I love the part in the first Rocky movie, when the title character makes it to the top step of the Philadelphia Art Museum (now know as The Rocky Steps). Sylvester Stallone’s character raises his arms in triumph. Maybe that’s what led me to the insanity of the Chubby Challenge ($25) at Chubby’s Burger Shack (7618 Camp Bowie Blvd. West).
This isn’t a how-many-hot-dogs-can-you-eat kind of thing. There’s only one burger plate to conquer, but it’s a goliath: seven patties, cheddar cheese, grilled onions, and two pounds of fries — all of which you have to eat in 35 minutes.
I’m both (a) generally repulsed by the idea of eating for sport (I reserve volume eating for emotional crisis treatment), and (b) not into physical challenges of any sort these days. But whoever conquers this beast achieves immortality, by getting the burger named after them. And they get it for free.
Like Rocky, I had some training to do.
The first goal was to step up my meat game. So I headed out to Cooper’s Old Time Pit BBQ (301 Stockyards Blvd.), for a meat-ucopia of different critters. The Hill Country mini-chain’s Stockyards location is cavernous, bright, and clean and looks like it was just taken out of the box. The ’cue is grilled in fire pits heated by mesquite-wood charcoal as opposed to being smoked, so it’s missing the more traditional Texas barbecue smoky flavor. I came on Sunday for the buffet ($13.49), which doesn’t include the place’s entire arsenal of meats but offers enough variety to satisfy most barbecue snobs.
I went in strong, filling my plate with brisket, pork ribs, and beef ribs, all slathered in Cooper’s signature vinegary sauce. I’m more a fan of smoky barbecue, but all the meats were tender, moist, and aggressively seasoned with salt and pepper. The brisket had a ton of fat on it and was a little on the bland side. The sauce added a nice tang to all the meats. I didn’t want to mess with too many side items but did have the flavorful baked pinto beans. I gorged the afternoon away and left with the virtuous feeling of having trained hard.
My burger tolerance also needed work. I couldn’t think of a better place to train for a burger-a-thon than Pop’s Burgers & Grill (4413 Trail Lake Dr.). For my dress rehearsal, I ordered a “Pop’s Belly Buster” ($8.99), with bacon, jalapeños, onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, and Swiss cheese. The burger was a two-hander that leaked ingredients with every delicious bite. The bun was toasted and buttered, adding to the rich melding of juices and flavors. The accompanying seasoned fries were thick-cut and wonderfully crispy. I managed to finish the burger and fries, but just barely. My Chubby challenge was the following day, dinner had been fantastic, and I didn’t want to overtrain.
Walking into Chubby’s, I felt like an Old West gunslinger, though there were no swinging doors or frightened piano player. I ordered and waited as the kitchen constructed my cartoonishly tall three-pound, seven-layer nemesis. As my server officially noted the start of my 35 minutes, I deconstructed the burger, feeling that the bun would just be filler. I took down the first two juicy, delicious patties with relative ease and went on to the fries. After a few handfuls of those, it was back to the patties. I took down two more but struggled with the fourth. Half way through the fifth, I hit a wall. I knew that if I stopped then, it might all be over. My hand successfully delivered more fries to my mouth, which dutifully opened, but the other part of the team couldn’t take anymore. I went (bloated) belly up, you might say. I surrendered, several patties short of the goal line.
The whole ordeal left me a little meat-stoned. I have a feeling next week’s column is going to be about some great vegetarian options.
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