Heart Attack Shack brings big burgers, more, to East Ridge [photos]

A Heart Attack Shack burger and fries.

If you go

The Heart Attack Shack at 4345 Ringgold Road in East Ridge is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and closed Sunday.

You can eat for free at the Heart Attack Shack in East Ridge - provided you can pack away two 1-pound bacon cheeseburgers and a plate of "Flatliner XL" fries in under 30 minutes.

Succeed, and the meal's free. Fail, and you have to fork over $19.99.

The Heart Attack Challenge is just one way the new restaurant at 4345 Ringgold Road in a former Hungry Howie's pizzeria hopes to attract customers. The Heart Attack Shack's menu features bone-in and bone-out wings; fries of the straight, curly, crinkle and waffle variety; quarter-pound, half-pound and 1-pound burgers with never-frozen beef patties; and steak or chicken nachos - or "machos" in the restaurant's parlance.

"We want it to be a good experience - light-hearted," restaurant owner Brian Tipps said. "You can get an egg on your burger, if you want it."

Tipps, 36, didn't have a lick of restaurant experience - not even as a dishwasher or bus boy - when he decided last year to buy two turn-key franchise restaurants located inside T-Mobile call centers in Nashville and Chattanooga, both of which employ hundreds of people.

Tipps, who lives in Nashville with his wife, Jamie, and sons Pearson, 4, and Cullen, 1, previously worked as a teacher and minister at Nashville Christian School. He's also a part-time pastor.

"Really, my first passion is ministry," he said.

But he and his wife, who works as a senior manager for the auditing firm Ernst and Young, had saved some money, and were looking for a franchise business to run. Also interested was Tipps' friend, Bob Uldrich, who has decades of retail experience opening big box stores for Best Buy and the now-defunct Service Merchandise.

"That's what gave me the confidence, was him," Tipps said of Uldrich, who came on board to manage the three restaurants.

Tipps credits the Heart Attack Shack concept - which is original, not a franchise - to Justin Howarth, who managed the restaurant at the T-Mobile center here. Its menu had a heart-attack burger that was popular.

"I told Brian we needed to open a place called the Heart Attack Shack," said Howarth, a 25-year-old married father of a young boy and a girl.

Howarth also helped Tipps find the former Hungry Howie's site. The restaurant is mainly set up for take-out, but has four tables in back with room for 16 diners. The building is owned by the family that runs Ankar's Billiards and Barstools nearby.

The Heart Attack Shack is a work in progress. Weekly specials are advertised on the restaurant's Facebook page. And the menu - which is posted on TV screens behind the front counter - can change in a moment. When they ran out of curly fries one night, Howarth temporarily deleted that menu item.

The Heart Attack Shack had its grand opening a week ago today and already is donating to a local charity. Half of all sales on Monday will go to H3 Ministries, which does outreach to homeless people.

The odds aren't in favor of new restaurants, but Tipps says you can't let fear rule your life, and he hopes the Heart Attack Shack succeeds.

"I've always liked challenges," he said. "I don't want to be bored."

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or www.facebook.com/MeetsForBusiness or on Twitter @meetforbusiness or 423-757-6651.