Death by dinner: Burger Jones' Meat Your Maker, Origami's blowfish, and more

Hutton goes head-to-head with perilous menu items

When our plate of Ghost Wings arrived, their wafting scent opened up our nasal passages, as if to warn us of the potency of the wing's gooey red sauce. Worried about burning her fingertips, Katie approached the wing with a knife and fork.

She took a bite and appeared to swallow painlessly—a good sign, I thought. My first taste surprised me with its complexity of flavor. The fiery sensation at the tip of my tongue blossomed into a spectrum of fruity, woodsy notes, with hints of campfire, paprika, and adobo—all the nuance that usually gets lost in extremely spicy dishes. I took another bite, glanced up from my plate, and noticed Katie's pained look. "Can you breathe?" I asked. "Where does it hurt? Should I call the ambulance?"

Before she could respond, the ghost pepper revealed its power to me: The pepper's secret is its brief grace period, in which it lulls its victims into submission—during those first few seconds, a cocky sort might even take a few more bites. But then the heat begins its slow, phantom-like crescendo, moving from lips to mouth to throat to stomach. Unlike the heat of other chiles, which seems to strike quickly, then retreat, the ghost pepper was unrelenting. For several minutes Katie and I chugged water and crunched iceberg lettuce from the salad we'd ordered, just in case. We whistled in short, rapid breaths as our eyes watered and faces flushed. "My face is seizing up," Katie said. I lifted a ramekin of ranch dressing to my lips and drank it like a shot.

The infamous fugu, three ways: Deep-fried, infused in sake, and as sashimi
The infamous fugu, three ways: Deep-fried, infused in sake, and as sashimi

Location Info

Map

Origami

30 1st St. N.
Minneapolis, MN 55401

Category: Restaurant > Japanese

Region: Minneapolis (Downtown)

Details

Origami
30 N. First St., Minneapolis
612.333.8430;
Web site

Fugu set, $45, served Thursday through Saturday through late winter

Girvan Grille
8700 Edinbrook Crossing, Brooklyn Park
763.315.8535; Web site
Ghost Wings, $5

Burger Jones
3200 W. Lake St., Minneapolis
612.746.0800; Web site
Meat Your Maker, $25

Several minutes later the pain eventually subsided, and we noticed a couple of guys at the next table had empty Ghost Wing platters. One of them had just polished off 18 wings and said that he usually comes in two or three times a week for his fix. "Do you feel the euphoria yet?" he asked. We didn't. But perhaps half a wing apiece wasn't enough to trigger a spice high—or perhaps the euphoria was simply a rush of testosterone caused by the hubris of defeating the ghost pepper. We weren't willing to experiment further after the wing champ confirmed our fear of the wings' aftereffects. "Let's just say that the next day is not the good part," he admitted.

WHOEVER THOUGHT MEETING her maker would look like this: four cheeseburgers; three grilled cheese and bacon sandwiches, two puck-shaped, chili-cheese hot-dog burgers; one fried egg; and several strips of chicken-fried bacon stacked a foot high and stabbed through the center with a steak knife, then garnished with onion rings and cheese curds? But there it was, set before me by my waitress at Burger Jones. After chumping out on the wing challenge, I thought I might redeem myself by facing my other worst nightmare: extreme eating challenges. This one is called Meat Your Maker, and it looked nearly the size of a Lance Armstrong thigh. If I polished it off in less than an hour, I'd leave with a T-shirt, a gift certificate, a smug sense of satisfaction, and, quite likely, a massive stomachache.

When the waitress delivered the beast, diners at other tables openly stared. "Are you really going to eat all that?" a man in a neighboring booth inquired. A woman at another table muttered something about just how very wrong the whole thing was. A guy in a chef jacket that said "burger meister" on the breast came out of the kitchen and mentioned that a professional—Patrick "Deep Dish" Bertoletti, it turns out, who is ranked third in the world by the International Federation of Competitive Eating—had recently been in the restaurant and completed the challenge. Burger meister passed on Bertoletti's technique. "Take lots of little sips of water and eat the greasy stuff last," he said.

I laid all 10,000-some calories on its side, toppling the thing like a felled tree. Ignoring the burger meister's advice, I couldn't help but nibble a few of the cheese curds—everybody knows they're not any good once they're cold.

Half an hour later I'd eaten one of the burgers, an onion ring, half a piece of bread, and a few bites of the puck-shaped hot dog. I might have done better had the stack not been so overcooked, bland, and heavily salted. I found myself nibbling on the egg white for a little relief. But the truth was, no matter how it tasted, I didn't have the stomach for it. Literally.

After I gave up, burger meister returned to check on me once more. When I asked him if he was disappointed in me, he shook his head, said nothing, and headed back to the kitchen. 

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