Big eats

Pancakes and potatoes, the "Big Ugly," and a banana split stood between Evan and this food challenge victory.


Evan feels confident as he takes the first bite of his "Big Ugly," a one-pound burger uncooked. Sarah Boyum Buy Photos

The not-so-simple challenge that was presented to me: three pancakes and Paxson’s Potatoes from Village Deli for brunch, the ‘‘Big Ugly’’ Challenge from Bub’s for dinner, and a banana split from Hartzell’s for dessert.

One day. Three challenges. Probably five billion calories. I can only imagine what went through the head of my friend and one of the editors of Inside when she thought of who to ask to take on these challenges.

“Hmmm… Who do I know who eats a lot? … Oh Evan! Evan eats food all the time! Usually a lot of it!”

Challenge accepted.

I put in some preparation for the day of gluttony. The day before my body would never forgive me, I Googled, “How to eat a lot of food.” The results were mixed with a lot of personal testimonies from “experts” basically telling me this endeavor was not natural to the body and extreme caution should be exercised.


I showed up at Village Deli with an empty stomach. I wouldn’t say I was arrogant, but I mean, its just pancakes, right?

“Three pancakes and Paxson’s Potatoes please,” I said to the waiter.

The waiter, who I later learned was named Pierce, looked at me and said, “You know they’re pretty big right?”

“Yeah, yeah I know.”

“OK, if you’re sure.”

Oh, I was sure. I’m not a huge fan of pancakes, admittedly. I’m definitely more of a waffle guy — born and raised on those delicious frozen Eggo waffles that should be the staple of every little kid’s childhood. But pancakes can’t be that filling, or so I thought.

Then, Pierce brought out the pancakes.

They. Were. Large.

The size of each pancake overwhelmed me. The pancakes hung over the side of the plate. And the thickness — wow. I was staring at three pancakes the size of my head and the width of a dime. Oh yeah, and a bowl of Paxson’s Potatoes.

“I put them each on different plates,” Pierce said. “They looked more daunting that way.”

Thanks, Pierce.

I applied the butter and draped syrup over the behemoths. I took my first bite and was feeling like a champ. The thought, “Hey, these taste pretty good, I can do this,” went through my head.

Fast-forward to the end of pancake one. I had cleared one plate but still had two pancakes and Paxton’s Potatoes left. I had to get creative if I was going to trick my stomach into eating more food.

I chopped up one of the pancakes into bite sized pieces. The people I was with were interested/disgusted in my strategy.

“What are you going to do?”

“You’ll see,” I replied.

I put the Paxson’s Potatoes — laden with potatoes, gravy, onions and cheese — onto the pancake. Was I crazy? Insane? A mad man?

No — it was delicious.

Topping it off with a good amount of hot sauce, I was pleasantly surprised I enjoyed this concoction.

“Interesting strategy,” Pierce said as he walked by.

Thanks, Pierce.

But I got halfway through the pile and had to surrender. It was too much.

Village Deli – 1, Evan – 0.

I knew this would be my weakest point of the day. Like I said, I’m not a huge pancake connoisseur. But I was still disappointed in myself. I had let the challenge down. I had let Pierce down.

I had six hours to regroup. Bub’s Burgers & Ice Cream would be calling at 6 p.m. When dinnertime came around, I wasn’t that hungry, but I couldn’t let down the good people of Bloomington again. I ordered the “Big Ugly.”

What my waiter, Justin, brought out was a one-pound burger that once again was the size of my head. Justin also brought out a “just in case” bucket. My reward if I eat the whole thing — my picture on the wall with hundreds of other people who like food.

Game on. This was more in my wheelhouse. Dinner food has always been my specialty. But could I finish this gigantic chunk of meat with Village Deli pancakes still in my belly?

Half an hour later, I was still going strong. I don’t know what came over me. I had eaten three-fourths of this burger and was still feeling good. I wouldn’t say I’m the Michael Jordan of eating the Bub’s Big Ugly, but I’m at least the Robert Horry of eating the Bub’s Big Ugly. (For those of you who have lives and don’t follow sports to the alarming degree I do, Robert Horry is a former decent NBA player who made ridiculously clutch plays when it mattered most.)

As I took my final bite of the patty, I had defeated the Big Ugly. I was stuffed to my brim full of meat but couldn’t be happier.

“I’ll go grab the camera,” Justin said. “I’m impressed.”

Damn right, Justin.

Evan – 1, Bub’s – 0.

I had three hours to recover for my banana split at Hartzell’s, but I wasn’t worried. I have been eating Edy’s Rocky Road out of the tub for years.

The banana split was a beautiful creature. It was an aesthetically pleasing piece of ice cream artwork. Like I said, I wasn’t too worried — this was ice cream.

As I was downing the last couple bites of my banana split, I had time to reflect on my day of eating. Bloomington is home to many little places only local to this great city.

Take a walk down Fourth Street and observe all the ethnic restaurants. Or right by College Mall there’s this little place called “Wendy’s” I think you’ll really enjoy.

I had bested the banana split. Two out of three food challenges had been defeated by yours truly. 

It was a great experience, even though I won’t be hungry until May.

Evan – 1, Hartzell’s – 0.

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