If you had to sign a waiver before a meal, would you? Raina Huang does it for sport.
The Los Angeles-based competitive eater visited Denver in November and shared videos of her completing various food challenges with her 435,000 Instagram, 497,000 YouTube and 3.6 million TikTok followers.
Food challenges bring competitors like Huang from around the world. Local restaurants like Pho 95 Noodle House in Centennial, where Huang slurped down four large bowls of pho in 20 minutes, have started timed eating competitions to attract a new audience (one with a never-ending pit of a stomach).
“The goal is to not make money from customers losing, but so people can come and try our pho,” said Pho 95 owner Aaron Le.
If you think you have the stomach to down a 4-pound burrito, out-of-this-world spicy wings with no milk or water, or a 14-pound pizza, here are six spots in and around Denver to challenge yourself:
Pho 95 Noodle House
Before Le opened Pho 95 Noodle House’s first location in Denver in 2008, his friends and family would always call him the “Pho King Guy” because of his pho obsession. This nickname was later the inspiration for the T-shirts that both winners and losers of his Pho King Challenge get to wear. Losers get: “I am a Pho King Loser.” Winners, well, you get it.
The Pho King Challenge, which is only offered at Pho 95’s larger Centennial location, requires diners to finish four large bowls of pho with 2 pounds of noodles, 2 pounds of your choice of meat or tofu, and 200 ounces of broth within an hour. It’s recommended to call two days in advance of your attempt. Le said around 2,468 people have tried to complete the challenge in the last 10 years, but only 22 competitors have finished it. If you lose, you pay $40 for the meal and get the T-shirt. If you win, you get a free meal, a T-shirt and a photo on the winners’ wall.
“Before I started the challenge, I weighed in at 140 pounds and could finish two large bowls of pho, so I figured if I could do that out of pure hunger, someone is bound to be able to eat more,” Le said.
Huang is the only woman to finish the challenge in 20 minutes, and the record holder is popular competitive eater Ricardo Corbucci, who finished it in 12 minutes. Le said these competitors with millions of followers bring in a ton of business after their visits and help boost the challenge.
“You have to sign a waiver before you try the challenge, and in it, it says, ‘If you throw up, you have to clean it up,’” Le said. “Only one person has thrown up at the table, and they fulfilled their promise.”
6879 S. Vine St., Centennial; pho95noodlehouse.com
Fire On the Mountain
Put a little fire in your belly by trying the El Jefe challenge at both of Fire On the Mountain’s Denver locations. After signing a waiver to acknowledge you’re completing this out of your own free will, you must eat 15 wings (bone-in chicken or seitan for vegetarians and vegans) drenched in the restaurant’s ridiculously spicy El Jefe sauce in 3 1/2 minutes or less. There’s no ranch, blue cheese, or alcohol for relief. Winners get a free meal, a free piece of Fire On The Mountain merchandise and a picture on the restaurant’s Wall of Flame. Losers have to pay the $19.99 and drown their sorrows in milk.
300 S. Logan St.; 3801 W. 32nd Ave., Denver; fotmdenver.com
Pick your ravenous friend as a teammate to devour Beau Jo’s Grand Sicilian Pizza challenge at any of the six Colorado locations. The buddy challenge requires two people to finish a 14-pound Mountain pie with hamburger, sausage, pepperoni, green pepper, red onion and mushroom on top in an hour. Each location requires advance notice before the challenge. “One person has attempted to finish it on their own, but failed,” said Arvada Beau Jo’s manager Victor Romero III. Winners get a free meal, a T-shirt, pictures on the restaurant wall and $100 cash.
Multiple locations; beaujos.com
Swanky’s Vittles and Libations
Not for the lactose intolerant: Swanky’s offers a food challenge with a 3-pound grilled cheese made with six slices of Texas Toast, a full order of mac and cheese, cheddar cheese curds, 18 slices of American cheese, a half-pound of french fries and a half-pound of tater tots. Whew! Sounds like a Saturday night. Winners get a free meal, a T-shirt, a $10 gift certificate and a photo on the restaurant wall. Losers have to pay $35 for the meal and get a photo on the Wall of Shame. There is no time limit, but you can’t leave the table without finishing it. The challenge is not available during peak hours and marquee games.
1938 Blake St., Denver; swankys.com
The Rock Restaurant and Bar
The Rock serves a 4-pound burrito nearly the size of a newborn to the bravest of stomachs. The ground beef burrito is smothered in green chile and cheese and comes with a side of refried beans, lettuce and tomato. There’s no time limit, but the longer you let that ground beef dry out, the harder it becomes. Winners get a T-shirt and all the glory.
22934 E. Smoky Hill Road, Aurora; rockrestaurantandbar.com
For the last 13 years, Kickin Wings has been challenging guests to finish its spiciest 10 wings in 10 minutes. And only 10 guests have completed the restaurant’s Triple X challenge. The wings are coated in Kickin Wings’ spiciest Triple X sauce, which requires gloves for handling. After you finish the 10 wings in 10 minutes, you aren’t allowed a drink for another 5 minutes. The meal is free for winners and losers, but whoever can handle the spice – akin to pepper spray – gets a gift certificate for 20 free wings.
4990 Kipling St., Wheat Ridge; facebook.com/KickinWings