Challenge Accepted: Best Food Challenges in LA

Challenge Your Appetite: Indulge in Some Gluttony With Some Competitive Eating

Written By: Rina Magsombol
Photography By: Keet Veylupek

Loosen that belt. Tuck in that bib. Engage at your own risk with dozens of LA food challenges, from South Pasadena to the City of Industry. It’s become part of the eatery culture, more popularized now since Adam Richman scarfed down a 72-ounce steak in Amarillo, TX. Consequently, daring souls have defied their stomach’s gastronomical capacities in food challenges ranging from doable to jaw-aching conquests.

With the evolution of competitive eating, from county fair pie-eating contents to ramen-slurping, the culture has grown creatively in sport and people. We used to watch food competitions with solely our own eyes. Now, witnesses can record gluttony with their smartphones. We’ve picked LA’s five best food challenges that will make your mouth water and stomach ache in minutes. Relax, if you’re not feeling audacious, these five spots do offer other flavorsome items on their menu. Now let’s exceed our appetite and gastronomically challenge ourselves into some gut-busting delights.


Fat Sal’s Deli

One of the most iconic deli sandwich joints in SoCal is Fat Sal’s Deli. Fat Sal’s was thankfully introduced to the West Coast by three friends (Sal, Jerry and Josh) from New York. They had the vision to revolutionize a boring and wimpy sandwich to a meaty and incredibly outrageous one. The Fat Sal’s Deli in LA, proudly uses the freshest ingredients possible, with Boar’s Head Brand delicatessen products. At Sal’s they offer countless selections of bread-bound treats. The Fat Texas BBQ is stupidly packed with BBQ pastrami brisket, chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, crisp bacon topped with grilled onions, melted cheddar and mozzarella fries, mayo and honey BBQ on a garlic hero. Another favorite of first-timers and regulars is the Fat Jerry: plumped with cheesesteak, chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, bacon and fried eggs, fries, finished with mayo and ketchup on a hero bun. If sandwiches won’t do, go ham out on Sal’s Fat Fries like the BLT Ranch Fries and Carne Asada Fries, or their burgers and hot dogs. The place is busy, loud and friendly. Lucky us, it’s open late to those with nocturnal munchies and ready for a fat appetite.

What’s the Challenge?

Although how sinful and convincing the name sounds, it is imperative we reiterate the unholy amount of goodness and size of The Big Fat Fatty. The Big Fat Fatty is a 27 inch garlic hero roll with five burger patties, one and a half pound cheesesteak, one and a half pound pastrami, chicken fingers, an entire package of bacon, mozzarella sticks, five fried eggs, jalapeño poppers, (breathes) french fries and onion rings topped with chili, marinara and fat sauce. The tricky part is finishing it in 40 minutes or less. The Big Fat Fatty name is certainly an understatement of the colossal creation itself.

What do you win?

With how victorious, yet repulsed you may feel after finishing, at Fat Sal’s they firmly believe they kind of owe you something: the sandwich is free ($49.99 value), and the winner can create and name their own personalized sandwich that goes on the menu at every Fat Sal’s!

Who’s finished?

Only two people have made history thus far, slaying the Big Fat Fatty, both of whom are professional competition eaters. Jamie McDonald created The Fat Jamie, made up of an endless list of Jamie’s preposterous personal creation, and the Fat Banh Mi-ki, manifested by Fat Sal’s other winner, Miki Sudo.

Native Knowledge: Jerry Ferrara, one of the three forefathers of Fat Sal’s is not only a third of the source driving Fat Sal’s success, but a celebrity seen in such films like “Think like a Man, ” “Battleship, ” and the popular TV series, “Entourage.”

