Barney's Boathouse Anchor Pizza Challenge

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.

After a weekend of challenges in which I had to battle not only food but other contestants, it's time to return to my roots with a traditional food fight. Just a man, a timer, and two days' worth of calories and fat.

Which brings me to Barney's Boathouse (216 E University Dr., 480-967-7744), the college hangout just off Mill Ave. that's home to the giant wheel and a nightly party atmosphere. Known more for its beer specials than food (50-cent beers on Thursdays? MADNESS!), Barney's nonetheless serves some decent grub -- but none is more daunting than the Anchor Pizza.

Get the rest of the test after the jump.

​If you're a fan of pizza or oddly-shaped foods (or both), you'll love this calzone filled with sausage, peppers, red onion, pizza sauce and tons of mozzarella cheese. Eat the whole thing in half an hour and it's free -- otherwise the pie'll run you 25 bucks. Victory also earns you a personalized photo on the wall of fame -- a spot only two eaters of the two dozen that have attempted the Anchor have thus far managed to earn. One of the winners has done it twice! He did, however, try and fail another two times, but still -- hard to look down on a guy batting .500.

Determined to become Anchor Pizza victor number three and totally turn on all the girls working the bar, I order the crusty behemoth. Half an hour and a beer later, a beefy server emerges from the kitchen carrying a massive cooking sheet that holds the Anchor. It looks like someone folded over a large pizza and jammed some long breadsticks onto the end. As they bring it out, the DJ near the front of bar plays the intro from "2001: A Space Odyssey." It's fitting, as this is an epic-looking pizza.

A timer is dropped in front of me and the battle begins. I begin at the tapered top of the anchor, tearing off chunks like breadsticks. My first thought as I chew: This thing is hot! The cheese is lava, and the first few bites thoroughly torch the roof of my mouth. Owee.

My struggle is helped by the addition of little bowls of ranch and marinara, which are cool and delicious. I dunk each piece of pie before I bite, letting the condiments soothe my aching maw.

​As I reach the thicker parts of the calzone, I'm introduced to the main ingredient in this meal: cheese. SO. MUCH. CHEESE! Each section I bite into is overflowing with the gooey stuff. I shudder to think how much mozzarella I'm putting down.

After fewer than ten minutes, I've finished the top of the anchor. A third of the meal is in the books, and I'm feeling good. I switch to using a fork and knife to attack the rest of my meal. As I chug steadily along, the girls who work at Barney's crowd around, admiring how cleanly I'm eating the anchor compared to some of the other contestants. "One of the guys who finished took his shirt off," one says. "It was gross; he was fat!"

The corners of the huge calzone pose no problem. They're bready, and a quick dip in marinara takes care of them. The difficulty comes as I near the center. Thick with cheese, sausage and other stuffing, each bite is heavy.

​As I near the end of my time limit, the cheese becomes a major hindrance. Once gooey and delicious, it's hardened to lukewarm putty that's difficult to chew up and even harder to swallow.

But I stay strong, downing each bite with vigor. Spurred on by the girls behind the bar, I take my final bite with 40 seconds left on the clock, becoming the third man in history to finish the anchor. The DJ tunes in to the sweet, sweet sound of victory by playing Queen's immortal anthem "We Are the Champions." I pay for my beer (but not for the pizza!) and walk out, both stomach and wallet full and happy.

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