Does Succesful Marketing Excuse Terrible Food: The Subject Of This Week's Review

The Heart Attack Grill opened last spring to a media shit-show. Jenny Block posted an article covering the open that coined the place Hooters in Hell. The story got 11 times more traffic than a typical City of Ate post, and that's exactly what owner Jon Basso wanted.

The marketing angle behind the restaurant is obvious: Make something so over-the-top and so evil the media can't ignore it. The result is free advertising that Basso happily facilitates with a marketing section on his website.

Making material for media accessible is a common practice for restaurants, but the the Heart Attack Grill's website takes the whoring to a new level. High resolution pictures of waitresses wearing nothing but a bra, movies depicting Blair Rivers, the now deceased spokesperson munching on burgers, copies of all the restaurant art and more are available for download. There's even a comic strip that depicts Basso as an alcoholic, barely able to control his waitresses, or run his restaurant. That last one's fitting.

National news shows ran with the hype, undoubtedly urging the curious and the hungry to pay the Heart Attack Grill a visit, but did they enjoy their meal? I just wrote about Yelp and how their reviews should be examined carefully, but the Heart Attack Grill shows an aggregate view of reviewers who are smart to Basso's game. The restaurant currently clocks in at two stars. Villa Nikolina by Organcity was the other place I could find with a rating this low; it's closed.

If I were forced to put my chips down, I'd bet on the same fate for the Heart Attack Grill. The place was slow during my three visits, and the first location in Arizona is now shuttered. Basso told me he's "moving" that location to Las Vegas, a phrase that makes me think of a traveling circus. With any luck he'll move the Dallas location too.

Read more about my assessment of Basso's burgers, and my interview with the good doctor in this weeks issue or the restaurant web page.

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Scott Reitz
Contact: Scott Reitz