In an age when more people understand the benefits of cultivating a healthy lifestyle, the inevitable meatosaurus pushback to organic foods and vegetarian cooking can get ugly. Never has it been as unsightly as the recently opened Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas. After failing with previous attempts in Phoenix and Dallas, owner Jon Basso moved his hospital-themed, diner-style restaurant to the one city that simply cannot comprehend what the term 'overindulgence' means.
Using controversy instead of money as his marketing technique, Basso's business sense is sharp—empathy and compassion, not so much. With menu items such as the "Quadruple Bypass Burger," which features four stacked half-pound burgers totaling nearly 8,000 calories, and "Flatliner Fries," cooked in pure lard, Basso comes from a long line of businessmen who use the excuse of "just having fun" as a permanent placeholder for personal responsibility. Nothing makes this clearer than the fact that people who weigh more than 350 pounds eat for free.
Walking around in a doctor's suit and hiring big-busted waitresses to doll up in nurse outfits, Basso straps a hospital bracelet on each patron before giving them a "prescription." For the mathematically challenged, the single bypass is one burger, double is two, etc. The ambulance parked out front won't actually take you anywhere if your arteries clog. Like the waitresses, it is a prop. Ask for diet soda and hear laughter. Obviously, cigarettes are available.
While Basso is not interested in becoming a chain a la Hooters or the Hard Rock Café, he dreams of expanding to ten cities, a challenge considering that he dive bombed in two others already. Nevertheless, I found it interesting that he chose Amsterdam as a possible location. I remember walking through the tourist sections of that city and thinking how poorly we sometimes define "freedom." Basso's insistence that his restaurant should be a treated as a "treat" does nothing for educating people on how what we put into our bodies affects us—the man refuses to put lettuce on his burgers, for fear that something "healthy" slips inside the intestines he's intent on busting. The only green that maneuvers into the Heart Attack Grill ends up in Basso's billfold.
If controversy is what Basso is courting, controversy he shall receive. There's an old sentiment that what you create in this world is what you leave with, which does not hold a lot of promise for this man or his establishment. In a country overburdened with medical debt, food deserts and little public education concerning food issues, there is nothing cute about such a restaurant. It's plain and simply irresponsible, and when the chuckles about the shock of the menu wear thin, little else remains except more pain and suffering.
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Image: Hamburgers Tonight!