Whether it’s a hamburger the size of your head, or spicy sushi that makes that head explode, food challenges at Boise restaurants are hard to swallow.
But the rewards are tempting.
Polish off two huge plates of food at Rockies Diner in 30 minutes? You win an electric guitar — and the meal is free.
Cough up “miso soup from Hell” in front of a room full of strangers at Superb Sushi? Hey, at least they provide a barf bucket.
Got an appetite for destruction, Boise? Read on.
Death Roll Challenge, Superb Sushi Downtown, 280 N. 8th St., Boise
▪ Price: $20. Free if you finish in 10 minutes (and suffer without liquids for another 5). Plus, a shirt and your photo on the wall.
Superb Sushi has three eating challenges. The gut buster is La Bomba Roll, a four-pound sushi roll marathon.
But the simplest — and scariest — is the Death Roll Challenge. All you have to do is eat a normal-sized bowl of “miso soup from Hell” and an equally modest “spicy” tuna roll. “Done!” owner Brett Nunez says, as if it’s nothing.
“Oh, they’re sooo hot,” he admits. “Oh my god. Hardly anybody can do them. If you can get past the bowl of soup, you’re good to go. A lot of people, they get stopped right halfway through the bowl of soup. ‘I quit.’ ”
“I tell people, ‘Don’t do it.’ And they still come in and do it! I’m, like, ‘All right. I warned you.’ ”
The ingredients read like a witch’s cauldron: Ghost peppers, diced and powdered. Demon’s Blood. Hot Streak Death Sauce. And what’s this secret Heat Seaker sauce?
Superb Sushi’s website spells out a list of strict, masochistic rules: “You cannot drink anything, and must wait 5 minutes after eating your last bite. Nose bleeders, pukers, crybabies and chum buckets need not try this challenge.”
Nunez notes that if you decide to take the challenge, you’ll be seated away from other customers — just in case you hurl in the provided “chum bucket.” Nevertheless, amused patrons will gawk at your tear-streaked attempt to conquer the fiery roll. “It becomes entertainment for them,” Nunez says.
“It’s so brutal. We had a couple of guys come in the other night; one of them threw up. He was in the bathroom for, like, a couple hours. Poor guy.”
If you do manage to eat the food? Sit still. Endure the no-water torture period. “After 5 minutes, we have ice cream for you and all that good stuff,” Nunez says. “But it doesn’t really help. They suffer.”
Johnny B Goode Burger Challenge, Rockies Diner, 2900 W. Overland Road, Boise
▪ Price: $25. Free if you finish in 30 minutes. Plus, you win a Fender guitar and a shirt.
When the Travel Channel’s “Man v. Food” spotlighted this eating feat in 2009, host Adam Richman knew he had his work cut out for him. “This challenge starts off with the 4 1/2-pound Johnny B Goode Burger,” he noted on the show, “an entire pound of burger, a quarter pound of grilled pastrami, a quarter pound of grilled hotdog — smothered in chili on a 9-inch bun.”
But hold on, there’s another massive plate: “An enormous 1 1/2-pound order of chili cheese fries,” Richman added. “Absolutely delicious!”
You have to drink a 16-ounce milkshake, too. This is a ’50s-themed diner, after all.
Richman managed to demolish the entire two-plate gastric obliteration. “The burger is off-the-charts good,” he noted.
His prize? The same thing customers chase today: A Fender guitar on display in the restaurant.
Eating an electric guitar might take less effort than ingesting the Johnny B Goode Challenge.
“Altogether, it probably weighs about seven pounds,” Rockies manager Dan Gibson says.
More than 1,900 people have attempted this challenge over two decades or so. Only 54 have succeeded, Gibson says.
Giant Pizza Team Challenge, Garbonzo’s Pizza, five Treasure Valley locations
▪ Price: $50. Free if you and a partner devour it in 60 minutes.
Grab a friend. Order one of Garbonzo’s 28-inch pizzas. Start eating, then prepare to hit a wall. This two-person pizza challenge has only been beaten once in 30 years, says Meridian restaurant owner Michael Marlin — by professional eaters from out of state.
“It’s about 10 pounds,” Marlin says. “Five pounds of dough, three pounds of cheese, (plus) sauce and toppings. That’s over four square feet.”
Still, folks keep trying. “The thing about it is nobody ever takes the leftovers!” Marlin adds. “They’re so sick to their stomach. They say, ‘I don’t want to look at another pizza for a month!’ ”
Eating a titanic pizza is more difficult than ingesting an oversized hamburger, Marlin says. “Meat has a great deal higher moisture content than the dough. So you eat the dough, you’re gonna pay the price. ... I get asked on a regular basis, ‘Have you tried it?’ And my response is typically, ‘Do I look that dumb?’ ”
Still, he adds, a customer managed to crush about two-thirds of the challenge recently. By himself.
“He was about 5-4, about as big around as a garden rake,” Marlin adds incredulously. “I was terrified that we were gonna be hauling him to the emergency room. To watch him do it — he did have a pizza baby. He looked like he was pregnant when he was done.”
2-Pound Burger Challenge, Big Jud’s, 1289 S. Protest Road, Boise (also in Meridian and Archer)
▪ Price: $23.99. Time limit: 30 minutes, or free if you finish in time. Plus, you get on the wall of fame, and you get a T-shirt.
Tiffany Beck, co-owner of the Big Jud’s in Meridian, has never attempted the 2-Pound Burger Challenge.
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” she says. “I feel like if I even tried it, I would spend three days in the hospital.”
Yet plenty of other people attack this beast — especially at the Boise restaurant when school is in session at Boise State.
When you consider the two pounds of hamburger, the toppings, the pound of fries and the 32-ounce drink, you’re in the neighborhood of four pounds of food, Beck estimates.
“It’s really troubling,” she says with a laugh.
Each restaurant averages three to five gluttons per week attempting the 2-Pound Burger Challenge, Beck says. About one per month completes the challenge at each store.
So it can be done.
“Some people are just fine,” Beck says incredulously. “They just get up from the table. These tall, skinny dudes ... they’ve smashed it. They’ve smashed the record. They impressed all their friends.”
The Cow Tipper, Homestead Bar and Grill, 6275 N. Linder Road, Meridian
▪ Price: $25. Free if you finish in 30 minutes, plus you get a $10 gift card.
A newcomer to the Treasure Valley food challenge scene, the Cow Tipper was launched a few months ago. It replaced an inhumane hot wing challenge involving Carolina Reaper hot pepper sauce. “It was so brutal,” front-of-house manager Benjamen Hart admits. “People were like ‘Why would you do this to me?’ ”
The Cow Tipper might not hurt as much, but it’s definitely not comfortable.
“We’re just going to beat you up with six half-pound patties, six slices of cheese, six pieces of bacon, and then a side of chili cheese fries. And then a bartender’s choice of beer,” Hart says.
So far, nobody has beaten the challenge. “There’s one guy who got really close,” Hart says. “It’s crazy. It’s a lot of food.”
There’s always the to-go box ... .
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