My parents are massive Paul Newman fans. So much so, they named me after him. For those of you who have never seen one of the greatest films ever made, I have nothing but pity. But let me explain where I’m going with this anyway.
As Lucas “Cool Hand Luke” Jackson, the inimitable Newman scoffs 50 hard-boiled eggs in an hour while serving hard time. Little did I know that some 36 years after my folks were inspired by my baby blue eyes to give me my moniker, I too would be facing my own colossal culinary quest.
Despite having watched my fill of Adam Richman on Man v Food over the years, nothing could quite prepare me for the “BlackJack Chopper Challenge”. This gourmet gauntlet is thrown down to me by the good folk of Bikes ’n Bites in BoxPark. For the uninitiated, the challenge involves scoffing a 1kg version of a house special burger, along with portions of sweet potato fries, shoestring potatoes and onion rings. Unlike the egg-beating Mr Newman, though, this glutton for punishment only has half an hour to demolish the lot.
Any pre-fight nerves I might have had are soon accentuated when the assistant manager, Bohdan, kindly informs me that only three others have managed to devour this meaty mountain without chundering. And as I watch chef Lukas slather the behemoth of a bun with layer after layer of Angus beef brisket, add a mound of smoked turkey and top it off with hotlink sausages, the pre-emptive meat sweats cascade down my face like a ride at Wild Wadi.
Taking my seat at the table of destiny, I ponder the advice Richman had meted out on the show while the food mound is placed in front of me. With the countdown clock set a ticking, my tactics are soon thrown out of the window as I slice the burger in half and plough through the main event, forgetting about the support acts until later.
This decision seems to be the right one as I make light of the first half, polishing it off with just ten minutes gone. Man it was tasty, but as Bohdan points out, it will soon feel as if I’ve been eating paper. In my case, it’s as if I’ve pulled a shoebox out of a bin and tried to devour both it and the suede trainers wrapped inside.
As I struggle to make a dent in the second half, I can feel the first trying to escape from my mouth. I hit a wall, and with so much grub still goading me, the fear of failure is smashing in my face like a biker gang with a chain. “Man up, Luke,” I mutter to myself as I picture my namesake’s similar struggles at around the same point in his own feasting feat.
So after a quick stretch, a swig of cola and a rather loud belch, I set about my task with a renewed vigour. Slicing the rest of the burger in two proves a stroke of genius, as what remains seems far more manageable. I even grow a little blasé, sneaking in the odd chip and ring alongside my meaty mouthful.
Such confidence proves short-lived, however, as the foolhardiness of my change of tactic becomes clear. It feels as if I’ve been chewing the same piece of brisket for an aeon and the sides are still teasing me like that gaggle of grotesque girls from my nursery school. Much to my delight though, 20 minutes in and the burger is history. All that stands before me is a bucket of curly fries and its partners in crime. I love fries and rings, and they had all tasted wonderful earlier, especially dipped in the house barbecue sauce. But now, with all eyes on me and a bellyful of beef, they taste worse than licking a sock from lost property.
I simply have no more room, but in my haze, I hear words of encouragement from the audience that has gathered before me. Whether I’m hallucinating or not, I grab a fistful of fries and stuff them in my face. I don’t even notice that I’ve split the corners of my mouth by forcing in chip after chip.
With a minute to go, only four onion rings stand between myself and gluttonous glory. So slow is my pace, though, I’ve left myself two in ten seconds. And I ram the rings down. I’ve only gone and done it, without the need for a sick bucket. Maybe mum and dad should’ve called me Ranch Dressing…
Dhs130 (free if you complete the challenge). Daily 7pm to 11pm. Bikes ’n Bites, BoxPark, Al Wasl Road, www.bikesnbites.ae (04 343 285504 343 2855).
Four to try Other Bikes ’n Bites specials
Buffalo Boneyard Mondays
An all-you-can-eat chicken wings challenge. Feast upon unlimited wings paired with more than 40 different sauces. While enjoying the feast, make sure to collect your bones in the bucket provided, as the diner who accurately predicts the weight of their boneyard walks away with the meal on the house.
Dhs89. Mon 1pm-11pm.
An innovative three-course menu where you and a buddy can buy one, get one free, on either your whole meal or single items from the extensive range on offer. Expect to feast on hearty options including the veal rib bucket, Boss Hoss sandwich and Mississippi mud pie, to name a few.
Prices vary. Tue 10am-11pm.
Phat Boy Feast
Tuck into three courses paired with a truck-load of happiness – comprising onion rings, chicken wings, veal ribs and more, followed by a main board featuring favourites such as a mini Harley-Davidson, a mini Boss Hoss, slow-smoked brisket and a delightful jarred Snickers cheesecake for dessert.
Dhs175. Daily noon-11pm.
The Big Footie Pit Stop
Cheer on your team in the last four of the Champions League while chowing down with your pals. Feast upon a smaller version of the BlackJack Chopper, accompanied by coleslaw, onion rings, shoestring potatoes and a drink. If your boys lose, don’t blame the staff…
Dhs80. Match days only.