So you love food. Like, you really love food. The thought of trying something new entices your foodie cravings and warrants constant ventures to new and eclectic restaurants. But how far does your fascination with food really extend?
A host of local eateries pose a question to the city’s most adventurous diners: Can you consume a humorously large dish in an insanely short amount of time? These (frankly foreboding) food challenges are worthy of only the most voracious patrons — think 7-pound pizzas, 11-patty burgers and an 8-pound plate of chili. If you succeed, you’ll get your enormous dish for free and a coveted spot on that restaurant’s Hall of Fame (and maybe even a T-shirt!). But if you fail, expect too many leftovers to fit in your fridge, a high probability of some embarrassing pictures on social media and what’s likely to be the worst stomachache you’ve ever encountered.
Brave eaters, read on (and maybe stock up on some TUMS): These local restaurants are calling your name. Ask your server for specific rules and make sure to call 24-48 hours in advance so staff has time to prepare.
The Place: Bard’s Burgers (3620 Decoursey Ave., Covington, Ky., 859-866-6017, facebook.com/bardsburgers1)
The Feat: Take on the 11-patty Bardzilla burger, plus a pound of fries and a shake ($40)
The Time Frame: 60 minutes
The Bardzilla is back and bigger than ever. When Bard’s Burgers reopened after a two-year closure in October of 2015, owner Jordan Stephenson resurrected the previous iteration’s Bardzilla Challenge, but with a twist. “When we reopened Bard’s, we figured people would come in bragging they had beaten it back in the day, so we knew we had to make it slightly tougher,” he says. “So we added the extra patty.” That’s right: If 10 cheesy patties weren’t difficult enough to consume, you now have to finish off 11 — each weighing a third of a pound — to champion this endeavor. Complete with extra cheese, lettuce and pickles, plus a pound of fries and a 16-ounce shake, the beast of a burger was even featured on the Food Network’s Ginormous Food, with host Josh Denny visiting the restaurant to check out the challenge himself. One hundred people have attempted to tackle the Bardzilla, but only three have been successful — although some have come painfully close, such as one heartbroken diner Stephenson recalls in particular. “He smashed the whole thing down really hard and there was an insane explosion of juice out the sides. It was like nothing I had ever seen,” he says. “Then he smashed the whole burger in 10 minutes and came one fry short of victory.”
NO FREAKIN’ WAY CHALLENGE
The Place: Blue Ash Chili (9565 Kenwood Road, Blue Ash, 513-984-6107; 4200 Aero Drive, Mason, 513-492-9650; 11711 Princeton Pike, Tri-County, 513-873-4663, blueashchili.com)
The Feat: Conquer an 8-pound plate of Cincinnati-style chili ($39.99)
The Time Frame: 60 minutes
Two and a half pounds of spaghetti. Two and a half pounds of premium chili. Two pounds of shredded cheddar cheese. A pound of jalapeño caps. That’s a lot of chili, and you’ll need to clean your plate to conquer Blue Ash Chili’s No Freakin’ Way challenge. The restaurant is known just as much for its eclecticism — the flagship Blue Ash store channels an old-fashioned diner with classic records lining the walls — as it is for its Cincinnati-style chili served 3, 4, 5 or 6 ways; the latter was even featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins & Dives in 2010. But if six ways (a standard serving of spaghetti, chili, cheese, onions, beans and sliced jalapeños or fried bottle caps) just doesn’t cut it, the No Freakin’ Way Challenge takes things to the next, larger level. Eighty-three people have attempted the challenge — including Josh Denny of the Food Network’s Ginormous Food — but only five have won. Not even Denny was victorious.
