San Felipe's Cantina El Gordito Burrito Challenge

The El Gordito Burrito

The average person's stomach can hold about a liter of food, or close to two pounds' worth. But who wants to be average? All over town, restaurants are offering up contests of confection, defying brave eaters to ingest more food than they should eat in a week -- daily recommended values be damned!

Armed with a brand-new college degree and a big mouth, our intrepid writer Zach Fowle has dared to become one of these food fighters -- travelling metro Phoenix to face new challenges and prove to the animal kingdom that man belongs at the top of the food chain.

It's time for another contest of intestinal fortitude, and this week, I'm craving Mexican. We are in Arizona, after all.

Some cursory internet research reveals a challenge that's right up my alley: The El Gordito Burrito at San Felipe's Cantina (2000 E. Rio Salado, 480-736-8226). Also known as "the Fat One," the El Gordito is a big ass taco de harina made with chicken or steak, rice, beans and cheese, all wrapped in a tortilla the size of a manhole cover and covered with spicy sauce and melted cheese. If you eat it all in one sitting, San Felipe's will throw you a party and give you a free T-shirt -- size XXL, of course.

San Felipe's online menu makes no mention of the meal's actual weight, but I find some pictures posted by other men who've attempted it, and it looks totally doable. Plus, the thing only costs $19.95 -- a steal! I make my way to San Felipe's in the Tempe Marketplace and order it forthwith.

"Are you sure?" the server asks. "It's HUGE; like, about seven pounds."

I scoff at her; I'm sure she's full of shit. The picture I saw online was three pounds, maybe.

But I was wrong. Dear God, was I wrong.

When I see a beefy chef carrying my plate instead of our tiny waitress, I know I'm in trouble. The thing is seven pounds, at least.

It's the size of a two-by-four, slathered with sauce and gooey cheese and served alongside dollops of sour cream, pico de gallo and guacamole that appear to have been doled out via ice cream scoop. This is how David must have felt when he first saw Goliath.

Stricken yet determined, I gird my loins and prepare to spend the next couple hours doing battle with El Gordito. Here's the play-by-play:


1 minute: One thing about burritos is that they're easy to eat. Each forkful is filled with mushy beans, bite-size rice and tender chicken. The bites go down easily. My photographer suggests I eat as much as I can now, then take a break and assault the burrito again later. I instead choose the slow and steady approach, eating one tiny mouthful at a time at about the same pace I normally would.

10 minutes: Not only is the burrito literally stuffed with ingredients, it's packed with flavor. Each bite is a symphony of Southwestern delight. The red sauce is tangy with a mild spice, and additions of sour cream and guacamole enhance the flavor even further.

20 minutes: Not full at all and blazing through the first quarter of burrito. I'm feeling so good, I order a beer to go with it.

30 minutes: Half an hour in, and I've finished a quarter of the behemoth burrito. My pace is still steady, and I'm not feeling full.

45 minutes: ...Now I feel full. Shit.

50 minutes: My chewing velocity has slowed considerably. Why couldn't I have chosen to write a movie review, or maybe a fluff piece about puppy farms?

60 minutes: It's painful now, each bite a chore. I've finished a full half of the El Gordito, and more than three pounds of Mexican flavor are mingling in my gut. I'm pregnant with beans and tortilla, and the bastard is kicking.

70 minutes: I'm food drunk, and I've got a good buzz going. I'm fairly certain I'm not safe to drive. I get into conversations with random patrons and start to hit on the servers.

75 minutes: I hit the wall. I start taking big breaks between each bite, allowing my over-packed stomach ample time to settle. I'm fine until I pick up another chunk of burrito and start to bring it toward my face, at which point my brain realizes what's happening and screams NONONONONONO!

The burrito gets the best of Zach

80 minutes: I become exhausted. The remaining section of burrito looks so soft and welcoming, like a spicy pillow. I struggle not to lay my head on it.

90 minutes: Five pounds of burrito are in the books, but I can't go any further. I've stopped eating and have now taken to staring menacingly at the remaining fourth of the meal before me, hoping that it'll magically evaporate.

95 minutes: Each whiff of burrito stink makes me gag a little bit. I decide to do myself and everyone around me a favor and head to the restroom for a little ride on the porcelain pony.

105 minutes: I return from my purge, considerably less overcome by agony. The beer I ordered is untouched and oh-so-welcoming. I may not be able to finish this meal, but I've never not finished a beer. The drink goes down and I pack up the leftover burrito, preparing to attack it anew tomorrow, after I wake up from the nightmares the thing will give me tonight. 

Location Info

San Felipe's Cantina

2000 E. Rio Salado Parkway, Tempe, AZ

Category: Restaurant

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