If you expect The Heart Attack Grill to follow the recent national trend and start serving healthier food, don’t hold your breath. The notoriously unhealthy burger joint holds no qualms about its style of service and has no plans of changing anytime soon.
Walking into The Heart Attack Grill, located on Chandler Boulevard just east of the I-10 in Chandler, Arizona, takes longer than entering most restaurants. It takes a moment to soak in the warning splayed across the front door advising people of the unhealthiness of the food.
It takes even more time to take in everything inside the doors. Servers, all young women, fill the restaurant dressed in skimpy nurse outfits. They immediately greet all comers with a smile and a hospital gown; required attire for all “patients.”
For a restaurant with so many gimmicks, the menu is surprisingly simple. Up to four-patty hamburgers, french fries cooked in real lard and sodas made with real sugar cane are all there is to choose from. That doesn’t mean the food doesn’t pack a delicious punch, though.
“You are not hungry for two days,” said Arizona State University student Brad Hackett about taking down the monstrous hamburgers at The Heart Attack Grill. Hackett returned to The Heart Attack Grill with friend Nate Towse to enjoy a “Triple Bypass”; three ½ pound patties stacked high on a bun. Hackett said it’s the food, mostly, that brought him back.
It’s that same food that has drawn national attention from shows like Nightline, Dateline 20/20 and ABC News. Most of the publicity has been critical towards the restaurant, but employees like Alyssa feel that the negativity may be a little overblown.
“It’s a personal preference,” Alyssa said, “If you’re going to eat here you should know what you’re getting into.”
As if the food and the “nurses” weren’t enough, The Heart Attack Grill relies on a variety of other tactics to bring customers in. Customers who conquer a “quadruple bypass” burger get a ride in a wheelchair pushed by a server all the way to their car. And anyone over 350 pounds gets to eat for free any time they’d like.
This particular policy drew a large amount of scrutiny recently when The Heart Attack Grill’s 575-pound spokesman, Blair River, died of pneumonia in March. River was only 29 when he died, prompting many to blame the restaurant for his premature death.
Tracy, one of the managers of The Heart Attack Grill, said things got so bad that owner Jon Basso was forced to deal with a barrage of hate mail blaming him for River’s death. Some people felt that restaurants like The Heart Attack Grill have caused many of the obesity problems in the country.
But it is reactions like this that keep The Heart Attack Grill in business. Bad publicity is still publicity, and the controversial restaurant plans to keep things the way they are, even if that means ruffling a few feathers.