LEGEND OF THE DRUNKEN FIREMAN
The Place: Giuseppe’s Pizza (2607 Madison Ave., Covington, Ky., 859-814-8444, eatattheg.com)
The Feat: Finish an entire 7-pound Fireman Pizza ($50)
The Time Frame: 59 minutes
Behold the Fireman Pizza: a behemoth of a pie measuring 20 inches in diameter and weighing in at a whopping 7 pounds. Co-owner Greg Routhier says the dish is inspired by a gargantuan pie once ordered up by four hungry firemen. “The legend came to be when four off-duty firemen, enervated by their rigorous but heroic duties, stopped by to enjoy a few cold beers and some hot, fresh pizza,” he says. “The four heroes, unable to agree on toppings, boldly chose every single one available.” That extensive list of 20 toppings includes pepperoni, Italian sausage, ham, beef, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, olives, pineapple, extra cheese and green, jalapeño and banana peppers; when plopped on a pizza, all those toppings measure nearly 3 inches high. The staff was flabbergasted when the firemen finished off the pizza completely, inspiring the restaurant to challenge hungry patrons to do the same. Seven have attempted the feat, but only one has succeeded. “This challenge is not for the faint of heart or those with a sensitive palate,” Routhier warns. “Choose your beverage wisely…”
UBER TERMINATOR CHALLENGE
The Place: Mecklenburg Gardens (302 E. University Ave., Clifton, 513-221-5353, mecklenburgs.com)
The Feat: Consume a “super hot” 2-pound mettwurst measuring over 30 inches long ($25)
The Time Frame: 60 minutes
More than 100 challengers have faced The Terminator since Tom McKenna, a regular customer and longtime friend of the restaurant, came up with the idea for it about 10 years ago. “Tom was part of the first Terminator Challenge with professional eater Jammin’ Joe LaRue,” says Grace Harten, Mecklenburg’s marketing and events manager. “Jammin’ Joe managed to rise to the challenge twice, finishing the entire entrée within 6 minutes.” Because few stomachs are as ravenous as LaRue’s, The Terminator can also be ordered sliced and be split to share in-house or for carryout. Since the mettwurst was featured on the Food Network’s Ginormous Food in February, Harten says the restaurant has prepared 10 Terminators: six for challenges and the rest for carryout. Every challenger to date has been a man, but, according to Harten, the future is female. “No female has yet mustered the courage to face the Terminator, but we are confident she is out there,” she says. The Terminator comes topped with 2 pounds of grilled green and red peppers, sweet onions and sauerkraut, all on a 2-pound bun.
110 REUBEN CHALLENGE
The Place: Izzy’s (multiple locations, izzys.com)
The Feat: Finish off a gargantuan 110 Reuben and side of pickles ($19.99)
The Time Frame: 30 minutes
Izzy’s is celebrating 110 years of serving up their “world’s greatest Reubens” by concocting a sandwich of epic proportions. A super-sized potato pancake, a pound of Izzy’s Famous Corned Beef, crispy sauerkraut, Izzy’s special dressing and melty Swiss cheese are all smushed between a baked poppy seed loaf and situated alongside a jumbo helping of sliced kosher pickles. Less-adventurous eaters, fear not: The 110 Reuben is also available for parties and events or simply to share with some friends. Izzy’s will slice it up and provide it for $29.99 (the price is reduced $10 for anyone taking the challenge). Don’t miss out on this appetizing beast: The competition only runs through the restaurant’s 110th year. ©
INTERN CHALLENGE: RAMUNDO’S PIZZERIA
The Place: Ramundo’s Pizzeria (3166 Linwood Ave., Mount Lookout, 513-321-0978, ramundospizzeria.com)
The Feat: Two people team up to finish off a 26-inch pizza ($50) • The Time Frame: 10 minutes
One-and-a-half pounds of dough, 1 pound of sauce, 2 pounds of cheese and a choice of two toppings stand between two teammates and victory in this cheesy challenge. To win, participants have to eat every last crumb, strand of cheese and “floater” — any stray pieces of food that break off into your glass if you soften a slice by dipping it in water. Yum. Only an estimated 10 percent of those who attempt the task prevail, according to general manager Brian Seibert. “A lot of people get about halfway,” he says. “They start out fast and then get slow. People last week started out super fast and I thought that they were going to finish in time, and they threw in with a minute left.” Our (understandably tentative) interns were the first all-female participants to attack the massive pies; they split off into two teams, pitting Team Meat-Eaters against Team Vegetarians. Despite a valiant effort, we weren’t surprised — or disappointed — when they returned to the office with a few hefty to-go boxes.
