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Bill Johnson's Big One Challenge

The Big One
The Big One
Zach Fowle

​Today's meal is a big ol' steak: The Big One, a 32-ounce porterhouse that's a slab o' beef of Western-style proportions. The challenge can be found at Bill Johnson's Big Apple (3757 E. Van Buren, 602-275-2107), an Arizona steakhouse with a rich history. Sit back while I indulge ya'll.

Bill Johnson, apparently, was a Jack of All Trades, having been at separate times in his life an entrepreneur, pilot, actor, stunt man, hypnotist, inventor and cowboy. He was also one of the country's original shock-jocks and ran a radio show right out of a makeshift jail-cell in his original restaurant on Van Buren. Bill would ramble away on air almost every while diners indulged in his restaurant's southwestern fare, and the show was eventually broadcast on several local radio stations.

The location I'm sitting in tonight is the very same Johnson started broadcasting from in 1956. The place has an authentic Old West feel, from the country music playing on the speakers to sawdust on the floor to the oral hygiene of the servers. The place is all wood and steer horns, and reminds me of a truck stop. Our server had a six shooter strapped to her waist which may or may not have been real.

The portions are big enough to feed any hungry cowboy, but I'm here for the Big One. Along with this 32-ounce porterhouse steak, I'm required to eat corn on the cob, baked beans, a biscuit and choice of mashed potato, baked potato, fries, sweet potato fries or tater tots. Our server rattles these off like an auctioneer: mashedpotatobakedpotatofriessweetpotatofriesortatertots. "I get to say that every day!" she giggles. I go with mashed.

Finish all of it in one sitting and your server gets to ring the dinner bell (essentially a little cowbell that ensures the entire restaurant pays attention to you). You also get a fresh white T-shirt that says "I ate the Big One!" and comes one size: big.

I lay down the $29 for my steak (cooked medium-rare, of course) and my server comes back 20 minutes laden with two plates -- one for the ginormous cut of meat and one for the plethora of sides. It's not a meal for the faint-hearted.

​But neither is it an impossible task. Having conquered a 48-ounce porterhouse before, I'm pretty confident. I alternate between bites of the steak and sides, keeping a steady pace between them. 

The New York strip side of the steak is rather gummy, and I probably burn about 100 calories attempting to cut through it and another 100 trying to chew and swallow. It's a little bland, too, requiring the aid of some steak sauce. The filet side, however, is gloriously tender. It falls apart in my mouth as softly as the adjacent mashed potatoes.

Keeping with this strategy, in no time the steak and all the sides are vanquished. I may have taken a break from feasts for a while, but I still got it. The meal never even stood a chance.

Victorious, I sling my newly-won T-shirt over my shoulder and walk off into the sunset. Yeehaw.

Click here to check out past Feasts of Fury. You can also follow Zach's eating exploits on Twitter @fowlelanguage. 


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