When Banger Smith created the 5-pound Behemoth Burger challenge for the Ram Restaurant & Brewery, it wasn’t just about flavor or ingredients – it was about enormity.
“When people see that burger, they say, ‘You gotta try this, you gotta see this,’ ” said Smith, a brand developer with the local Ram restaurant chain. “This has nothing to do with trying to be – how do I put this – this is not our healthy approach to dining. I’m sure someone will look at this and say, ‘I can’t believe you’re doing this.’”
Health concerns aside – from what surely must be serious gastric distress after consuming 5 pounds of burger and fries – a food dare is, after all, a dare. It’s a badge of honor for some diners to eat something as big as their head to win a T-shirt proclaiming gluttonous glory.
Eating giant plates of food – and getting recognition for it – is nothing new, but restaurant food challenges have become even more popular since the Travel Channel’s “Man V. Food” show catapulted restaurants with monster food challenges to popularity. Host Adam Richman travels the country and powers through ridiculous food dares of mammoth proportions. Never watched the show? Think of a guy sitting there with 8 pounds of sirloin steak and 40 minutes to eat it. It’s the stuff that makes nutritionists and mothers shudder. It makes for great television.
If Richman were to come to Tacoma, he might tackle the 6-pound burrito at Masa or the giant hashbrown-egg scramble at Marcia’s Silver Spoon.
But if I were a betting woman, I’d put money on Richman tackling burgers around Tacoma. Besides the Ram’s Behemoth burger, at least four other local restaurants offer challenges featuring burgers that are as big as my head. Not that I measured or ate any of them. There isn’t enough hazard pay in the world to make me eat a 5-pound burger.
Completing the challenges will earn a diner anything from a free T-shirt to a free meal. Some winners get their pictures flashed on a television screen at the restaurant, others get their pictures on the restaurant’s Facebook page.
For restaurant owners, food challenges bring word-of-mouth hype at a time when getting diners in seats can be difficult. “We wanted to create some novelty. We wanted to create something that people would talk about,” Smith said.
Jeff Call, owner of the Stonegate, said big burgers generate buzz. “You have to do things to catch people’s eyes. It’s a tough time to start a business,” Call said.
“It’s got to be fun for diners. And what’s more fun than a giant burger?” he said of his 6-pound burger-and-fry challenge. “People see it and they can’t believe it’s real. You can always get some guy and people will egg him on. … There’s a lot of camaraderie around taking on a challenge. People like cheering them on.”
Shawn DeCicco, whose Loose Wheel Bar and Grill has a 6-pound burger-and-potato wedge challenge, said he’d never try to eat a giant burger. “I would never do it myself, but there are people who thrive on that type of thing and that’s why we do it. People like challenges. It’s like, why do you climb a mountain? Because it’s there. Why do you try to eat six and a half pounds of food? Because it’s there.”
Curious? Here is a breakdown of five burger challenges around town. Proceed with caution.
Where: The Ram Restaurants
Locations: 3001 Ruston Way, Tacoma (253-756-7886); 10019 59th Ave., Lakewood (253-584-3191); 10403 156th St. E., Puyallup ( 253-445-1005); 103 35th Ave. S.E., Puyallup (253-841-3317); 8100 Freedom Lane N.E. Suite C, Lacey (360-923-5900). www.theram.com
The weigh-in: About five pounds of burger and fries.
Between the buns: Stacked between two 5-inch buns are three 1-pound burger patties, a layer each of corned beef, ham, two bacon strips, horseradish, havarti cheese, cheddar cheese, American cheese, sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions, fried Anaheim chile straws, lettuce, tomato, pickles, black jack mustard and mayo. The plate is finished with a pound of fries.
The cost: $24.99
Your reward: There’s no time limit to finish this one, but you must finish it alone. If you eat it all, you win a T-shirt for your effort.
The contenders: 931 have tried the challenge, but only about 73 have completed it.
