Because competitive eating is a sport, and because Fish, the proprietor of Melt, has one of the best collections of nostalgic and vintage Cleveland sports signage around town, I think it's only appropriate to include this dispatch from Scene salesman Adam Toporowski in this space.
GURGLE, GURGLE GURGLE. The cheese begins to bubble in my stomach as I struggle to chew. Another sip of water. GURGLE GURGLE GURGLE. I can’t go on any longer. More water. Where's the water?!
To most people, eating is a way to sustain existence. At Melt it’s a challenge, and that's 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, 3 pieces of garlic toast, fries and coleslaw, this behemoth weighs in at close to 5 pounds. It's the blistering blitzkreig 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 Melt episode will air in June.)
The rules are simple: Finish it all without any help or trips to the bathroom.
A brief foreword: 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 be subsistuted for a dumbbell. They may tell themselves they could do it, but then logic steps in (or the girlfirend, or the wife) and smarter 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. What followed was not an enjoyable experience. 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 Ratcliff did have the necessary gastro fortitude — the marathon runner and cancer survivor got the best of this monstrosity of a meal.
The key to besting this challenge, as with any other, is strategy. I chose to eat the fries and slaw first and then the sandwich. The strategy he took was to eat the cheese first and then move on to the bread, fries, and slaw. Half way 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 then I quite 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 any time soon, but having witnessed a friend taste the thrill of victory I know that I must not give up on the dream. — Adam Toporowski