As the wellness movement gains momentum in America, The Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas is thriving with the most cynical of gimmicks. The restaurant proudly promotes a menu and atmosphere that is intended to be as unhealthy as possible—two customers have suffered heart attacks on the premises. The concept is considered so valuable that a lawsuit erupted when a New York Deli served a sandwich called an “Instant Heart Attack.”
Profiting in poor taste
The website for the Heart Attack Grill features banners that say “Fight Anorexia!” and “A Taste Worth Dying For.” Menu items such as the “Quadruple-bypass Burger” approach 10,000 calories—a Guinness world record, according to restaurant owner Jon Basso.
The eatery boasts that its burgers and fries are cooked in a bath of lard. Jolt Cola and no-filter cigarettes are offered to customers who are referred to as “patients” by female servers (“nurses”) in provocative outfits who take their “prescriptions.” Patients who weigh over 350 pounds can eat for free.
Trademark infringement suit
About 2,500 miles east, the Second Avenue Deli in New York introduced the Instant Heart Attack sandwich, an 804-calorie gut bomb featuring a mountain of sliced pastrami slapped between a pair of fried potato latkes. When the proprietors of the Heart Attack Grill got wind of the Heart Attack Sandwich, they sued the Second Avenue Deli for violation of the Lanham Act, a federal statute prohibiting such things as trademark infringement and false advertising.
A federal judge in Manhattan wasn’t buying it. U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer sided with the Second Avenue Deli. In his opinion, Engelmayer said that even an unsophisticated consumer can easily distinguish between the lard-soaked fries and towering bacon cheeseburgers sold at the Heart Attack Grill in Vegas and the Second Avenue Deli’s kosher offerings in New York.
Kosher is the key
Another key difference cited by the judge is that the Second Avenue Grill is a kosher eatery and the Heart Attack Grill is not. According to the Village Voice, “in the gastronomic world, that’s like black and white.” Being kosher, the deli cannot combine meat and cheese in a menu item and relies on ingredients such as latkes and pastrami.
In addition to keeping the Instant Heart Attack on the menu, the ruling also allows the Second Avenue Deli to keep offering the “Triple Bypass” sandwich, described as including “everything but the kitchen sink” and made with three fried potato latkes, instead of two.
Life imitates art
The Heart Attack Grill has lived up to its name on two different occasions this year. In February a “patient” was eating a “Triple Bypass Burger,” which includes 1.5 pounds of beef and a dozen bacon slices, when he began complaining of chest pains. In April a patient was drinking a margarita and smoking a cigarette after dinner when she collapsed. Thanks to quick action by paramedics, both patients survived.