Fare Trials

In the name of journalism, one editor sets out for food-challenge glory.

I have a bit of a reputation around the office as a human garbage disposal. I'll plow through four doughnuts before my co-workers can even pick between glazed or cream-filled. I'm likely to eat anything you place in front of me. I'll even finish your meal if you can't. So given Clevelanders' appetite for good food and our competitive nature, it only seemed right that I'd be the one to attempt a buffet of insane food challenges cooked up by local restaurants. What followed was anything but a competition.

 Melt Challenge ($30) 

The Vitals: Melt Bar and Grilled's sandwich includes 3 1/2 pounds of 14 different cheeses on three slices of grilled bread, and comes with a mammoth pile of hand-cut fries, slaw and three pickle spears for five total pounds of food. What You Win: A Melt T-shirt or pint glass, a $10 gift card and you are enshrined in the online Melt Challenge Hall of Fame. Success Rate: Less than 10 percent of the people who have attempted it, complete the challenge. "There's a couple girls that have done it," says owner Matt Fish. "And the girls are tiny. I've seen the smallest girls do it, and the biggest guys in the world fail at it." My Experience: I am wild about cheese, so I attacked the ooey-gooey sandwich before the melted cheddar, Swiss, Muenster, pepper jack and provolone started solidifying. But halfway through the sandwich, I realized there was a pound and a half of cheese in my stomach, and things deteriorated quickly. I was defeated at the 32-minute mark. But I finished those pickle spears! Small victories, people. What I Learned: When you undertake a challenge at a restaurant that tends to be as busy as Melt, be prepared for more spectators than you bargained for.

 Sweet Moses Terminal Tower Sundae Challenge ($29) 

The Vitals: Ten massive scoops of ice cream, one each of Sweet Moses Soda Fountain and Treat Shop's classic flavors such as butter pecan, salted French caramel, and cookies and cream make up this leaning tower of frozen goodness. The whole thing is covered with hot fudge, warm caramel sauce, marshmallow cream, pecans, candy sprinkles, whipped cream, cherries and two toppings of your choice. "The original concept was that it was a big shareable sundae," says owner Jeff Moreau. "I never had in my mind that one person would try to eat this." What You Win: Your name on a plaque in the store and a trophy. Success Rate: Out of 20 people who have tried it, one has been victorious. My Experience: It was impossible to get bored with so many different flavors. But after about 45 minutes and the equivalent of four scoops of ice cream, I took one look at the melting mass in front of me and couldn't manage another spoonful. The helpful soda jerks gave me a C-minus, but it was a sweet ride. What I Learned: Skip the glass of water and ask for hot green tea, which gave me a second wind and fought off the effects of brain freeze.

 Shinto Godzilla Roll ($50) 

The Vitals: At Shinto Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar, 5 pounds of spicy tuna, salmon, tempura shrimp, crab, tofu, cream cheese and rice are rolled into six seaweed sheets, deep-fried and cut into 13 massive pucks of sushi. "Normally we just flash fry our rolls," says manager Amy Spellacy. "Since this one is larger, we have to keep it in there longer. But if it's too long, it will explode." What You Win: Finish the monster in an hour, and it's on the house. You also receive a $25 Shinto gift card. Success Rate: One of 46 attempts has been successful, and he did it in less than 30 minutes. He had dessert when he finished. My Experience: Within the first 10 minutes, I had powered through the first three pieces with ease. Feeling good, I dug into No. 4, but that first bite of cream cheese hit me hard. I pressed on through that roll and most of a fifth, before throwing in the metaphoric chopsticks at around the 40-minute mark. What I Learned: When you're told that part of the rules are that you can't get up and use the bathroom, get up and use the bathroom before starting.

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