Waiting outside of the restaurant scared and unprepared, the four of us discussed our methods: I would take small bites and spend less time chewing, Elisabeth would stack her slices and Mackenzie would rely on the method of prayer. Grace just laughed; she knew this Herculean task was beyond any trick she could pull out of her sleeve. One slice was the length of my forearm and about as wide as my skull. Two minutes in, I finished my first slice, leaving the other girls in the dust. But by the time I finished my second, they were catching up. On the third, I said how disgusting I felt for eating the most pizza so far. With 30 seconds left, I couldn’t do it anymore — when the timer went off, I felt nauseous, bloated and heavy. Although neither team finished in 10 minutes, Elisabeth and I ate the most pizza, so I guess we’re sort of the winners? But we still lost to our own stomachs. A food-eating contest is fun in theory, but unless you train your stomach in advance, there’s no way you’re winning this thing.
Advice: Choose light toppings and an experienced teammate. Eat breakfast and don’t drink too much water! — AMANDA WEISBROD
The idea seemed pretty easy at first: Finish a 26-inch pizza, totaling 3 pounds of cheesy, bready goodness, in 10 minutes. I had very few doubts about my ability to eat something 1/45th my size. But two minutes into the challenge, with my mouth full of pizza and listening to a chorus of glutinous groans from my fellow interns, I realized I was very, very wrong. Amanda and I split our toppings. Pepperoni and olives for me; pineapple and ham for her. Three minutes until our time was up and I was only one-and-a-half pieces in. Pitiful. I attempted to fold the pizza in half, but it did nothing to outsmart my body. The colossal amount of cheese and grease it resulted in was the last straw. In the end, I happily took the L and a Pizza Challenge T-shirt to commemorate the experience.
Advice: It’s important to start slow and eat before to stretch out your stomach. I came in starving, but it caused me to start fast and fill up even faster. Also, don’t put pineapple on your pizza — it works for flatbread but has no place on this savory monstrosity. — ELISABETH DODD
My average time for eating one slice of pizza is 10 minutes (the same as our time limit). I eat slow, and like former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, I believe steady wins the race. Hell, I should have bought miniature turtles to hand out at Ramundo’s. The pizzeria was compact, but the 26-inch pizza was not. I peered down at the gulf of cheese beneath me with banana peppers and spinach tangled in pockets of grease. The massive pizza was Goliath, but I am not David. No, I couldn’t tame it, but I did beat my own average: I downed approximately 1.5 slices (in my defense the slices were the size of my forearm) by rolling the slices up like a burrito. Afterward, my head swimming because of the sudden intake of carbs, I grimaced for a photo. My failure will forever be marked on the wall of Ramundo’s Pizzeria. Sorry, Ma.
Advice: Make sure you have a place to take a nap afterward; a food coma is sure to commence. — MACKENZIE MANLEY
I was never confident in my ability to complete this challenge, but until this behemoth of a pizza was placed in front of me, I had no idea what I was up against. I’m talking a pizza of biblical proportions — the behemoth that made an example of the power of God. It was fitting that Mackenzie chose prayer as her primary tactic. We needed it. My main approach was folding slices in half — a tip that comes straight from Ramundo’s website. They recommend folding, stacking and dipping your slice in water. But I could have done a bit more research to prepare. I opted for no breakfast; just coffee. The caffeine could be to blame for my shaking hands… or maybe it was the fear. Either way, I shouldn’t have gone into an eating competition on an empty stomach. I had nearly a whole slice down in two minutes, but by piece two I hit a wall. My remaining time was spent half-heartedly attempting a second slice. In a shameful display, I didn’t finish it.
Advice: Don’t go in expecting to win. — GRACE HILL