Friends jokingly created a fake steakhouse in New York, and netizens mistook it for a real one and signed up for a year in advance. How the organizers got out of the situation when visitors found out that this was a carefully thought-out prank, and how the big-little lie ended, he told Independent.
On Saturday, September 23, Mehran's Steakhouse in the East Village finally had a table available after about 3000 names were on the waiting list. Almost 140 visitors came, unaware that the restaurant did not actually exist.
The prank dates back to 2021, when Mehran Jalali and his 16 housemates hosted biweekly steak dinners that he cooked in his Upper East Side apartment. As a joke, neighbors created a Google page where people could leave good reviews. Strangers found them and mistook the reviews for real ones.
After more people were accidentally drawn into the drawing, neighbors created a website for the steakhouse, and by 2022 there were 2600 names on the waiting list.
The joke became reality
Over the weekend, the group tried to make their prank a reality by renting an event space in the East Village, obtaining a one-day liquor license and food service permit, and then inviting those who put their names on a table reservation list.
Representatives of the press were also invited, including a food columnist for the New York Times and a reporter for the New York Post. The $144 entrée was called “Ox Circle of Life,” better known as steak and potatoes. The simple salad in this establishment also received an intricate name - “Agricultural Synergy”.
The waiter walked around with a jug of milk, claiming that it was part of the concept and that it came from a Ugandan cow named Philip.
As part of the raffle, the restaurant posted framed photographs of Jalali posing with celebrities he has “cooked” for over the years as a chef, including Albert Einstein, Marilyn Monroe, Barack Obama and John F. Kennedy.
“The worst case scenario for me would be if people realized that it was a fake steakhouse, not because the pranks and stuff, you know, that the lie was absurd, but because the food just wasn't as good as in in the end it didn’t happen,” said the 21-year-old pseudo-chef.
Drake and rave reviews
The group also staged celebrity appearances. “We asked a few of our friends to come and hold up Drake signs so people walking by would think Drake was actually inside when he wasn't,” said one of the prank participants, Riley Waltz.
The creators of the draw expressed hope that this night would not be a “one-off”. “People said they wouldn’t change a single thing about the steak,” the chef added.
After opening night, more people take to Google to review the steakhouse. “I was lucky enough to visit this place for just one evening, and it did not disappoint!” – says one of the reviews. “The waiter was very attentive and did not give a damn, even when my husband asked him to overcook the steak five times! Always smiling. In connection with this event we were given free wine. It was amazing."
“The chef told me that he personally crushed grapes with his feet and fermented the juice for 98 years. The wine was amazing, but the star of the restaurant was the steak. The aroma alone in the restaurant nearly made me faint. I felt dizzy because I hadn't eaten for four days just so I could eat as much as possible today. The first bite tasted better than anything on Earth. I levitated... It turns out that Drake was there a little earlier than me?! He has great taste haha.”