Dayton-area restaurants throw down the challenge to diners with big appetites

Just how bad for you is it?

Most rational folks know that gorging on a massive amount of food at one sitting can’t be a good thing, health-wise. But how bad can it be? We asked Dr. Susan E. Williams, director of the Center for Nutrition and Metabolic Medicine for Kettering Health Network-Greene Memorial Hospital. Here’s what she had to say:

“It appears that even short-term overeating leads to insulin resistance in the fat cells, and is more likely to lead to obesity. The second issue is the elevated cholesterol, triglycerides and lipoproteins levels in the blood, which occurs almost immediately after consuming a meal and will last for many multiples of hours as the body strives to ‘clear’ the blood.

“For a young healthy individual who occasionally or rarely engages in such behavior there may be no long-term consequences; but the same cannot be said for the chronically ill or ‘repeat offenders.’ ”

Many have tried. Few have succeeded. Some have failed spectacularly — but we won’t get into that.

“Man vs. Food”-type eating challenges have attracted many brave Miami Valley souls who can’t resist the taunting message thrown down by a handful of local restaurants and pubs: “Betcha can’t eat this.”

“Betcha I can!” comes the reply. Only usually, um, not.

We wanted to explore the ample underbelly of local eating challenges, so we published a solicitation a few weeks back inviting readers and restaurant owners to let us know about their favorites. The response was almost as robust as some of the dishes served. Almost.

The granddaddy of local food challenges — based on longevity, level of challenge and potential reward — has to be the “Bill Clinton Divorce Finale” burger offered by Voltzy’s Hamburger & Root Beer Stand in Moraine.

The gargantuan Clinton burger consists of 14 pounds of ground beef, a half-pound of onions and 20 slices of cheese on a one-pound bun. If one person eats it all in one hour, the burger is free — and Voltzy’s owner Rick Volz will pay the bloated diner $100.

Thus far, in the 15 years or so the challenge has been offered, Volz hasn’t had to part with any of his cash. The failure rate is 100 percent.

“I’ve had guys in here who were six-feet-six and 350 pounds who couldn’t get very far,” Volz said. “A woman who was about 6 feet tall and weighed only about 110 came closest. She ate about three-fourths of it.”

Tom Combs, co-owner of Pisanello’s Pizza in Franklin, said at least 120 pairs of diners have taken on The Reaper, a 28-inch pizza, and only eight teams have successfully consumed it in 30 minutes in one sitting. That meant they got the $54 pizza for free.

The pizza normally can feed 10 to 12 people, Combs said. Competitors must order at least three toppings, and green peppers and onions don’t count — they’re too wimpy. Among the successful competitors in recent weeks were two members of the Franklin High School wrestling team who celebrated the end of the season — and the end of having to make weight — by taking down The Reaper, Combs said.

Johnny Rivera, whose Johnny’s Slice of New York pizza restaurant in Centerville offers a Brooklyn Brawler Challenge, has seen a half-dozen two-person teams succeed in polishing off the eight-pound, meat-stuffed pizza within 30 minutes. But another 400 or so teams tried and failed since 2004.

“We once had five challenges going on at the same time,” Rivera said. “They were all skateboarders, high-school and middle-school age. They could barely roll home on their skateboards. They were lying around the parking lot for a while.”

Here are some of the Miami Valley restaurants that responded (or their customers responded) to our “food challenge" solicitation.

Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2258 or mfisher@coxohio.com.

ExploreBello Italian Restaurant
  • Inside the Holiday Inn Xenia
  • 300 Xenia Towne Square
  • (937) 372-9921
  • The Big Mama Burger Challenge: A three-pound hamburger with all the fixings on one very large bun. If one diner finishes the burger in 30 minutes, it's free.
  • Cost: $19.99
ExploreJohnny’s Slice of New York pizza restaurant
  • 57 W. Franklin St., Centerville
  • (937) 567-8840
  • "Brooklyn Brawler Challenge:" An 18-inch, eight-pound pizza stuffed with pepperoni, sausage, ham, bacon, mozzarella, and provolone. If two people finish every morsel of the pizza in 30 minutes, they get it for free, along with a T-shirt and their picture on the restaurant's "Wall of Fame." Those who fail have their pictures posted on the "Wall of Shame."
  • Cost: $24.99
ExploreLegends Sports Pub & Grille
  • 7617 Dayton Springfield Road, Enon
  • (937) 863-0238
  • "Lucky Dog Challenge:" If you can finish seven "Lucky Dogs" — foot-long, half-pound hot dogs that are over an inch in diameter — in 45 minutes, the hot dogs are free, and you get a T-shirt and a $25 gift certificate. But no one has succeeded yet.
  • Cost: $48.93 for seven of the dogs, which are priced at $6.99 each.
ExploreMilano’s Atlantic City Subs (Beavercreek store only)
  • 2260 N. Fairfield Road, Beavercreek
  • (937) 427-7827
  • Extreme Meat Pizza Challenge: A 14-inch pizza topped with pepperoni, ham, bacon, sausage, extra cheese and extra sauce. If one person can finish the pizza in 20 minutes, the pizza is free.
  • Cost: $19.47
ExplorePie Pizzeria
  • 1910 Brown St., Dayton (near the University of Dayton campus)
  • (937) 228-4743
  • Brawler challenge: An 18-inch, eight-pound stuffed pizza with bacon, ham. pepperoni and sausage, with both a top and bottom crust. If a pair of diners finish the entire pizza, including filling, within 20 minutes, they receive the pizza for free, along with a T-shirt.
  • Cost: $25.99
ExplorePisanello’s Pizza
  • 355 South Main St., Franklin
  • (937) 746-9252
  • "The Reaper" challenge: a 28-inch pizza with at least three toppings. If two people finish the pizza in 30 minutes in one sitting, the pizza is free.
  • Cost: $54
ExploreQuaker Steak & Lube
  • 3725 Presidential Drive, Beavercreek (near Wright State University)
  • (937) 427-0500
  • "The Atomic Challenge" and "The Triple Atomic Challenge:" Eat five chicken wings slathered in the restaurant's searing Atomic sauce or Triple Atomic sauce, and get your name added to the Atomic Wall. Yes, you still have to pay for them.
  • Cost: $6.99
ExploreVoltzy’s Hamburger & Root Beer Stand
  • 4668 Springboro Pike, Moraine
  • (937) 299-1440
  • "Bill Clinton Divorce Finale" challenge: A 14-pound burger with a half-pound of onions and 20 slices of cheese on a one-pound bun. If one person eats it all in one hour, the burger is free — and Voltzy's owner Rick Volz will pay the bloated diner $100.
  • Cost: $40