Lobbys 3 lb. Burger 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 brand-new college degree and a big mouth, our intrepid writer Zach Fowle has dared to become one of these food fighters -- travelling metro Phoenix to face new challenges to prove to the animal kingdom that man belongs at the top of the food chain.

The problem with the Three Pound Burger Challenge at Lobbys (3141 S. McClintock Road, Tempe, 480-897-1113) isn't the poundage.

Any decently-sized and properly motivated man my age can put away a baby's weight in food in a day, given the opportunity. The problem is the time limit.

I have just 10 minutes to finish nine 1/3-pound patties -- plus another nine fat slices of gooey cheddar cheese, a bun and some toppings. To finish on time, I'll have to eat a pound of food every 3 minutes -- not impossible, but pretty damn difficult.

It takes the brain 20 minutes to register that your stomach's full, so the plan is to eat my ass off and finish before my body even realizes what abuse I'm putting it through.

​My fellow competitor Todd and I fork over the $20 entry fee -- a bargain, really, for what's in essence 16 quarter-pounders -- and the guys behind the counter bring out the burgers a few minutes later.

Each sandwich is beastly, a foot tall and bursting with glistening chuck and steamy cheese. Over 30 people have tried, they say, and only four have succeeded. A wall of fame with the pictures of the victors shows that all of them finished within seconds of the deadline, except a girl who can't weigh more than 90 pounds whose picture claims she finished in six minutes. I'm positive it's a joke, put there to mock me.

After a cursory wait for the burger to cool a bit, the Lobbys guys hit the timers and the battle begins. There's no time to savor, and I wish I could, because this burger looks and smells delicious. Thick pieces of extremely juicy meat are topped with hunks of cheese that trail down the sides like golden lava. It would be beautiful if I had time to admire it.

As it is, I slap the behemoth unceremoniously on its side and begin devouring. At first, I tried to go caveman on it, using just the hands and face to attack the burger as it lay horizontal like a meaty corn on the cob. This quickly proves reckless -- a burned mouth, no opportunity for the addition of ketchup (a necessity), and juicy overflow the result. Grease is everywhere.

I switch to Todd's more calculated (and dignified) method of sliding each patty off the stick and attacking it individually with a plastic fork. But about five minutes in: CRISIS! My fork snaps.

Time is of the essence, so instead of leaving the table for another utensil I return to my former caveman ways, picking up each patty bare-handed.

​A minute later, I'm feeling confident that I can finish. Only four 1/3-pound patties and the bun remain -- just one patty per minute! Easy.

But oh, how quickly things change. With just over two minutes left on the clock, my stomach spasms as if I've been punched. The medium-rare menace in my belly is fighting back, and he's pissed. Feelings of nausea and exhaustion wash over me. I can't go on.

Valiantly, I attempt a final push, but a pound of meat still remains and my pace has been slowed to that of a camel lazily chewing cud. I struggle through just another half a patty before time expires.

I've been bested by today's challenge, but there is a bright side: I have a nicely-sized burger left over for dinner tomorrow.

And I'll be back to face the four-pound burger again. Until next time, Lobbs.

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Zach Fowle
Contact: Zach Fowle