Heart Attack Grill
Las Vegas, Nevada
It feels so right, this themed dining attraction on Fremont Street in Las Vegas.
When we visited the original incarnation of The Heart Attack Grill (slogan: "Taste Worth Dying For!") in 2007 in Chandler, Arizona, it had just survived its first serious blockage. Skimpily clad nurses were part of the restaurant's tongue-in-ulcerous-cheek theme; they would deliver giant platters with dubious bacon and grease-slathered entrees (the Triple-Bypass Burger), and remove post-gluttony "patients" in a wheel chair to the parking lot. But a nation of nurses were outraged at HAG's haughty hottie depiction of their profession. They hated the stereotypes and rallied for its quick end.
The ensuing publicity acted more swiftly then an adrenaline syringe stab straight into the old ticker. The Heart Attack Grill hit the national news, grew stronger, and moved uptown into Phoenix, to a place with a drive-thru window. Founder Dr. Jon Basso, who had written his own Heart Attack Grill Diet book, had big plans.
There were a couple of uneven years, including a falling out with a business partner who opened a competing naughty school girl eatery, and Dr. Jon's new Heart Attack Grill in Dallas, Texas, which opened, then quickly closed (amid more protests). Soon after the death of their 575 lb. spokesman, Blair River, the Phoenix location also closed. Dr. Jon moved his practice to the heart of old Las Vegas.
Consistent with Fremont St., the Heart Attack Grill has an exterior ablaze with neon. The splashy sign glows and promises: "Over 350 Lbs. Eats Free." Apparently, if you're borderline on the weigh-in, you can be re-weighed between burgers to see if you're at the Free threshold.
The high ceilinged dining area is filled with patrons, visible from the street through the windows. And they're all wearing backless hospital patient gowns, along with patient ID wrist bands. This is a great touch -- no one is admitted until they have been properly admitted and "gowned" by nurses at the entrance.
The menu is the familiar offering of gastronomic horrors, including the 8,000 calorie Quadruple Bypass Burger -- but so tasty! Just in case, an ambulance is parked next to the entrance (a customer had a real heart attack there in February 2012, and another customer was felled on April 21, 2012; both required the services of a real ambulance). Busty nurse mannequins are positioned in front of a large video wall.
One significant change we noted was a shift in the clientele -- even after dark, there were a number of families with kids dining, where the original Chandler HAG seemed more of a magnet for unwinding businessmen and hungry lap dance fans.
On the theme eatery spectrum, HAG may now be a bit closer to Chuck E. Cheese than Hooters, but it appears to be working.
Las Vegas doesn't allow unsuccessful ideas to linger for long.