Your invitation to the Clean Plate Club.

There’s a surging fascination with ingesting an outstanding quantum of food thanks to  television shows like Adam Richman’s “Man v. Food” on the Travel Channel.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, the challenge might go like this: take on 100 towering ounces of prime rib and take home a T-shirt and bragging rights, but not before getting your picture taken for the Wall of Fame.

Restaurants north, south, east and west of the Fox Cities are putting a spin on comfort cuisine and goading diners to gorge on extreme portions of food –– some even pulling out the stop watch. If you have an appetite for enormous helpings, these food challenges will leave you wishing you didn’t!

It’s a Girl, It’s a Boy… It’s a Burger!

The challenge burger at Timeline Saloon & BBQ in Bonduel (about 30 miles northwest of Green Bay) is a whopping seven pounds, about the average weight of a newborn baby.

And a baby is exactly what Timeline Saloon owner Steve “Doc” Hopkins considers his Harley-centric business. Having celebrated its one-year birthday on April 1, the saloon has grown to become a bouncing, lively bar and grill.

The restaurant concept orbits around Harley history, hence the passing of time reference in the name.

As much time as he’s spent nurturing the business, there’s nothing like the time a diner spends consuming the 24 ½-inch-long, seven-pound cheeseburger. It is also topped with lettuce, tomatoes and onions and seared with a stainless steel plaque that brands TIMELINE into the top of the chuck.

“As I was building the restaurant, all these ideas kept coming to me,” Hopkins shares. “I had a basic idea of what I wanted to do (for a challenge), but never imagined it’d turn out this way. It’s a big chunk of meat!”

Plopped on a bun that’s two feet long and served on a 28 ½-inch plate, it joins a helping of fries and coleslaw for a complete challenge.

The gargantuan patty is prepared on a charcoal grill, which is found in the middle of the restaurant. The bricks used to build the grill are from the house that Doc’s wife, Rhonda, grew up in. A cornerstone that was set in the top of the house and dated 1903, when the house was built, is ironically the same year Harley Davidson established. The square stone was given a new home in the grill structure as well.

Actually older than the restaurant itself, (Doc devised the challenge before he opened for business) the burger is still the reigning champ; no one has been able to bury it.

“One guy got three inches to the end and hit a brick wall,” Hopkins says.

If a diner can put it away in one hour (and is able to fend off a food coma), the $45.99 challenge is paid for and the victor gets to board Hopkins’ 10-person, seven-engine, 3,500-pound motorcycle for a photo and schedule a time to take a spin on it with Doc.

Another supreme burger can be found at Route 15 Sports Bar in Greenville. Weighing in at four pounds, The Zeus Challenge must be polished in an hour.

Owner Jim Wabiszewski, who bought the place in September 2010, says his friend and previous owner of the bar created the challenge. Wabiszewski notes that he’ll be revamping the menu but Zeus will prevail.

“What’s hysterical is the bun this thing sits on,” he says. “That’s what does a person in!”

The bun measures a whopping 10 inches in diameter, but the burger components are assembled with rhyme and reason. Only two people have finished it.

“There was a time when I’d worked all day long and started to think I could eat the whole thing,” Wabiszewski says, laughing. “Yeah right!”

Go Out on a Limb

Seven miles west of Winneconne is Haase’s Supper Club in the unincorporated community of Borth. But its location isn’t as important as what it’s serving.

In true supper club fashion, Dan Natrop and his wife, Laura, serve four choices of prime rib on Saturdays, the biggest weighing in at 105 ounces. While not an official food challenge, the roast of repute is a regular favorite.

“[Customers] try to eat it, and then they eat it the next day and probably the week after,” he says.

If that isn’t enough, each prime rib order comes with a choice of potato, soup and salad, rolls, relishes and hot bread.

Looking north, Black Otter Supper Club in Hortonville also woos diners with its roast. It offers two challenges: the Super Cut Prime Rib, which weighs in at 116 ounces, and the Extreme Cut Prime Rib, which defies traditional dinner plates at 160 ounces.

