Down for a challenge

Central Arkansas’ biggest food comas

Quadruple Hubcap Cheeseburger from Cotham's

From time to time, you need to indulge. Have a third slice. A second helping. One more brownie.

But rarely do you feel the craving for burger patties topped with an entire can of fried Spam. Or a barbecue sandwich so hot you’ll need to call off work the next day. No, these dishes aren’t pleasant. They’re challenges.

Whether they're diving into the legendary Midtown Burger Challenge in Little Rock, the massive Mega Burrito at Debbie’s Burritos in Malvern or the borderline dangerous hot sauce at the Mean Pig BBQ in Cabot, Arkansas residents and brave out-of-towners have long been sacrificing tummies and tastebuds in the pursuit of extreme food glory.

Think you’re up for the challenge? Here’s where to start. Just be sure to grab some antacids and a recording device — “video or it didn’t happen” applies.

The challenge: This gigantic burrito clocks in around 7 pounds. Finish it and a 32-ounce soda in an hour or less and you’ll get the otherwise $50 meal gratis, plus a T-shirt.

Mega Burrito Challenge

Debbie's Burritos, Malvern, location varies

The challenge: This gigantic burrito clocks in around 7 pounds. Finish it and a 32-ounce soda in an hour or less and you’ll get the otherwise $50 meal gratis, plus a T-shirt.

When the owners of Debbie’s Burritos food truck in Malvern first got in an order of 15-inch tortillas from Texas, they knew exactly what to do: Make a super-sized burrito monster. With three of the tortillas overlapped to create one extra long wrap, the Mega Burrito comes stuffed with pinto beans, rice, sour cream, salsa, cheese, and beef or chicken. The first challenge took place at Malvern’s Brickfest in 2013. Though three competitors took a seat at Debbie’s folding table to attempt the challenge, no one made it through. Only one came close. Losers are mercifully sent home with a free 32-ounce soda to go.

Though the 15-inch tortillas are only available for organized Mega Burrito Challenges, patrons can try the challenge anytime by attempting to consume five regular burritos and a 32-ounce beverage in under an hour.

Think you can handle it? Watch the Debbie’s Burritos Facebook page for updates on the next challenge or to see where the food tuck is set up so you can start your own. (evz)

Shut-up Juice Challenge

Mean Pig BBQ, 3096 Bill Foster Memorial Highway, Cabot

The challenge: Eat one of Mean Pig BBQ’s medium sandwiches covered in 5 ounces of Shut-up Juice sauce in an hour (and keep it all down). The reward? “A T-shirt, stomachache and bragging rights,” Mean Pig owner Buddy Merritt says.

Mean Pig BBQ’s Shut-up Juice Challenge isn’t just difficult, it’s plain dangerous. So risky it requires a waiver.

The sauce is a combination of habanero pepper extract and hot sauce and can cause throwing up, shortness of breath and extreme discomfort. Merritt overheard one patron, who claimed to be a nurse at the Arkansas Heart Hospital, tell another patron a story of a man who allegedly tried the feat and was admitted to the hospital with a heart attack.

Merritt has a long list of horror stories. Like when Danny-Joe Crofford, then a morning show producer at 103.7 The Buzz, ate two-thirds of a sandwich before giving up. Merritt asked Crofford if he needed to call 911, and all Crofford could do was moan. Paramedics arrived and administered oxygen.

“[Crofford] won’t touch any of my hot stuff now,” Merritt says. “I cringe when I see people eating it and they hit that proverbial wall, because I know what is coming next.”

Merritt says in 15 or 16 years, 20,000-plus have tried the challenge, and only 263 have completed the sandwich and kept it down. Man vs. Food host Adam Richman is one of the 263. The show helped boost the popularity of both the challenge and the restaurant. Merritt receives orders from around the country and world from those who have seen the show.

“It’s calmed down a lot here locally,” Merritt says. “We usually get 10 or 15 people per week.” (no)

Quadruple Hubcap Burger

Cotham's, Multiple Locations

The challenge: Cotham’s famous Hubcap Cheeseburger with four 8-inch, 1-pound patties. No time limit, no prize — just finish it and take home the bragging rights.

