Bites: The Melt Grilled Cheese Challenge 

I lived to tell the tale... sort of

At Melt Bar and Grilled (14718 Detroit Ave., Lakewood, 216.226.3699, meltbarandgrilled.com), it's a challenge just to finish one of the regular sandwiches. Then there's the "Melt Challenge" a feat not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. With 13 types of cheese, three pieces of garlic toast, fries and coleslaw, this behemoth weighs in at close to five pounds. It's the blistering blitzkrieg of carbs and bubbly cheese that Man vs. Food's Adam Richman tackled while he masochistically ate his way through Cleveland on a recent visit. (The episode will air on the Travel Channel in June.)

The rules are simple: Finish it all without any help or trips to the bathroom.

I enjoy eating obviously. And I may enjoy eating more than the regular Joe, because the regular Joe doesn't get too excited about the idea of consuming a chunk of food that in a pinch could substitute for a dumbbell. They may tell themselves they could do it, but then logic steps in (or the girlfriend or the wife), and wiser heads prevail. Not me. Whether it was hubris, ego, machismo or watching too much Adam Richman, I pointed my finger at the menu and brazenly told the waitress to bring on the challenge.

And that's about when the fun ended.

Forcing yourself to go on even though you know that you can't is something that drives elite athletes. Apparently, I don't have that. On the other hand, my buddy Andrew did have the necessary gastro fortitude — the marathon runner and cancer survivor got the best of this monstrosity of a meal.

The key to meeting this challenge, as with any other, is strategy. I chose to eat the fries and slaw first, and then the sandwich. Andrew's strategy was to eat the cheese first and then move on to the bread, fries and slaw. Halfway through the sandwich. I was done. An hour and a half later, so was Andrew, but he had defeated the sandwich.

This is not a race to see who can finish first. It is a quantitative endeavor. I was confident I could do this, but once again my eyes were bigger than my stomach. Perhaps if I had planned better and not eaten three hours earlier, I possibly could have accomplished this ridiculous feat.

I have never felt so full in my entire life. Eating so much that the food actually wants to come back up — nay, is demanding to come back up — is not something that I would like to repeat anytime soon, but having witnessed a friend taste the thrill of victory, I know that I must not give up on the dream.

Adam Toporowski



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