda named Phillip as part of the meal’s concept.

Part of the prank also included a selection of framed photographs of Jalali posing with celebrities he had “cooked for” over his years as a chef, including Albert Einstein, Marilyn Monroe, Barack Obama and John F Kennedy.

“The worst-case scenario for me would’ve been if like, people realise that it was a fake steakhouse not because like, like the pranks and stuff, you know, that the lies were absurd, but because just like the food wasn’t that good, which ended up not happening,” the 21-year-old told Inside Edition.

The group also staged a celebrity appearance. “We had some of our friends come and hold posters for Drake so that way people walking by, people walking would think that Drake was actually inside when he really wasn’t,” one of the pranksters, Riley Walz, told the outlet.

According to the Daily Mail, the creators said they hoped the night wouldn’t be a “one hit wonder”.

“People said they wouldn’t change a single thing about the steak,” the chef added.

Since the one-night opening, more people have taken to Google to leave the steakhouse a review. “I got the luxury of being able to attend the one night only pop up and it did not disappoint!” one review began. “The waiter was very attentive and he didn’t bat an eye even when my husband asked him to recook the steak five times! Always smiling. We received complimentary wine because of this event. It was delicious.”

The review continued: “The chef told me he personally crushed the grapes with his feet and fermented the juice for 98 years. Wine was amazing but the showstopper was the steak. The aroma in the restaurant alone almost made me pass out. I was getting lightheaded as I did not eat for four days just so that I would be able to eat as much as possible today. The first bite was better than anything on Earth. I levitated ... Turns out Drake was there a bit earlier than me?! He has great taste haha.”

The Independent has contacted Jalali for comment.

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