Katharine Shilcutt's recent account of four guys and a 15-pound burger at French Press Café inspired me to see what great feats of eating the Bayou City has to offer those on a quest to stretch their stomach lining.
Here are five of the greater Houston area's best eating challenges:
1. The Zellagabetsky (Kenny & Ziggy's): Billed as "The Sandwich That's Bigger Than Its Name," this eight-decker monster on special-cut rye includes corned beef, pastrami, turkey, roast beef, salami, tongue and Swiss cheese with cole slaw, Russian dressing and red sweet pepper. There's a rumor floating around that The Travel Channel's Man v. Food may be taking this one on in the fall. The prize for finishing this colossus is...more food. A free piece of cheesecake. What's the prize for eating the Zellagabetsky and the cheesecake?
2. The Mega Mel Burger (Mel's Country Café): Rule #3, as listed on the website, is that in order to get your name on the Wall of Fame, "you must be able to walk and talk after eating the Mega Mel Burger." This doesn't sound quite so silly after you learn that the Mega Mel consists of one-and-a-half pounds of ground beef, a pound of bacon (sweet lord almighty!), a quarter pound of cheese and a whole mess of fixin's. There is a two-hour time limit (including defibrillation time).
3. The Double Dare (Little Bitty Burger Barn): Home of the now-retired "The Big Ass Burger," the LBBB's new challenge includes eight quarter-pound patties, as many slices of cheese, bacon, jalapeños and barbecue sauce - all teetering dangerously on a bun next to a heaping side of fries. Those who are victorious in eating both burger and fries receive a Double Dare T-shirt and have their photos proudly displayed on the website so the world will know the glory of their achievement (or, for one poor guy, "I took the dare and I puked.")
4. Ranchers Chicken Fried Steak Meal or Alamo Platter Meal (Hickory Hollow): The Rancher's Chicken-Fried Steak (a.k.a. "the saddle blanket") comes with a choice of salad and potato ($11.49 - $13.29). The Alamo Platter not only includes a chicken-fried steak (we're not sure if it's rodeo-size) but sliced beef, sausage and ribs as well ($14.49). If you can finish either plate unassisted, your picture will be enshrined on the Wall of Fame (Fallbrook location), plus you'll get a Hickory Hollow Limited Edition T-Shirt for the discount price of $5.49
5. The Cablinasian (Nick's Place): Named for 1560AM's Sean "The Cablinasian" Pendergast (he's also a Houston Press contributor), the massive calzone includes more than a pound of Italian sausage, pepperoni, green bell pepper, marinara, ricotta and mozzarella cheese. Contenders are given a 22-ounce draft of their choice and one hour to devour the beast and to make it on to the Wall of Fame.