The Maui Dog Big Kahuna Challenge
|The Big Kahuna Challenge|
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 big mouth and an empty stomach, 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.
'Sup, brah? It's time again for another installment in the ongoing saga of "Why Zach Will Be Dead by 35," or as we like to call it, Feasts of Fury.
The latest food battle comes to us from Hawaii by way of Maui Dog (3538 E. Indian School Rd., 602-464-3063), the best little island-style hot dog and slider shack Phoenix has to offer. Owner John Stamatakis came up with the idea for the place two years ago and took it to the desert, bringing treats like shaved ice, SPAM sliders, and the Big Kahuna Challenge, which consists of:
- Two Shaka dogs of your choice (I go with the Island Dog, a brat adorned with Chipotle mayo, Maui mustard, coconut, pineapple and bacon; and the Hana Dog, an all-beef link topped with Chipotle mayo, avocado, pico de gallo, cilantro, bacon and Monterey Jack cheese)
- Two double beef sliders
- One small basket of French fries
- One small basket of tater tots
Finish in 30 minutes and the $35 meal is free, plus you get your picture on the soon-to-be-created Wall of Fame as well as a special Maui Dog t-shirt that gets you 15 percent off any future purchases you make while wearing it. Hot damn! If you fail, you have to pay the full cost of the meal, but you get a little punch card fully stamped and good for one free future meal.
So far, Stamatakis says, only one person has been able to complete the challenge, and he did it with about six minutes to spare. All five of the other competitors failed miserably; I'll be the seventh person to attempt it.
I place my order and shortly after, the food's brought out in waves, the meal becoming more and more daunting -- an onslaught of bread and beef. Stamatakis asks if I think I can "shralp" it. I assume he means conquer, though the word "shralp" sounds suspiciously like the sound I'd make if I threw this food up everywhere. Stamatakis says he used to have a "chum bucket" for just this sort of thing, but he gave it away to some people on a scavenger hunt. I can only imagine what horrors that bucket's seen.
The first bite of the Lava Dog is literally that: LAVA. The toasty dog and its steamy chili blanket scorch my mouth ruthlessly, but I hardly notice, at least until later.
Each lava dog is about three quarters of a pound, and there's a lot of flavor going on. Savory beef mixes with spicy chili, fruity Hawaiian slaw and sweet buns, which Stamatakis has special-made at a local bakery. It's a luau in my mouth. I polish off the first Lava Dog within three minutes and move right along to the tater tots.
In the heat of battle, the brain works to block painful injuries and keep you focused on your goal. Basketball players finish games on twisted ankles; football stars play through broken fingers; Monty Python's Black Knight wanted to keep fighting after losing limb after limb. In the zone as I am, I don't realize the damage that's been done to my mouth until I take the first bite of ketchup-dunked tater tot. The vinegar is like acid to the roof of my mouth.
I move on to a double-beef slider, which is one of the best things I've ever put in my mouth. The bun is sweet and the beef is moist and topped with Maui mustard, which is made with passion fruit and makes this slider absolutely incredible. I devour it.
As I continue on, victory seems assured. I'm carving up these dogs like a pro surfer carves waves, making quick work of the Hana Dog as well as the remaining Lava Dog.
But then: WIPE OUT. My glorious battle ends upon my confrontation with the Island Dog (the one made with an all-beef bratwurst and toppings of coconut and pineapple). More than 25 minutes have elapsed, and deep into the challenge as I am, the beef of this particular link has become incredibly tough and chewy. I can feel each bit sticking in a clump somewhere down my esophagus. The toppings aren't helping -- the coconut and pineapple are much more prominent here than on any of the other dogs, and they're incredibly sweet. This thing tastes like a brat dipped in pina colada. Coupled with how ungodly full my stomach is, it's more than I can handle. I slog through a final few bites, but leave about half the Island Dog and some bits of the sliders behind. So close, yet so far.
The cook, safe from the melee behind the walls of his kitchen, looks at me disappointedly and slowly shakes his head. He'll see me again soon, though, when I use my free meal punch card to get me some more of those Hawaiian-style sliders. Cowabunga, and all that.