Bobby Flay Steak Wine Pricing Controversy

Diners at a Bobby Flay restaurant said a bottle of wine cost $3750, not 'thirty-seven fifty.'

Published Nov 5, 2014

Swanky menus featuring absent or obfuscated prices are not infrequent players in rumors and urban legends, and a claim made by Joe Lentini after he and a group dined

at Bobby Flay Steak in Atlantic City's Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City echoed an oldie-but-goodie. Interestingly, both parties involved in the situation at the Bobby Flay restaurant appear to agree on the basic facts of the story.

According to Lentini and his fellow diners, a group of about 10 people visited the restaurant in late October 2014. Lacking his glasses, Lentini had difficulty reading the venue's wine list. When he asked a waitress for a recommendation and the wine's corroborating price, Lentini maintained, her answer was somewhat misleading:

I asked the waitress if she could recommend something decent because I don't have experience with wine. She pointed to a bottle on the menu. I didn't have my glasses. I asked how much and she said, 'Thirty-seven fifty.'"

Lentini explained the wine was neither exceptional nor unpalatable, and the party thought little of it ... until the bill arrived:

[A friend] was sitting across from me and he handed the bill to person next to him, who handed it to the next person until it got to me. I showed the gentleman next to me and we were shocked. We couldn't believe it ... I thought the wine was $37.50.

The wine, in fact, was priced at $3,750 — not $37.50. If the tale sounds familiar, that's because it very closely resembles the "Neiman Marcus Cookie" urban legend which has been circulating for more than 70 years:

My daughter & I had just finished a salad at Neiman-Marcus Cafe in Dallas & decided to have a small dessert. Because our family are such cookie lovers, we decided to try the "Neiman-Marcus Cookie". It was so excellent that I asked if they would give me the recipe and they said with a small frown, "I'm afraid not." Well, I said, would you let me buy the recipe? With a cute smile, she said, "Yes." I asked how much, and she responded, "Two fifty." I said with approval, just add it to my tab.

Thirty days later, I received my VISA statement from Neiman-Marcus and it was $285.00. I looked again and I remembered I had only spent $9.95 for two salads and about $20.00 for a scarf. As I glanced at the bottom of the statement, it said, "Cookie Recipe - $250.00." Boy, was I upset!! I called Neiman's Accounting Dept. and told them the waitress said it was "two fifty," and I did not realize she meant $250.00 for a cookie recipe.

Mirroring the old rumor, Bobby Flay Steak and the Borgata Casino refused to remove the item from the bill over the putative misunderstanding. Lentini and a friend said the restaurant ultimately haggled down to a still-astronomical $2200 for the bottle of wine.

The Borgata officially responded to the "thirty-seven fifty" dispute, and executive vice president Joseph Lupo said the casino had reviewed surveillance video (which lacked audio) to determine whether the server had deliberately misled Lentini's party about the wine's four-figure price tag. Lupo said the casino was confident that the group was aware of the bottle's cost:

As the leading culinary destination in this region, we consistently serve as many, if not more high-end wine and spirits without incident. In this isolated case, both the server and sommelier verified the bottle requested with the patron.

Due to these factors along with very detailed accounts from multiple sources regarding the incident, Borgata is confident there was no misunderstanding regarding the selection. We simply will not allow the threat of a negative story that includes so many unaccounted and questionable statements to disparage our integrity and standards, which Borgata takes great pride in practicing every day.

Fellow diner Don Chin disputed Lupo's assertion, and told a local news source:

Joe asked the price and she said 'thirty-seven fifty,' not 'three-thousand, seven-hundred and fifty,' which is what I would have said, so we all thought it was $37.50.

The Borgata has declined requests to share surveillance footage of Lentini's question to the server about the wine's price tag.

Last updated:   5 November 2014

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