Friday, November 18, 2011
72 oz Side of Beef
The Iron Hog Saloon, a few miles away from Victorville, offers a 72 oz steak challenge modeled with near exactitude off the Big Texan in Amarillo, Texas.
Getting to the Iron Hog is a bit of a journey. After reaching Victorville, you must drive through several miles of dusty desert road. At some point you wonder if you're going in the right direction. GPS says that you are, but in the desolation you begin to doubt that tinny voice telling you to drive ahead.
It's a biker bar, yes, but they take their challenge very seriously. Here is the competition table. Once time begins, you get one hour to plow through the steak and various sides or you owe them $100. This price tag is a bit steep. I'd say it's the biggest deterrent to any brave soul taking the challenge. On top of the table is an official rundown of the rules and some local trivia.
Now it's time for some backstory. Prior to my visit, I had never done a steak challenge. The idea of trying to eat 4 1/2 lbs of meat seemed intimidating. When I filmed with Adam Richman on the set of Man v Food Nation a week prior to taking this challenge, Richman made sure to sell the point that I'd never done a steak challenge. But, facing a 3 lb tri tip sandwich (which I did for the show) is a bit different from facing a 4.5 lb steak with assorted sides.
Yeah, it's that big. Easily the size of 8 or 9 ordinary steaks that a man or woman would eat for dinner. Before my visit, there was only one challenge winner. Her name is Stephanie Wu, an enthusiastic eating challenger who completed several challenges and operated a sophisticated website documenting challenges before mysteriously disappearing. I hope she's ok, wherever she ended up. Her record time was 59 minutes.
The cook brought out the platter, let me choose my knives, and we were off. I chose to focus on the meat first. In about 8 minutes the steak was over half finished, so I switched over to the potato and tomato slices. Though I didn't have to, I also finished the optional lettuce and cantaloupe slices. They were good for varying up the flavor.
My finish under 29 minutes caused a small uproar in the restaurant. It cut the record time in less than half, so I understand the shock, but there's many eaters who could have finished this challenge in under 15 minutes. Knowing how to tackle a huge steak now, I'm certain I could improve on my own time. It made me nervous when customers would crowd in to watch, but it's not everyday that someone rolls in and manhandles the biggest meal on the menu.
And without a doubt, this is a challenge that I would love to do a second time. It tasted phenomenal, the cut of meat wasn't too fatty, and there are several sides on the menu so there's plenty to choose from. Given the price tag there's no way they'd let me have another one on the house.
They even have a guest book! There's only been two challenge restaurants, in my experience, that offered that nice touch. The other, famous for pancakes and weary travelers, will be the focus of an upcoming post.