After getting wind of Hill Country’s Feed Your Face challenge (wherein your $65 meal is comped if you down two pounds of meat, two sides, a cupcake, and a 32-ounce drink within an hour) we decided what the hell, we’d give it a go. Truth is, despite having dabbled in competitive eating, we’re kind of grossed out by the whole Man v. Food thing (Adam Richman’s sauce-smeared lips, shudder), but barbecue is something you always over-order anyway, so this just seemed like it’d be slightly more gluttonous than any other night at Hill Country. We got all the more cocky when the floor manager told us that two out of the four people who’ve taken the challenge so far have completed it — one of them in 37 minutes. But here’s the thing: One of them “lost it all over the table” (hence the tin pail they now provide). Plus, according to the manager, the chef himself hadn’t been able to finish the platter (“that’s how we knew it was the right amount of food — when a big guy like that couldn’t finish it.”)
After plopping two pounds of meat on our tray, one of the carvers guided us to the sides station and told us, “Here’s where you really need to be strategic. Think volume over density.” We were planning to go for the slaw for its lubricating qualities, but upon seeing how heavy it was we went with the green-bean casserole and pickled cucumbers (a nice palate cleanser), and accepted our choice of cupcake (red velvet — no way were we messing with peanut-butter jelly) and headed over to the “isolation table” where we were monitored by a waitress for the next hour. Our beverage of choice was, of course, non-carbonated: sweet iced tea. It was easy going at first (frankly, we were aiming to beat the 37-minute record), but make no mistake — around that 37-minute mark, you hit the wall. You begin feeling a little bit high, and not in a good way: time slows to a crawl; things become very grotesque; your friend is talking to you but you’re not really listening (mostly because hearing him ask the waitress to recommend a cupcake is making you nauseated); and suddenly it’s like you’re in the bar from Fear and Loathing. You begin thinking that you’d pay the $65 just to get this tray away from you. And yes, as you are overcome with Extreme Barbecue Fatigue, you struggle to keep your stomach obedient while chawing on the next gob of fat.
Our advice, if you are dead set on doing this: Eat the fattiest, greasiest, and most rare parts first — their texture is revolting later in the game. Don’t let a lot of gristle fall off the meat; you’ll be forced to eat it later on when it’s the last thing you want to do (ask for a spoon to make it easier). Drink water if only to prevent dehydration from all the salt. Don’t make the mistake of finishing your sides early on, which we made. You’ll need them to temper the monotony of the meat taste toward the end. Alternate between barbecue sauce and hot sauce to keep things interesting. And don’t fear the cupcake: We assumed it would be the unmovable rock and its presence on the tray weighed on us heavily, but its rich sweetness was such a welcome break from all that meat that we pretty much inhaled it. It was like the burst of energy you get at the end of a marathon (not that we’ve ever run a marathon, though we’ll probably have to now, to work off this meal).
Anyway, after finishing with about five minutes to spare, we won a spot on the Wall of Cue, along with a Hill Country T-shirt and hat. Was it worth the free meal? Absolutely not. Let there be no doubt, this challenge is more of a fraternity hazing ritual than a fulfilling eating experience. In any case, we realize we were bad, bad bloggers in failing to photograph the platter, but don’t get your britches in a bunch, we’ll have them for you soon.
Earlier: Hill Country: Free If You Finish