The lowdown: Ram restaurants started offering the burger in March. Smith, the burger’s creator, said the burger went through 15 prototypes. “When I first created it, I wanted a burger that had its own ZIP code,” said Smith. The pleasant surprise, he said, is that it’s a shareable burger and has decent flavor. “If you want to make it a deluxe, we’ll add a couple of eggs,” quipped Smith.
Nutritional value: “It’s a gazillion grams of fat,” Smith joked.
What Were You Thinking Burger
Where: The Loose Wheel Bar & Grill, 6108 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253-301-1647, theloosewheel.com
The weigh-in: 6-plus pounds of burger and jojo potato wedges.
Between the buns: The burger challenge is actually two complete grilled cheese sandwiches – with your choice of cheese – surrounding a 2-pound burger patty, a half pound of bacon, and a half pound of veggies (lettuce, tomatoes and pickles). Two pounds of potato wedges come on the side.
The cost: $18.95 as a challenge, or $21.95 to share the burger.
Your reward: Finish the burger and potato wedges in 45 minutes or less, by yourself, and get your photo on the “Wall of Pain.” Finish in less than 25 minutes and the burger is free.
The contenders: Three men have completed the challenge, but only two finished in less than 25 minutes. About 40 have attempted, but failed.
The lowdown: The burger has been on the menu since the Loose Wheel opened in March.
Nutritional value: “It’s a meal for six. I have not done a caloric total on it. It would be scary, but I think it’s 5,000 calories,” said owner Shawn DeCicco.
You Name It Burger
Where: Summit Pub, 9502 Canyon Road E., Puyallup, 253-536-1588, thesummitpub.com
The weigh-in: The burger and steak fries weigh in at about 5.5 pounds.
Between the buns: Four half-pound burger patties between two buns. You can have whatever else you want on it. It comes with three pounds of steak fries.
The cost: $13 for the challenge, or $16 just to eat the burger
Your reward: You have 45 minutes to finish the burger by yourself. The winner gets naming rights to the burger. The name remains until another challenger wins.
The contenders: Dozens have taken on the challenge, a handful have won.
The lowdown: The burger was added to the menu about two and a half years ago. It was inspired by the television show Man V. Food.
Nutritional value: Too scary to print.
Where: Patty’s Burgers, 5615 South Tacoma Way, Tacoma, 253-474-0844
The weigh-in: “We’re not sure,” says owner Dino Sanchez. “It’s big.”
Between the buns: A homemade bun with seven burger patties, American cheese, sautéed onions, bacon bits, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, mayo, ketchup, mustard and Patty’s special sauce. The plate is finished with fries.
The cost: $21.99
Your reward: There’s no time limit to this bad boy. You get your picture taken for display on the dining room television that scrolls pictures of people who have attempted the Cake Burger.
The contenders: Many have tried, but none have conquered the Cake Burger.
The lowdown: “We wanted to make it big and tasty,” Sanchez said. He seasons the burger patty so that it has extra flavor. There’s a slightly smaller version of the Cake burger for $10.99 on the menu, too. It comes with three patties. It’s been on the menu since the restaurant opened in March.
Nutritional value: Very little, but there is fiber in the lettuce and tomatoes.
Stonegate Burger Challenge
Where: Stonegate, 5421 South Tacoma Way, Tacoma, 253-473-2255, stonegaterocks.com
The weigh-in: The burger and fries are about six pounds, but owner Jeff Call isn’t sure exactly how much it weighs because his kitchen scale tops out at 6.5 pounds.
Between the buns: Four pounds of beef in the form of one giant patty are sandwiched between two buns made out of pizza dough. The patty is seasoned, then topped with sharp cheddar cheese, 8-10 slices of bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and finished with mayo and rum barbecue sauce. The plate is finished with fries.
The cost: $35
Your reward: It’s free if you finish it in an hour. You’ll also get your picture snapped.
The contenders: Many have tried – at least two or three a week – but only one man has completed the challenge.
The lowdown: The burger has been on the menu since just after the Stonegate opened in October. Call said diners who want to try it should call the restaurant first. It takes a long time to make the burger.
Nutritional value: You don’t want to know. Did you see the ingredients?