So Ba Vietnamese Restaurant via Facebook
So Ba Vietnamese Restaurant via Facebook

10 Competitive Eating Challenges at Restaurants in the U.S.

So Ba Vietnamese Restaurant via Facebook
So Ba Vietnamese Restaurant via Facebook

It's an old schtick. Many restaurants around the country offer large specialty dishes with a challenge: If you finish the meal, you win a reward—a free meal or a prize, and sometimes both. The high prices of these extra-large meals are usually in line with the amount of food you get, so even if you can't finish it, you'll have leftovers to take home—that is, if you don't become sick from the attempt. Here's a sampling of the challenges that await your appetite. The cuisine may vary, but the rules are generally the same: clean your plate, stay under the time limit, and no vomiting (intentional or otherwise).

1. LOOPY’S II CARDIAC ARREST BURGER

Loopy's II via Facebook

Loopy's II Bar & Grill in Marinette, Wisconsin, offers the Cardiac Arrest burger for $35. It contains three pounds of ground beef, a pound of ham, a pound of bacon, and a half-pound of cheese topped with onions and barbecue sauce. If you finish one in an hour, you'll get a free T-shirt. Beat the record, and the food is free. If that's too much, you might want to try the Belly Buster—a two-pound burger with a pound of fries. You get 15 minutes to polish that off to win a T-shirt.

2. SEIAD CAFE PANCAKE CHALLENGE

Seiad Cafe via Instagram

The Seiad Cafe in Seiad Valley, California, makes large pancakes—13 inches in diameter and 1.25 inches thick. Finishing one pancake that size would be difficult for most of us, but if you take the Pancake Challenge, you'll be served five, with butter and syrup. If you can eat them all in less than two hours, your meal is free. Otherwise, it will cost you $13.95.

3. DOBB'S DAWG HOUSE HOT DOGS

Dobbs Dawg House via Facebook

Dobbs Dawg House in Dobbs Ferry, New York, will put nearly anything on a hot dog. There are dozens of toppings, or you can order a dog from their specialty menu, like the Trailer Park (melted cheese and crushed potato chips) or the Hawaiian Dog (bacon, teriyaki sauce, pineapple, and scallions). The Dawg House Challenge dares you to eat a dozen of those specialty hot dogs—but you can't select them. A roll of dice determines which hot dogs you get. If you finish all 12, in menu order, within 30 minutes … well, the website doesn't really promise a reward. Bragging rights?

4. ACME OYSTER HOUSE 15 DOZEN CLUB

Acme Oyster House via Instagram

Acme Oyster House in New Orleans' French Quarter (and five other locations) features the 15 Dozen Club—those who have eaten 15 dozen oysters in under an hour. There are a lot more of them than you'd think. There are rules, and the rewards are half off the price of the oysters, a T-shirt, and your name in the restaurant's hall of fame.

5. SO BA PHO KING CHALLENGE

So Ba Vietnamese Restaurant via Facebook

So Ba Vietnamese Restaurant in Atlanta has the Pho King Challenge. You pay $25 for a huge serving of pho consisting of 20 ounces of meat and 96 ounces of soup. If you finish it within an hour, it's free—plus you get a T-shirt and a gift card. However, only one person has actually done it so far. Still, that's still a lot of pho for the price, and even losers get a T-shirt.

6. IT’S ALL SO YUMMY ROCKY TOP SUNDAE

Not all food challenges are meat-based, or even entrees. It’s All So Yummy Cafe in Knoxville, Tennessee, makes their own ice cream on site. How much of it could you eat in one sitting? The Rocky Top Challenge is an ice cream sundae consisting of 16 scoops of ice cream, three brownies, three bananas, and a bunch of toppings. If you can finish it by yourself in an hour, it's free. Otherwise, it's $50.

7. JOE TACO CHUPACABRA BURRITO

Joe Taco via Facebook

Joe Taco Mexi-Cafe in Amarillo, Texas, offers the Chupacabra Challenge, an eight-pound, two-foot-long burrito with the works for $24.99. If you eat it all, by yourself, you not only get it free, but you also win a T-shirt, a place on the wall of fame, and a free meal every week for life.

8. BLACK MOUNTAIN MILL 40-INCH PIZZA

Black Mountain Mill & Pizzeria via Instagram

Black Mountain Mill and Pizzeria in Black Mountain, North Carolina, has an enormous pizza oven. Its famous $150, 40-inch pizza can feed 20–25 people. The pie can be delivered, or you can reserve the restaurant for a party with one pizza for all your friends. The 40-inch Pizza Challenge is one you don't have to do alone: Two people get an hour to polish off a two-topping monster pie, without leaving the table. (A common rule—no bathroom visits to "make room.") If you succeed, your duo wins $1000.

9. CUBAVANA'S CUBAN MONSTER CHALLENGE

Cubavana Cuban Restaurant and Cafe in Cutler Bay, Florida (South Miami), offers the Cuban Monster Challenge. Order a 35-inch Cuban Monster Sandwich for $35. If you can finish it in 45 minutes, you'll receive $25 cash, a free meal, and a T-shirt. The restaurant will also donate $40 to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in your name. If you don't finish it, you'll have delicious Cuban sandwich leftovers for the next few meals.

10. STUFFY'S II BEAR ROLL

Stuffy's II Restaurant in Longview, Washington, serves a full menu, but it's their enormous cinnamon rolls that made them famous. They have a quartet of food challenges: the Party Burger with five pounds of meat; the Almost a Dozen Egg Omelet; the Bear Roll (a 10.5-pound cinnamon roll, scarfed down in the above video), or seven pounds of whatever food you want. Prices, rules, and prizes vary.

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Feeling Down? Lifting Weights Can Lift Your Mood, Too
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There’s plenty of research that suggests that exercise can be an effective treatment for depression. In some cases of depression, in fact—particularly less-severe ones—scientists have found that exercise can be as effective as antidepressants, which don’t work for everyone and can come with some annoying side effects. Previous studies have largely concentrated on aerobic exercise, like running, but new research shows that weight lifting can be a useful depression treatment, too.

The study in JAMA Psychiatry, led by sports scientists at the University of Limerick in Ireland, examined the results of 33 previous clinical trials that analyzed a total of 1877 participants. It found that resistance training—lifting weights, using resistance bands, doing push ups, and any other exercises targeted at strengthening muscles rather than increasing heart rate—significantly reduced symptoms of depression.

This held true regardless of how healthy people were overall, how much of the exercises they were assigned to do, or how much stronger they got as a result. While the effect wasn’t as strong in blinded trials—where the assessors don’t know who is in the control group and who isn’t, as is the case in higher-quality studies—it was still notable. According to first author Brett Gordon, these trials showed a medium effect, while others showed a large effect, but both were statistically significant.

The studies in the paper all looked at the effects of these training regimes on people with mild to moderate depression, and the results might not translate to people with severe depression. Unfortunately, many of the studies analyzed didn’t include information on whether or not the patients were taking antidepressants, so the researchers weren’t able to determine what role medications might play in this. However, Gordon tells Mental Floss in an email that “the available evidence supports that [resistance training] may be an effective alternative and/or adjuvant therapy for depressive symptoms that could be prescribed on its own and/or in conjunction with other depression treatments,” like therapy or medication.

There haven’t been a lot of studies yet comparing whether aerobic exercise or resistance training might be better at alleviating depressive symptoms, and future research might tackle that question. Even if one does turn out to be better than the other, though, it seems that just getting to the gym can make a big difference.

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