I’m as politically correct as the next guy or gal—I mean, woman—but when it comes to food and nutritional “should’s,” I’ll just pass.
Fat? Slather it on. Carbs? I’ll have black beans with my rice, of course, with maybe a side of mofungo and definitely some fried sweet bananas (the ones that always taste a little bit of ethanol—yum!), plus more of that hot, buttery grilled bread, thank you.
So when I first learned about the Heart Attack Grill, located in Chandler, Arizona—well, my ventricular organ just leapt. Founded in 2005 by one Jon Basso, the place is dedicated to serving “nutritional pornography,” something I didn’t know I wanted until I did.
Do you crave a burger? “Heart Attack’s” options include “Single,” Double,” or “Quadruple Bypass" versions, the latter containing two pounds of beef with mountains of melted cheese—for a total of eight- thousand oozing calories. The diner-esque restaurant also offers Flatliner Fries (fried in lard), beer, Jolt Cola, and, of course, no-filter cigs, to be enjoyed, presumably, before, after and while dining.
But the “pornography” doesn’t stop there. “Heart attack” waitresses are outfitted as nurses. What this entails—but you’ve already checked out the photos, right? Let’s just say that, dressed in micro-mini nursie garb including red cross-emblazoned garters, they embody a Russ Meyer fantasy by way of a Disneyfied Mass General.
Not everyone, however, is enthusiastic about the waitresses—who have been known to join customers at their tables, role-play (if you get my meaning), even jump into the arms of the mostly good-ol'-guy diners (who don’t, I imagine, miss a gustatory beat). In 2006, the Arizona State Attorney General’s Office sent a letter to Basso warning him that “…only a person who holds a valid and current license to practice professional nursing…may use the title nurse.” Basso countered by stipulating on the restaurant’s site that “none of the women…have any medical training, nor do they attempt to provide any real medical services.” And, he thoughtfully added, “the Heart Attack Grill and all its employees do not offer any therapeutic treatments.”
Though the State of Arizona held its fire, a nursing advocate started a letter-writing campaign and had real nurses (!) hand-out condemnatory fliers to customers entering the restaurant. The result? “The complaints have been good for business,” says Basso. With international-word-of-mouth, too, it’s more than likely that others will seek to duplicate the “Heart Attack” experience. If you’re interested, a franchise will cost you just $50,000.
Me, I consider the restaurant a reprieve from the clutches of those dark powers who ensure human wretchedness, all the better to save us from ourselves. As someone who’s helped chefs hone recipes to a dazzling high-endedness, and a totally disinterested diner, I’m heading out Arizona-way. And nothing, including myocardial infarction, can stop me.