The Quadruple Hubcap Cheeseburger isn’t a challenge, per se. While taking down 4 pounds of the central Arkansas institution’s beloved burger meat is no small task, there’s no reward except a pat on the back.

Let’s get one thing straight, first: The single Hubcap itself would be a challenge for most people. It’s 8 inches wide, with close to an inch of patty hanging out under the top bun the whole way around. You can split it and easily walk away with a full stomach.

So, just imagine four of those massive patties stacked. The Quadruple is what drew Adam Richman of Man vs. Food to the original location of Cotham’s Mercantile in Scott to give the sandwich a try (though he didn’t attempt to finish the burger).

But what you might not know about the Hubcap is that it doesn’t stop at four patties. Jenifer Cameron, my server on a recent trip to Cotham’s in the City, says you can actually order the Hubcap with as much beef as you want. Four patties, 10 patties, whatever — you request it, they’ll serve it. It hurts to consider, but there’s something exciting about the idea of a cheeseburger with the potential for infinite patties.

Though that’s the case, Cameron says in the three to four years she’s been at Cotham’s, the Quadruple Hubcap is the biggest she’s seen anyone order. How did it go? “He didn’t finish it,” she says. (sm)

The Big G

Gusano's Pizzeria, Multiple locations

The challenge: Finish “The Big G,” a 30-inch pizza, in an hour or less without leaving the table. Teams of two can participate. The reward is a free pizza and a T-shirt for each participant.

The Big G is almost 10 pounds. It’s 30 inches in diameter. That’s about 706 square inches of melted cheese, baked dough and toppings. So, it’s no surprise that people don't accomplish this challenge often. Gusano’s servers and managers say it’s rare to see someone eat the whole thing and even rarer that the challenger keeps it all down. (Another stipulation of the challenge is that after finishing the pizza, you must stay at the restaurant for 10 minutes, assuring you don’t relieve yourself of this burden.)

Bill Lowe, a Gusano’s manager, says most of the people he knows who have done The Big G were teenagers. A server who has been working at Gusano’s for a few months says she has never seen anyone complete the challenge, but she's seen three unrelated groups come in to give it a shot since she’s been there.

There’s something about that prize T-shirt that reads “doing it Chicago style” that seems so appealing. (ma)

Midtown Burger Challenge

Midtown Billiards, 1316 S. Main St., Little Rock

The challenge: Four delicious Midtown beef patties, two fried eggs, several slices of bacon and then regular burger toppings such as cheese, lettuce and pickles. Oh, and a full can of Spam. Eat it all in 30 minutes, and the monstrosity is free, plus you get a T-shirt and your name on a plaque.

Full disclosure: I’ve never attempted the Midtown Burger Challenge. Never even seen it attempted in person. But I’ve heard stories from friends who have tried it. Seen videos of said friends taking a stab at it. And I’ve heard of said friends being laid low for days after failing in tackling this gargantuan challenge.

A few hundred people have attempted the challenge and only a very few — around a dozen — have bested the monster. Not good odds. But the Midtown Burger Challenge is a mirage of a food challenge. Eating a four-patty burger, two eggs, bacon, fixings and a can of Spam seems reasonable. Even in 30 minutes. Seriously, it does. And eating a four-patty burger by itself in a half hour certainly seems viable. So, what’s a 12-ounce can of a meat product add to the challenge, besides roughly 200 percent of a person’s daily recommended sodium intake? A lot. Tackle the pinkish block of pork product first, and you still have a four-patty burger and two eggs waiting. Eat the burger and two eggs first … Wait, no one in this challenge eats the Spam last, right?

So, the Midtown Burger Challenge as a whole doesn’t sound like much. The challenge sounds reasonable. But take the individual pieces apart and then you realize why so many have failed. The Midtown Burger Challenge is a crafty food challenge; that’s why it usually beats its human challengers. (ss)