The Houston location of Guard and Grace opened this week to much fanfare. The 15,000-square-foot modern steakhouse, complete with 30-foot-tall glass walls, is the first restaurant outside of Colorado for chef Troy Guard, who opened the original Guard and Grace in Denver in 2014. There’s a lot of intriguing stuff on the menu—oak-fired octopus, a prosciutto tasting flight, something called a “taco sushi roll”—but let’s not bother with any of that, because we have to talk about the fajitas. Specifically, the menu item called “millionaire fajitas,” which a press release from the restaurant says will cost $400 (these babies are not on the Denver menu).
What about these fajitas makes them so special? Well, they’re made with wagyu beef, they come with a side of caviar—the secret ingredient that’s always been missing from non-millionaire fajitas—and the tortillas are “sprinkled in gold.” So you can eat like a millionaire.
Wagyu beef is very good, and it is very expensive. Ordering a pound and a half of wagyu skirt steak from Snake River Farms, which sells it via mail order, will set you back $69. The fajitas at Guard and Grace—which also come in a 24-ounce portion—are made of rib cap, which is a better cut of meat and starts at $89. As a restaurant, Guard and Grace isn’t paying mail-order prices for their meat, but there’s a starting point for you. Add a little caviar, sprinkle on that gold, and voila, $400 fajitas.
Except, you know, $400 for a single item on a menu is not something you order just for the heck of it. It’s not even something normal people order as a treat. If you want a treat at Guard and Grace, they offer a “filet flight,” which is three 4-ounce portions of different filets mignon (prime, wagyu, and angus) for $112. That’s still a lot of money, but you can make sense of it. You just graduated from college! You love steak; it’s time to celebrate. But you’re not ordering the $400 fajitas because you got a promotion. The clue is right there in the name.
They’re not called “special occasion splurge fajitas”; they’re called “millionaire fajitas.” If you’re the sort of person who would order fajitas anywhere, then you already like beef, so that part of the dish makes sense. Caviar is a matter of taste, I guess, but it’s also the most status-symbol food there is. (Source: that TV show in the eighties that was literally called Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and whose host, Robin Leach, wished viewers “champagne wishes and caviar dreams.”) Gold? It literally tastes like nothing. But that’s the point. You order the millionaire fajitas if you’re rich enough that you can throw money away on extravagances that add nothing to your meal, and you want the people who are within earshot when you order to know that about you.
“Millionaire Fajitas” isn’t the first status-symbol meal to find itself glittering its way onto the plates of the most affluent among us, of course. In fact, this comes on the heels of the recent announcement that Tilman Fertitta’s Post Oak Hotel—just nine miles from Guard and Grace—was selling a $1,600 burger (that wagyu beef again). The trend has been established enough that in 2012, New York food truck 666 Burger introduced a $666 “Douche Burger,” wrapped in gold, stuffed with foie gras, and topped with caviar and cheese melted in champagne steam. The sandwich got ordered anyway, despite its name, because it’s impossible to create a status symbol that mocks rich people that some number of rich people aren’t going to want anyway. (In 2008, in the early days of the iPhone, at least eight people purchased a $999 app called “I Am Rich” that displayed a drawing of a ruby on their screen when open.)
Guard and Grace isn’t outright mocking people who feel an urge to demonstrate how little they value money. (The press release says only that the fajitas are for “the truly unrestrained diner,” which is one way of putting that.) The language on the menu suggests that there are a few ways to allow people to indulge in some conspicuous consumption. Diners who want the “grand seafood tower” can order at a rate per “person,” “pro,” or “boss,” if they want to feel like they’re a mid-aughts rapper trying to pretend that record labels still give advances. There’s also something called a “Brontosaurus Steak,” if you want to feel like you’re eating a dinosaur that may or may not have ever existed.
The millionaire fajitas are probably delicious. They’re from a good chef, with good ingredients, in a very nice restaurant. But there’s no way on earth for them to ever be worth $400, because Guard and Grace isn’t selling you food. They’re selling you the experience of feeling rich as hell, and if you have to throw away money on gold-sprinkled flour tortillas to get it, then even if that works, it’s not going to make you feel the way you want it to. They could charge $4,000 or $40,000 for them—in the end, you can stuff yourself full of all the wagyu rib cap, caviar, and literal friggin’ gold you want, it’s never going to fill up the part of you that’s missing. Bon appétit!