The Heart Attack Grill, established in 2005 by the ironically named Diet Center LLC, is famous for its hospital theme and atmosphere. The waitresses are dressed as nurses, the restaurant patrons are referred to as patients, and your order is your prescription. Unfortunately this prescription isn’t covered by your health insurance.
Seeing as I am a bit of a fast food connoisseur, I had always planned to take on the Heart Attack Grill. In the past two years, I've been to fabulous Las Vegas four times; every one of those times something managed to get in my way, preventing me from experiencing this wondrous restaurant. It became my mission to make it to the Heart Attack Grill. On my last trip, we all decided to head over to Fremont Street to check out the Old Vegas nightlife. I casually convinced three members of the group to split off from the rest and give the Heart Attack Grill a shot. Nothing was going to stand in my way this time. Or so I thought...
It was around 11:30pm when we arrived at the corner of 450 Fremont Street, just on the edge of the main part of downtown Las Vegas. A gigantic sign screamed out to me in all its neon glory: “Heart Attack Grill”. It boasted, “Over 350lbs Eats Free!”. I had made it to the promised land. The legends were true -- if you’re over 350lbs, you really do eat for free! In front of the restaurant sat an industrial sized scale that displays your weight on a big screen when you stand on it. We weighed ourselves; looked like none of us were eating for free that night.
I was the first one to head for the door and after giving the door handle a mighty tug -- as if to throw the door open and proclaim “Honey, I’m home!” -- it didn’t budge. It was locked. An employee dressed in a nurses outfit quickly came to the door and told us that the restaurant had closed early. Apparently it had been a slow night. I knew I couldn’t let this stop me, I had come to far and was too close. I pleaded with her. I told her that we weren’t from Las Vegas and that this was our only chance, my only chance, to eat at this restaurant before we had to head back home. My passionate appeal must have touched her; she told us that she would ask her manager and see what could be done for us. Less than two minutes later, she came back to the door and gave us the great news that they would open the doors for us. This was it. I was in. I had never been so excited to consume something so unhealthy.
As soon as we got into the restaurant, we were seated at the bar. Each of us was given a hospital gown and naturally, I wore mine like a suit of armor. We had already eaten a full dinner with our group of friends at Wolfgang Puck’s earlier that evening, but that was not going to stop me. Since we were the only people in the entire restaurant, the manager/head nurse, Tracy, took our order.
The burgers, appropriately called “Bypass Burgers” range from a “Single Bypass” (1 patty) to the “Octuple Bypass” (8 patties!). All Bypass burgers are topped with bacon (5 slices per patty - if you’re thinking about the Octuple Bypass burger… you do the math), American cheese, sliced tomato, and the restaurant’s own “special sauce”. Even the bun is coated in lard! The fries, known as “Flatliner Fries” are deep fried in pure lard. These are the only available side menu item. After all, you don't make friends with salad.
In case the above menu items don’t satisfy a patient’s high-calorie desire, for dessert, a butterfat milkshake (yes, made with real butterfat cream) is available in chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry. Like most restaurants, they serve sodas as well as beer and premium liquor. If you order a shot, it’s served in a prescription pill bottle, complete with dosage instructions and your name printed on a label. A great souvenir.
I decided that I would go for the Single Bypass Burger with a side of Flatliner fries. While waiting for our food, we struck up a conversation with Tracy who was very welcoming and accommodating - especially since the restaurant was supposed to be closed. After about ten minutes, our food arrived. Despite having already eaten, as I looked down at the plate in front of me, I instantly felt my appetite come surging back. I felt like a ravenous wolf that hadn’t eaten in days. Both the burger and fries looked exactly as they were portrayed in the menu pictures. It was exactly as I had dreamed it would be.
One thing that I learned while at The Heart Attack Grill is that there is a strict one combo per person rule in effect. With exception of the Single Bypass Burger, if the patient cannot finish his/her combo, their punishment is a paddling. Yes, a paddling. They even have a designated paddling station. It’s up to you whether you willingly choose to be paddled or reluctantly accept it as a punishment for letting your eyes write a cheque that your stomach couldn't cash.
It felt like only moments when I realized that I had already finished my meal. “Satisfied” would be the best choice of word for my current state. I was extremely satisfied. On a menu where the food is named after life altering surgeries, my assumption after eating was that I would feel sluggish... and possibly near death! That could not have been further from the truth. My journey had come to it’s ultimate conclusion. I felt full inside.