Sunday, July 15, 2012

Competition for a Heart Attack

Heart Attack Grill, Las Vegas
As I write a book on why all the warnings about the "obesity epidemic" are such a crock, a news item reminds me that, refreshingly, some people just don't care. In fact, establishments in Manhattan and Las Vegas are fiercely competing over whose cholesterol-saturated fare is entitled to be labeled "heart attack."

This week, US District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer adjudicated Las Vegas restaurant Heart Attack Grill's suit to bar Manhattan's Second Avenue Deli--which is kosher--from calling its blatantly fatty offerings names the Grill feels belong solely within its own trademarked cardiac domain.

It's a battle that touches the corpulent hearts of America, where two thirds of the population are overweight or obese. And many of those people resent the constant barrage of well-meaning admonishment that they must become lean or risk a raft of debilitations and death.

Second Avenue Deli can now advertise its "Instant Heart Attack" (two potato pancakes filled with corned beef, pastrami, turkey or salami for $24.95) but only in Manhattan, because Heart Attack Grill's trademarked monikers, such as the "Quadruple Bypass Burger" (four half-pound beef patties, eight slices of American cheese, a whole tomato and half onion, for $12.94, unless you add the 20 extra bacon slices for an additional $3.69) prevail.

If you ask me, the whole thing is a (successful) publicity gimmick for Heart Attack Grill, who clearly is peddling a message with its reasonably-priced valve-cloggers. Now sandwich aficionados in New York and nationally are aware of its thumb-your-nose-at-authority menu, which brags about its lethality, and feeds the politically incorrect on many fronts.

Women's fronts, for one. Their waitresses wear low-cut nurse's 'uniforms' with red cross on their jaunty nurse-like caps. The website features a drawing of one reclining in a martini glass, with the line, "alcohol is good for you!" Clicking on the "nurse's schedule" takes you to a page festooned with drawings that will give any feminist cardiac arrest long before consuming the Flatliner Fries ("deep fried in pure lard!") for $1.84. Also on the menu are "no-filter cigs" (Lucky Strike and Candy Cigs "just like Dad's!"), three varieties of Fat Bastard wine, and the Butter Fat Shake ("literally pure cream!") for $4.62, with the option of adding 4 oz. of whipped cream-flavored vodka (another $4.62).

The beer menu revels in offense, showing a 'nurse' with a first aid kit saying "I like it in the can!" Other selections' captions: "Feeling ghetto?" and, for hard lemonade, "Get her to try new positions!" All purchases are "Cash only, plus 8.1% for our wasteful government to squander."

Blair River touts Heart Attack Grill
It almost seems the establishment is proud that in the past few months, two patrons suffered heart attacks while eating at the Grill counter. Both survived, though diners thought a February incident was a stunt and started taking photos before determining the slumping customer needed 911. In 2010, the Grill uploaded a YouTube of their "diet" whose side effects include "mild death." Indeed, the star of that video, 6-foot-8, 572-pound restaurant spokesman Blair River died suddenly last year, at age 29.

Despite the grisly associations, Second Avenue Deli, strictly kosher, doesn't skimp on caloric or fatty offerings. Its chicken soups are listed as "Jewish penicillin" though not as an antidote to its soon-on-the-menu "Triple Bypass Sandwich" ($34.95) which Deli owner Jeremy Lebewohl says contains "everything but the kitchen sink." Which is also its menu description for the Royal Second Avenue triple-decker sandwich for $27.95.

I'm surprised New York's mayor Bloomberg, whose obesity-fighting ban on sodas larger than 16 ounces may soon become law, didn't step in to restrict delis enticing customers with items as funny as..well, a heart attack. But obesity has a myriad of causes, and nanny-state legislators will likely tick-off their constituents when they meddle in both their wallets and their gullets.  It may be true that eating lots of fat (or lots of certain fats) is bad for you, or, as some experts insist, the opposite is true--that fat is our friend, and carbs are the real culprit.

Or, it could be that obesity is caused by something completely different, like a virus or a gene or environmental chemicals--in which case, the scolding about diet won't help, and will only alienate the sedentary and portly. And it's those folk the heart attack menu items serve.

I will confess--watch out, future Shabbat guests!--that when I cook, I go full-fat. And my lattes get the half-and-half treatment, no skinny stuff for me. Why? It tastes better. Heck, it tastes great. And when I put food in my mouth, I want it to be worthwhile. If it's not delicious, I won't eat it, sorry.
2nd Ave. Deli's "Heart Attack" is on latkes with pastrami

So I understand the desire to eat whatever you want, even if gorging on a lot of it might taunt an untimely end. And I also understand resisting the knows-better authorities who keep nagging us about what we should imbibe, and the attitudes we should  maintain. We eaters need most of all to be true to our bodies and our tastes, and relax a bit about the sustenance going into our mouths--while caring more diligently about what comes out.

1 comment:

  1. Are you paying over $5 / pack of cigs? I buy all my cigs over at Duty Free Depot and I save over 60%.