Jim Friedman admits there's not a lot of prestige in attempting a food challenge, but there sure is a sense of pride in completing one.
Like the nearly 5-pound breakfast burrito challenge at Macadoo's Family Restaurant in Mishawaka. It took the Mishawaka man three tries during the past year to get that burrito, well, down. After all, it contains a dozen eggs, sausage, potatoes and a half pound of cheese in a tortilla, smothered in sausage gravy.
Friedman jokes that he won't tell, but he is definitely scouting the region for other food challenges.
"The only way to really prepare is to know what you're going up against," Friedman says. "A good challenge is one that I could see eating even if it wasn't a challenge. The intriguing part -- at least for me -- is seeing what I am able to do."
While food challenges have been around for quite some time, they have seen a spike in popularity in the last few years.
The advent of such television series as Man v. Food, which features a Travel Channel host conquering restaurant challenges across the country, has prompted many local diners to seek out contests in the region from local and regional restaurants.
Lunker's restaurant, which is Angler's Inn, offers a 64-ounce USDA Choice Top Sirloin steak that has to be eaten within one hour. It comes with a salad and baked potato, although you don't have to eat the sides.
In three years, about 300 steaks have been served, restaurant officials have tabulated. And 72 times someone has finished it and received the meal for free (a $59.95 value), as well as a T-shirt, certificate, your picture on a digital frame and name placed on a plaque.
At Wings, Etc. restaurants, the attempts, successes and failures by challengers who over the years have tried to eat 16 flaming hot jumbo wings, number several or more thousand.
Some locations see regular customers attempt the challenge to get their photo posted on the Wings, Etc. prestigious Wall of Flame.
Hacienda Mexican Restaurants, and La Senorita Restaurants in Michigan, have what's called the Big Juan. This is a 4-pound wet burrito that is offered during the month of April.
The challenge takers fall into three categories. First, those who have tried and ate the whole thing. Second, those who tried and gave up, says Jeff Leslie, vice president of sales and marketing.
"And there are also those who tried and couldn't quite keep it down," Leslie says.
That's the reason most food challenges tend to have one rule in common: You usually cannot leave the table once you start eating.
Someone takes the Woodland Inn challenge, which launched in November 2010, every few weeks.
The $25.95 Slammer consists of six, half-pound burgers with six slices of cheese and three buns. Contestants can add up to four condiments on their burger and as much pop or tea as they want, but they can't leave the table after they've started eating.
To date, more than 235 Slammers have been served at the South Bend restaurant, but only 12 diners have finished every last bite in less than 30 minutes, says Cindy Beals, Woodland co-owner.
Duane Walters, of Bremen, is among them.