The average person's stomach can hold about a liter of food, or close to two pounds' worth. But who wants to be average? All over town, restaurants are offering up contests of confection, defying brave eaters to ingest more food than they should eat in a week -- daily recommended values be damned!
Armed with a big mouth and an empty stomach, our intrepid writer Zach Fowle has dared to become one of these food fighters -- travelling metro Phoenix to face new challenges and prove to the animal kingdom that man belongs at the top of the food chain.
This week, my ridiculous excuse for a career choice brings me to Toby Keith's Bar and Grill (1065 N. Dobson Road, 480-844-8629) in Mesa. I arrive on a Tuesday night, when the restaurant apparently hosts amateur entertainment wrestling. Fitting, for this is the very scenario I'm faced with tonight:
In this corner, weighing in at a svelte 225 pounds; the Phoenix New Times writer and fabulous food fighter: ZACH FOWLE! (Enter applause here).
And in this corner, clocking in at no less than 100 ounces of greasy, all-American goodness; a meal complete with a 32-ounce Angus beef burger, a 32-ounce drink, 16 ounces of Toby's freedom fries, a 10-ounce burger bun, six ounces of fixings and four ounces of cheese: The Arizona 100oz. Challenge!
It's a battle of weighty proportions, food fans.
The 100-ounce Challenge is a heartless, Texas-sized bastard of a meal with a five percent completion rate. Our server tells us that of the 40 to 50 people he's seen try it, only two have completed it within the time limit. The feast costs $29.99, but if you finish, you win a $15 gift certificate for the next visit.
Devoid of any vestige of restraint or common sense, I order the monstrous meal. I have the luxury of choosing my own beverage to fulfill my 32-ounce drink requirement. Soda's free and beer costs extra, but I get the booze anyway because I'm a boss. A mason jar of Four Peaks Kilt Lifter is plopped in front of me in all its large-format glory.
Half an hour later, some servers swing by to present the foodstuffs: a beefy two-pound patty that could choke a donkey, squished between goddamn birthday cake-sized hunks of buttered and toasted white bread with enough sesame seeds on top to start your own farm, plus three or four potatoes' worth of fries. They also plop the official challenge timer on the edge of the table, its digital numbers flickering diabolically.
With the sounds of manly yelling and flying elbow drops from the nearby wrestling match providing background music, I dive in to the monstrous feast.
I'll give them this: the burger is fantastic. Considering the size of the patty, it's amazing how perfectly it's cooked, the entire thing a rosy medium rare that almost falls apart in your mouth. Juicy tomatoes, crisp onions and chewy melted slices of American all add to the cornucopia of flavors dancing around my palate. It's a medley of flavors and textures -- if only there weren't three fucking pounds of it.
To add insult, the server brings over some late-addition pickle slices to add to the poundage. I take it in stride and simply mix bites of the salty spears with the beef. I maintain a steady pace, and after just ten minutes I'm already halfway done with my burger.
With 45 minutes left, I switch tactics and go for the fries, which have already cooled and have become starchy. They'll be the death of me, as each bite is like chewing a nearly-raw potato. I quickly switch back to noshing the burger, with a few bites of pickle and swigs of beer mixed in here and there.
After 35 minutes of nonstop eating, the first waves of nausea hit. I'm becoming full to the point of sickness. I haven't even touched the top half of the bun yet -- mostly because it's dry and the size of a Frisbee. I'm seriously considering flinging it across the room to somewhere it can never be found.
Things for my poor stomach get steadily worse as the clock continues to wind down. The death blow is a bite of beef, taken at the six minute mark. Suddenly, it feels like a grenade has exploded in my gullet. I lean back, and all I can see are bright red streaks of pain. Ouchee.
The top half of the bun and about ten ounces of fries are all that remain, but I'm fairly certain I'll die if I take another bite. I sit stretched, immobile and in agony, until the alarm reaches zero and issues a shrill bleep -- the sound of failure.
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This was the most painful challenge yet. Never had I felt so utterly, excessively full. Perhaps it's because, in total, I had about 85 ounces of fries, beef and beer jostling for position in my stomach. As my faithful fellow competitor Todd puts what remains of his burger into a to-go box, a mere glance at it gets me dry-heaving.
I hate wrestling, I hate my job, and, most of all, I hate Toby Keith.