Travel Tips

Culinary Travel: 10 Restaurants in the USA That Can Challenge Your Stomach

Locations in this article:  Atlanta, GA Chicago, IL Denver, CO Las Vegas, NV Los Angeles, CA Minneapolis, MN New Orleans, LA San Francisco, CA Seattle, WA St. Louis, MO

Tomato saladThe restaurant industry is often one of the first to feel the bad times when the economy starts to tank.

Recently, probably because of our current down economy, it even seems like entrées are getting smaller and prices are going higher.

But these next 10 restaurants are bucking the trend by having competitions that are all about stuffing your face.

Ranging from breakfast burritos to chocolate malt milkshakes, these challenges have the potential to fill, dare I say stuff, any stomach out there.

1. They say everything in Texas is a little bigger and The Big Texan Ranch really takes that saying to heart. The restaurant, located in Amarillo, Texas, is known for the famous 72-ounce Big Texan Challenge. The meal is made up of a shrimp cocktail, baked potato, salad with a butter roll and, of course, that giant steak. To win, diners must eat the whole meal in under an hour.

The restaurant also insists that each contestant sit on a special stage with an official timer when they try to conquer the Big Texan Challenge. The oldest person to finish the challenge was 69 years old and the youngest was only 11. The current champ is none other than renowned competitive eater Joey Chestnut who finished in less than 9 minutes. The meal costs $72 but if you successfully finish the entire thing, it’s free.

Check out more Culinary Travel articles:

The Kooky Canuck Challenge2.  Have you ever wanted to see what a 7-and-a-half pound hamburger looked like? Well the Kooky Canuck in Memphis, Tennessee, can show you with the Kookamonga Burger Challenge. The burger consists of 4 pounds of ground chuck, 2 pounds of bun, and 1.5 pounds of vegetables. The contestant must finish the entire burger in less than 60 minutes.

Only five people have completed the challenge with the current champion being Patrick “Deep Dish” Bertoletti who cleaned his plate in just 7 minutes and 15 seconds. Try your hand at finishing the burger and receive the meal on the house plus your picture will reside in the Hall of Fame. The burger should keep you full for a couple of days at 12,387 calories in just one Kookamonga.

Lucky’s Sandwich challenge3. Lucky’s Sandwich Company is a hip Chicago establishment with late-night hours and a really, really big eating challenge. The restaurant is named for “Lucky” Charlie Weeghman who once owned a part of the Chicago Cubs and is credited with helping to build Wrigley Field. Famous for its huge sandwiches piled high with meat, cheese, tomatoes, coleslaw, and fries (yes, in the sandwich), it would take two humans mouths to fit the whole sandwich in a bite. The challenge is to eat three Lucky sandwiches, your choice of meat, with all toppings in only one hour. So far, only 11 faces reside on the Hall of Fame.

Headed to Chicago? Check out:

Tossing Pizza Dough4. Who knew Atlanta, Georgia, was the place to find a New York-style pizza-eating contest? The Big Pie in the Sky restaurant opened in February 2007 and serves pizza, calzones, stromboli, subs, and salads. Get your fill of pizza by taking the Carnivore Challenge. This is a rare partner challenge, in which you and a friend tackle and finish (keeping it all down) a 30-inch, 11-pound pizza, covered in meat. The partner team gets one hour to finish the challenge. The restaurant gets a huge volume of challengers, so you must make an appointment for anytime between 3:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday. The jackpot is up to $250 and grows every time another team attempts the challenge. Oh and to date, nobody has successfully completed this challenge.

5. The Brick House Curry Phaal Challenge at the Brick Lane Curry House in New York is not about quantity, but about quality—a very spicy quality. Phaal curry is a curry so hot that the chef wears a gas mask to keep his throat from being irritated by the food’s natural steams while cooking. The restaurant claims that theirs is “the hottest curry in the world.” The competitor must finish the curry in its entirety, although there is no time limit. When the challenge is completed the winner gets a free beer, a certificate and a picture on the online P’hall of Fame.

ACME Oyster New Orleans6. Become a member of the exclusive 15 dozen club at the ACME Oyster House in New Orleans, Louisiana. This challenge is finished by eating and keeping down 180 oysters in under an hour. If you successfully finish the contest you receive an ACME T-shirt and hat, recognition through your name on the wall and Web site, and, of course, your oyster meal is free. At least 150 oyster lovers have tried to conquer the mollusk challenge, but only 28 have succeeded.

ACME is also the location of the officially sanctioned International Federation of Competitive Eating oyster-eating contest. Each April, the French Quarter fills with eating champions and fans ready to watch the ocean animal challenge. The current world record holder is Sonya “Black Widow” Thomas who in 2005 ate 46 dozen in 10 minutes, for a grand total of 552 oysters!

Beth’s Cafe Logo7. Beth’s Café is a 24-hour, greasy spoon located in the Green Lake area of Seattle, Washington. The café doesn’t have an official challenge, but you can truly take on your stomach with the restaurants famous Southwestern Exposure 12-egg omelette. The giant egg dish is made with chili, salsa, sour cream and cheddar cheese. The omlette comes with hash browns and two slices of toast. This is one of the cheaper challenges at only $15.75.

8.  For those with a sweet tooth try the challenge at the Crown Candy Kitchen in St. Louis, Missouri. The policy of the sweet store has been the same since 1913: if you can complete the Malt Milkshake Challenge you get the beverages for free. To win each competitor has to drink five 24-ounce malt milkshakes in 30 minutes or less. Fewer than 20 people have ever completed the challenge with the champion of champions currently being Pat “Deep Dish” Bertoletti (yes, the winner of the 7.5-pound burger challenge in Memphis.)

Jack ‘n Grill9.  You might get a little light headed in the mile-high city, but you could also get a stomach ache by challenging yourself to the 7-pound breakfast burrito at Jack n Grill located in Denver, Colorado. The burrito is made of eight eggs, 1 pound of cheese, 1 pound of green chili, and 1.5 pounds of potatoes. Any man who finishes the job gets their picture on the wall of fame and receives the $12 meal for free. Any woman who finishes the challenge gets the right to dine at the establishment for free, forever. Only three women have ever finished the challenge. There is no time limit for this challenge, but no bathroom breaks are allowed.

Gasthof zur Gemutlichkeit10. Gasthof zur Gemutlichkeit may be a challenge to say, but it has an even bigger challenge waiting on its menu. Try to take on the gigantic meter-long bratwurst and win bragging rights here (Minneapolis, MN) and abroad. The brat is equal to 3 feet of meat and is served with sauerkraut and two sides of choice. After completing the challenge you win a certificate and you might be able to convince them to give you the $25 meal on the house—maybe. Connected to the restaurant is Mario’s Keller Bar where you can listen to music and wait out the belly ache that is sure to occur after your try at the challenge.

If you need to burp right now, we’ll understand.

This is just the tip of the competitive eating iceberg. Those involved in the world of eating believe it to be a true sport and themselves to be true gastronomical champions. For more information on how to join (or just become a fan) of the competitive eating world visit

And to find out about local eating competitions in your area go to

By Courtney Crowder for

Check out more from our culinary travel series: