Visiting or living in the Lone Star State can work up a powerful appetite. But are you hungry enough to take on these epic eating challenges?
My love of competitive eating began in earnest in 2009 when the Libertine Bar, one of my favorites in Dallas, had its inaugural Brass Knuckle Corn Dog Beatdown on the Fourth of July. I’ve always been a big eater and I thought, Why not?
There are lots of reasons why not, I now know, but victory kept me from learning the lesson for years. I was more surprised than anyone in the room when the judges tallied up the discarded sticks and declared me the winner. I went on to win the contest two more times and earn a second-place finish after besting a competitor with a revolting tiebreaker: a triple-shot of rail tequila. My record is otherwise mostly losses, save winning a cheese-enchilada contest put on by local Tex-Mex mainstay Matt’s Rancho Martinez.
Even with my relatively positive eating-challenge experiences, though, the following feats of food frighten me.
The Big Texan Steak Ranch and Brewery 72-Ounce Steak
7701 Interstate 40 Access Road, Amarillo, 806.372.6000, bigtexan.com
Likely the most famous food challenge in Texas, if not the world, the Big Texan Steak Ranch and Brewery’s 72-ounce steak meal is free for anyone who can polish off the entire 4.5 pounds of beef (minus any discarded fat, with judges’ approval) plus its accompanying baked potato, salad, roll, butter, and shrimp cocktail within one hour. If you stand up, leave the table, get sick (or “reverse,” in the parlance of professional gurgitators), or otherwise fail to adhere to the rules, the meal is $72. Winners get their meal comped and their name added to a list of conquerors that goes back to the 1960s and includes people from around the world.
Kenny’s Burger Joint El Jefe Grande Burger Challenge
1377 Legacy Drive, Suite 120, Frisco, 214.618.8001, kennysburgerjoint.com
Kenny’s Burger Joint makes an excellent hamburger, whether you go for the straightforward Zed’s Straight Up or something fancy like the Mushroom Brie. But is it so good that you want to eat a 3-pound patty with chili, cheese, veggies, and fries served on a 2-pound ciabatta bun in an hour or less? Success gets you a T-shirt, your picture on the Wall of Fame, the cumulative 7 pounds of food for free, and a $100 gift card. Failure will cost you $50.
Ol’ South Pancake House Pancake Challenge
1509 S. University Drive, Fort Worth, 817.336.0311, olsouthpancakehouse.com
Finish eight pancakes in 60 minutes and the stack is free. Otherwise, it’ll cost you $19.99. Note: Eight doesn’t sound like much, but these disks are each a foot in diameter.
The Bistro B Pho Challenge
9780 Walnut St., Suite 340, Dallas, 214.575.9885, bistrob.com
The video of Eric “Silo” Dahl, a nationally ranked competitive eater, attempting this challenge was enough to dismiss any illusions I had about finishing the 10-pound bowl of soup, which consists of 6 pounds of noodles and 3 pounds of meat topped off with broth, served in a bowl big enough to bathe a baby in. The $200 gift certificate, free meal, and Wall of Fame placement is tempting, but even with a generous 90 minutes to eat it all, Dahl stabbed a chopstick affixed with a napkin like a white flag of surrender into the enormous bowl while it still had enough to feed a family of four. It does look delicious, though, and well worth the $22.99 vanquished eaters will pay.
Pluckers Fire in the Hole
2222 Rio Grande St., Austin, and multiple locations statewide, 512.469.9464, pluckers.com
I learned the hard way that I should stick to eating feats of volume, not spiciness, when I barely managed to get through a dozen wings so fiery that they turned my hands and mouth an inflamed red for the rest of the day. Twenty-five ($31) would have put me on the Wall of Flame but also probably in the emergency room.
Hypnotic Emporium Mount Hypnotic Challenge
9005 Garland Road, Dallas; 109 S. Main St., Mansfield, 214.354.3414, hypnoticemporium.com
Still hungry for dessert? The $38 Mount Hypnotic includes a scoop apiece of the ice cream shop’s 20 varieties covered with traditional sundae toppings as well as two Charleston Chews, Sixlets candy, a cookie, and a plain doughnut. The challenge originally had a 30-minute limit, but it has since been lowered to 15 minutes. Brain freeze will likely be the biggest hurdle with this one, so eat the candies, cookie, and doughnut before they get cold and allow the ice cream to melt a bit.
From the July 2019 issue.