The club’s website reports that in the seven years that the challenge has existed, only three people have finished the Extreme Cut, which stands taller than a bottle of A1 Steak Sauce.

Pizza Poundage

The human stomach is a muscular, elastic, pear-shaped bag that lays crosswise in the abdominal cavity. It is about 12 inches long and 6 inches wide with a capacity of approximately two pounds.

So what’s the organ to do when confronted by Italia Pizza & Pasta’s 30-inch pizza challenge? For one hopeful, it was several trips to the bathroom.

“He would get up to use the restroom and come back for more,” explains owner Matteo Sollena, Sr. “It took us a while to realize he was going in there to get rid of what he already ate!”

Sollena and his son, Matteo Jr., have been hosting the challenge since they opened their doors in Appleton three years ago.

The aforementioned contender failed the challenge, but two young UWFox Valley students defeated it about a year ago.

Required to select a minimum of three toppings from a list of eight, the winning duo downed a jumble of pineapple, Canadian bacon and pepperoni. While pineapple was a special request, other offerings include sausage, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, and green or black olives.

Today, they are still the only two to have finished, although Matteo Jr. says a couple individuals come in each month to try it.

Breakfast Breaker

The forecast calls for mostly eggy with heavy gusts of potatoes, torrential hash browns and several inches of pancakes. Overflowing likely.

If, that is, if you order the seven-pound Tsunami Challenge at WeatherVane, downtown Menasha’s new breakfast and lunch bistro.

Pat DuFrane and his wife, Julie, opened the doors on May 2, and, being big fans of Richman’s “Man v. Food” show, created a challenge to catch the attention of breakfast banqueters.

The dish delivers a six-egg omelette (with 14 ingredients, including four types of both meat and cheese), a “pyramid” of toast, and a pound each of hash browns and buttermilk pancakes. In a matter of speaking, the omelette folds and rolls like a tsunami to be about three inches tall and a foot long.

Pat explains that when the eggs and omelette ingredients hit the grill top, it pools out to be about two feet in diameter.

If a challenger can clean the plate in 30 minutes, the breakfast is free. If not, be prepared to fork over $19.99!

Sundae Supreme

If any sundae deserves a cherry on top, it’s the 36-scoop sensation at Zesty’s Custard in Allouez.

Owner Janelle French (with Ted Sieman) says that 36 scoops of custard (Zesty’s specialty and made fresh every day) amounts to about one gallon.

You’re probably thinking, “Piece of cake! Give me a gallon of Edy’s ice cream and a Woody Allen flick on a Friday night and that stuff is history.”

But custard and ice cream are very distant cousins.

The difference between custard and ice cream is in the amount of air that is blended into the mixture of ingredients. Ice cream may have an overrun, the process of blending in the air, as large as 100 percent, meaning half of the final product is composed of air. The lesser amount of overrun in custard explains the thicker consistency. The high percentage of butterfat and egg yolk also gives frozen custard a thick, creamy texture and a smoother consistency than ice cream.

Now, add your choice of a sundae topping, two cookies, one waffle cone and one regular cone, whipped cream, cherries and sprinkles. If you’re feeling it, add some nuts.’

“We give people an hour to complete the challenge,” French says. “Most of the time someone gets 15 minutes into it and they hit a wall.”

French was also inspired by the popular Travel Network show.

As of May, no one had clobbered the challenge yet. The first custard conquerer, will win a T-shirt that says, “I Survived Zesty’s Frozen Custard Challenge,” a $15 gift certificate for Zesty’s and, of course, bragging rights. The victor’s mugshot will also be featured on the back wall of the restaurant.

“I would say if you want to do it, order the half gallon first and gauge how it is,” French recommends.

A third Zesty’s location in Suamico opened in May, making it the second Zesty’s site to offer the challenge. The location in De Pere is only open April-September.

While competing in a food challenge may seem less intimidating, perhaps, than jumping off a bridge head first whilst being tied to a 250-foot cord, these mega meals are challenges no less and Fox Cities restaurant owners are waiting for someone to step up to the plate.

—By Alison Fiebig

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