- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 1, 2007

TEMPE, Ariz.

This quiet Phoenix suburb hardly seems prone to social upheavals. Yet a small restaurant on the corner of Warner and Kyrene Roads has gained fame as the scene of a revolt against the government’s food pyramid.

The symbol of the revolution is here: 2 pounds of sizzling beef, ready to be stacked 8 inches high with layers of tomatoes, onions, bacon and cheese.

“Yes, we are against political correctness,” said a smiling Jon Basso, the manufacturer of this juice-dripping fare, the mere sight of which might give the surgeon general a heart attack. “We do it the way my grandparents did: top-quality beef and all-natural ingredients.”

The Heart Attack Grill, which opened more than a year ago, has attained notoriety with an in-your-face defiance of everything the politically correct and health-conscious crowds abhor.

No low-calorie salads are on the menu, and the choice of soft drinks includes none of the diet or decaffeinated varieties. The grill even sells tobacco, although it is forced to abide by a city ordinance banning smoking in public eateries.

The Heart Attack Grill’s potatoes, called “flat-liner fries,” are cooked in pure cholesterol-boosting lard and its burgers are named Single Bypass, Double Bypass and Triple Bypass.

On special request, the chef will produce a Quadruple Bypass, a towering goliath of a burger featuring four half-pound patties of prime ground beef with more than generous fixings.

This sounds like an artery-clogging ticket to an early grave. But, as the owner jokes, whoever said that some food is not worth dying for?

Thegrill’s waitresses, called “nurses,” sport provocative outfits with red crosses and assure patrons of their commitment to cart them out in a wheelchair if they have the guts to finish at least a Triple Bypass.

But Mr. Basso’s revolution goes far beyond nutritional issues.

In a blatant act of refusal to participate in building a gentler and kinder world, Mr. Basso openly denies male servers equal employment opportunities, requires his waitresses to speak English and unabashedly favors youth over experience. The median age of his waitresses, he says, is 20.

The restaurant holds Alpha Male Mondays, during which men able to finish a Triple or Quadruple Bypass are rewarded with a free T-shirt.

“In the end, they may leave here with more calories, but everyone leaves happier,” says Mr. Basso, ironically a former fitness-club operator. “And that’s because I give people what they want: good food and drink served by beautiful girls.”

Heart Attack Grill customers say they are tired of the constant drumbeat of advice about what they should or should not eat, of attempts to force the food industry to conform with somebody’s concept of healthy living, of governments at various levels trying to mandate individual behavior and tastes.

“You know, I may need to shed a few pounds,” said Chuck, a bulky building contractor from neighboring Mesa who declined to give his last name. “But do I really want spending my entire life eating rabbit food?”

Every revolution, of course, has its foes, and Mr. Basso’s is no exception.

In September, at the urging of the Arizona Board of Nursing, the office of state Attorney General Terry Goddard fired off a letter warning Mr. Basso that the job title “nurse” can be used legally only in reference to duly licensed medical practitioners.

In response, Mr. Basso added to his Web site a page for those “born without a sense of humor,” explaining that while the grill’s waitresses “offer a high standard of care, they are not real nurses.”

Facing ridicule, the attorney general’s office declared the matter “closed.”

But the Baltimore-based Center for Nursing Advocacy is still on the offensive against Mr. Basso’s business. Executive Director Sandy Summers says that the image of a naughty nurse, which the Heart Attack Grill helps cultivate, encourages the belief that nurses are supposed to provide sexual services — a belief she blames for complaints from 72 percent of nurses about unwanted sexual advances on their jobs.

Mr. Basso, who calls political correctness a form of “intellectual fascism,” said that if the center wanted to get rid of him, it should stop talking about him. He credits the publicity generated by such criticism with doubling his business over the past several months.

He says he will take his revolt to Phoenix proper in July by opening another Heart Attack Grill there — and then to New Orleans sometime around December. He said he is already “making too much money” and wants to make even more.

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