When I turned 40 a couple of years ago, only a few days had passed before my primary care physician sent me a nice little reminder that now that I was over the hill it was time to do more tests and follow up on manly things. So, I went to the doctor's office and had things checked and prodded and touched and squeezed and the like. You would have thought he could have at least given me flowers or candy first.
Anyway, since I am the big guy with the ravenous appetite, I got the lecture about my weight and diabetes and coronary disease and the like. I was so dejected by the lecture I immediately went to Waffle House to perk myself up.
Of course, Waffle House is a health food store compared to the place I had dinner at the other night. (Thanks to the people over at the Southwest Board at Chowhounds.com for mentioning this place.) The Heart Attack Grill is not what the doctor ordered, and I know that either cardiologists will be filing lawsuits to close this place down or this place is owned by cardiologist in order to enhance business. In any event, I found myself in the midst of a restaurant who's main goal is to make your heart come to a full stop.
I dragged Dave the Roommate along just so I could get his take on it. We hit the I-10 and headed toward Tucson, taking the Warner Road exit and, heading east, we crossed Kyrene Road and saw the little strip mall about half a block past the light. You could easily miss it as the mall is fairly dark at night. We did catch the Heart Attack Grill sign and pulled into the lot.
We parked and went in. My first thought was on how tiny this place is. It really is a small place in a small strip mall. The restaurant has one booth, two tables and then lots of seats along the kitchen area where the cooks makes your made-to-order burger. The interior is brightly lit and the menu hangs just over the grill. Dave and I grabbed the booth and settled in.
All of the female servers are dressed in nurses' uniforms of various materials. Our first server (they all share serving duties) welcomed us and pointed out the menu.
The menu is very limited: three kinds of burgers, fries, cola, and/or beer. The photos, however, tell the true story. Each menu item has a full-color photo of what you are getting. There is nothing to hide here. The Single Bypass Burger ($7.00) is a half-pound patty on a fresh bun and on top of that is an egg, cheese, lots of bacon, lettuce, a beefsteak tomato slice, red onions, and, of course, secret sauce. The Double Bypass Burger ($9.00) is double everything (except the bun). The Triple Bypass Burger ($11.00) is a monster with triple everything.
The tailend of the menu had the Flatliner Fries ($3.00), a generous portion of steak fried cooked in pure lard (!) then topped with rich, brown gravy and dotted with mozzarella cubes. (Note: the sound you just heard was your arteries hardening.) You can also get them with guacamole. Then, for the drinks, you can get a soda ($2.00) or a beer ($3.00).
That was the menu. You can, of course, have your burger without the tomatoes or minus the secret sauce. I didn't inquire about any cost for extra onions or tomatoes or bacon because I was still processing the Triple Bypass Burger in my mind.
Dave decided that a Single Bypass would be fine for him and got his rather plain: no tomato, no onion, no lettuce. I got the Single Bypass as well, with no tomato. Before we got to order our fries, our server informed us that they had run out of cheese for the fries and apologized profusely for the oversight. No biggie for me as fries with ketchup was fine. Dave, however, decided that his condiment would be the brown gravy.
I selected a Diet RC for my soda, while Dave went with a Dr. Pepper.
A few moments later our drinks arrived in traditional waxed paper cups. We laughed at all the signs and noticed that the Heart Attack Grill is rather serious about its business. This is not a place to come to drink. There are signs everywhere pointing out that there is a three beer maximum for each patron and if you don't like it, get out and don't come back (more on this later).
Within minutes, our burgers arrived. You could smell the fresh cooked beef the minute the burgers were at the table. Each burger was dressed just like the photo said, and was wrapped in a foil sleeve and served on a wooden carving board. Thank the powers that be I didn't get the Double Bypass. The Single Bypass was huge, including the gigantic bun (which was exceptionally soft and fresh). It smelled wonderful and I knew Dave was having a blast as he had that knowing grin on his face.
I picked up my burger and took a bite. Then, I realized that my worst fears were confirmed: I was going to have to inform my cardiologist that I have a burger joint I will be visiting on many occasion. The burger was fantastic. The beef was cooked medium well and the Angus beef was very fresh. The lettuce and onions were cold and crisp and provided a great contrast to the hot beef and bacon. Speaking of which, the bacon was crisp, salty and delicious. The egg had been fried and placed on top and added a nice dimension to the burger. The cheese was overwhelmed by the other tastes. The sauce was, like all burger sauces, a cousin to Thousand Island Dressing, which was fine by me since I like that on my burger.
Dave was clearly enjoying his burger as well and noded vigorously when I asked if he would come back to the Heart Attack Grill again.
Next up were the fries. Another server brought out my plain fries first and set an empty, plastic cup next to my fries. She informed me that the cup was for ketchup in case I "dunked" them. The bowl of fries had about 3/4 pound of steak fries. I picked one up and set it back down quickly. The thing was smoking hot and needed to cool a few minutes.
Meanwhile, Dave got his Gravy Fries. Like mine, he had a big bowl of steak fries, but his were smothered in beef gravy. Looking at them really took me back to a few trips I made to Montreal in the 90s and when I had discovered poutine, a very Quebecois dish featuring fries, gravy and cheese curds.
I tried my fries and they were awesome. Crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, and salted with a course salt. They were also cooked in lard, so they automatically got bonus points. Dave really liked his fries as well and said the gravy was "really good." However, due to the richness of it all, he said he would probably get them plain next time and have them with ketchup.
For the next 30 minutes, we worked on our burgers and fries and talked about how much we were enjoying them. They really were excellent. Everything was excellent, in fact. I was unable to finish my fries and some of my burger because I was absolutely stuffed. However, I was not unhappy about it.
I took a few photos of Dave as well and one of the servers came to the table asking why we were taking photos. Since we had finished our meal, gotten our check and were ready to leave, I explained my food blog to our server, who was certain amused at the whole thing, especially me taking a photo of a hamburger. She was also a laugh riot as she begged me to mention that she was the "hot Asian chick" who served us. To be fair, we had a good number of people take care of us, so I would rate the service as excellent, especially the "hot Asian chick" who served us.
Our bill total was $24.00. Heart Attack Grill prices on the menu automatically includes tax, so what you saw was what you paid. Dave and I considered the meal to be an exceptionally good value because of the size of the servings and the freshness of the ingredients.
One thing you will notice at the Heart Attack Grill is how much the company values its employees. The signage really focuses on the fact that the Heart Attack Grill is not a bar. I was a bit shocked at the large sign over the urinal in the men's room that said very clearly that if you were there to drink and harass the servers, you were invited to never come back (I cleaned it up for family reading - it really was quite harsh). I also understand the reasoning. Any Tempe business that serves beer is potentially a college hangout in the making. But Heart Attack Grill does a good job of mipping that in the bud with its three-drink maximum policy and the fact it is only open until 8 PM each night.
Dave and I departed the Grill and sat in the car, both checking our pulses to make sure our hearts hadn't stopped beating. It really was a great stop for a meal and we will gladly go back for a nice big burger, fries, and cola.
I am sure my cardiologist will be understanding.
Heart Attack Grill
440 West Warner Road
Tempe, AZ 85284
Dress: Casual / Medical Scrubs
Website: www.heartattackgrill.com (Check out the links to the Quadruple Bypass Burger and the St. Valentines Day Massacre.)