Well, we are home from our attempt at ‘roughing it’ out in Cook Forest this weekend. There will be plenty more in terms of details about our adventures, but first, allow me to bring you one of the rare successes in our disaster-ridden vacation: our trip to Denny’s Beer Barrel Pub.
Located in Clearfield, PA (also known as ‘the place with that Sheetz you stop at while you’re driving on Route 80 East’), Denny’s is home to the biggest cheeseburgers of all time. I’m not just making that up. Remember when someone sent you a picture of a giant burger in a chain e-mail back in 2003, and you looked it up on Snopes to make sure it hadn’t been photoshopped? This is the place that makes that burger.
The menu isn’t limited to just burgers at Denny’s. We decided to try out their cheese sticks as well. They have a gigantic menu, ranging from the huge burgers, to gourmet burgers, to Mexican, Irish, or Italian dishes, to your other standard pub fare like these garlicky cheese sticks. I imagine if you live in Clearfield, this is the place to be when you want a night out!
We ordered the Pub Challenger to split. This burger is the smallest of the contest burgers, weighing in at 2 pounds of beef, plus all the fixins. If you share the ‘smaller’ contest burgers, you do not qualify for the prizes, but this was still more than enough for both of us!
There are 5 different levels of burger-eating contests. The two- and three-pound burgers must be completed by a single person, in a single sitting, to count. You also have a time limit: an hour for the 2-pounder and an hour and a half for the 3.
Plenty of people have conquered these and gotten their pictures on the Wall of Fame. What’s really difficult is the 6-pounder. Again, you’re on your own for this one, but you’ve got three hours to finish it, and you have to give the restaurant 24 hours of notice that you’re coming in for it, so they have time to cook it up. If you can finish it, the burger is on the house (but not the Zantac and Tums you will surely need afterward!).
If you’ve got a buddy who’s a champion eater, the two of you can take on one of the even-bigger-burger challenges. There’s a 15-pounder and a 25-pounder, and the bigger of those two requires a full three days’ notice to prepare it. Denny’s is serious about burgers (you can get all the way up to a 123-pound burger to share with your friends at your graduation party or weddding!).
There’s a lot of mental preparation that goes into eating one of these burgers. Back in 2004ish, before Michael and I even met, I attended a friend’s wedding in Clearfield, and after the wedding, a group of 8 of us split one of these burgers. Do you now understand the mental anguish you can experience before you even take the first bite??
Michael had a sort of bet with me that I would eat most of the French fries we ordered on the side, and very little of the burger. He said that I am a ‘nibbler,’ because I will often eat 6 or more little meals in a day, instead of less, larger meals. I had a lot to prove!
I felt like Vanna White, that time Wheel of Fortune was in Pittsburgh, and she had to eat a Primantis sandwich live on TV without making a total mess in front of the viewing public. The burger was so big that even an epic Primantis-eater like myself had a hard time holding it together… and I had to resort to using a knife and fork!
We sliced the burger down the middle and got down to business. Here’s why it’s such a challenge to eat one of these burgers: the two pounds of meat are nothing, but when you factor in the full loaf of bread that makes up the bun, plus allllll of those onions and peppers, and that beastly mix of mayo, relish, mustard, and ketchup… Well, it’s kind of a mess.
Thankfully, it was actually a pretty good burger. Michael compared the flavor of the actual meat to something similar to meatloaf, and I think that’s pretty accurate. It had that onion-y-ness to it that meatloaf does, but it was very tender, and really, the only thing that made me flinch was the banana peppers. I hate those things!
I can’t lie, I saved some of the burger meat to bring home for our official taste tester, Lucy. But Michael was a real champ and ate the whole thing, and was trying his best to power through the bun (easier said than done!). I definitely exceeded expectations though, so I think we did a pretty good job as a burger-eating team!
Denny’s also has an extensive dessert menu, and I only wish we’d had enough free space left in our stomachs to try it! The novelty of trying the giant burger was great, though. I was definitely curious about the other menu items, but I’m glad I got to share this massive burger beast with my husband!