1300 Highland Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90028


Orochon Ramen

Nestled in the heart of Little Tokyo in Downtown Los Angeles, Orochon Ramen is a well-known ramen joint in LA. Adam Richman paid a visit and triumphed in winning the war against the Orochon Ramen Special #2. Orochon’s broth is slowly cooked with 13 different spices, which remains a secret house recipe. To order, guests have the option to choose among three different types of broths: soybean, soy sauce, or a salt soup, all mixed with pork-based broth, black mushrooms, bell peppers, bamboo, Tokyo Negi (Japanese green onions), bean sprouts and pork. Then choose the spice level, ranging from the non-spicy Orochon (intended for the purists) to the inferno-blazing Special #2. Top off your ramen by choosing vegetables to their delicious Cha-shu pork. Orochon Ramen provides beers on tap, and the environment is pleasingly-hectic with a welcoming and attentive staff.

What’s the Challenge?

One person must finish the senselessly-spicy Orochon Special #2 in half an hour. No bathroom breaks are allowed, yet milk and water are available for assistance at your corner.

What do you win?

A warm belly, tears of accomplishment and your face on the wall.

Who’s finished?

Although many people have challenged themselves with the Orochon Special #2, only a couple hundred have won.

Native Knowledge: According to the owner, Shigeki Matsuda, he witnessed a young girl wolf down the Orochon Special #2 ramen without fear or regret. Nope — just pure enjoyment.

123 Astronaut E S Onizuka St
Los Angeles, CA 90012


Manuel’s Original El Tepeyac Café

Formerly named El Tupinamba Café,  Manuel’s Original El Tepeyac Café was founded in 1942 by the Rojas family. Manuel and his mother took over the family business following the death of his father and continued to expand and grow the business serving and satisfying the community. In 2009, El Tepeyac Café was featured on Man vs. Food, challenging Adam to the Manuel’s Special Burrito, which weighs up to five pounds! People from all walks of life dine here at The El Tepeyac Café pampering in their full-service cantina bar and delighting in their tasty menu. Their featured dishes include their Original Hollenbeck Burrito, stuffed with succulent pork meat in chili sauce, rice, beans and guac, finished with chili verde sauce.

What’s the Challenge?

The foot long Manuel’s Special, consists of two burrito-sized flour tortillas, crammed with a mountain of rice and beans, El Tepeyac’s chili verde pork, all questionably-secured and topped off with a heap of cheese, and additional chili verde (because one layer was not enough), not shy of equating to a whopping total of five pounds. The behemoth of a burrito must be consumed within an hour.

What do you win?

El Tepeyac Café credits their winners with the same burrito that can be redeemed when they dine back, a shirt that pretentiously claims, “I Ate The Whole Thing!” and a bottle of Tums graciously waiting for you at your nearest Walgreens.

Who’s finished?

With over 40 years in business, numerous people have attempted, but only a few hundred have finished the Manuel’s Special.

Native Knowledge: Manuel’s Original El Tepeyac Café invites their guests to their happy hour Monday through Thursdays from 4 p.m.-8 p.m. and Fridays all day until 8 p.m.

13131 Crossroads Parkway S
City of Industry, CA 91746


Fair Oaks Pharmacy and Soda Fountain

Originally named the South Pasadena Pharmacy, Fair Oaks Pharmacy and Soda Fountain has been a popular rest stop at the westernmost end of Route 66 since 1915. Over the years, the standalone pharmacy added a soda fountain and an ice cream parlor. Later, they expanded the menu to burgers and shakes, keeping close to the “All-American” taste. When you first step into the ice cream parlor, you will be whisked away by their friendly and welcoming staff. You will find yourself distracted by their museum-like shop, showcasing vintage collectibles from your King of Rock n’ Roll items, Fisher-Price Chatter Telephone , and Pull-A-Tune Xylophone. Glass cases of jewelry and carousels stacked with greeting cards are available as well.

When it comes to food, Fair Oak’s Ice Cream Parlor’s hottest items include the All-American Banana Split and the Banana Blitz. Each item emphasizes on proportion, which could surely use an extra mouth, so bring a friend and extra napkins. Their ice cream sodas and floats, which are rare commodities now, are still frequently purchased by long-time pioneers.

What’s the Challenge?

It’s called “The Kitchen Sink.” We’re talking eight softball-size scoops of ice cream, along with mountains of toppings. Expect cookies, bananas, brownies, and hot fudge and/or caramel. This beauty must be eaten and/or drank in half an hour or less, with yourself and a friend. Two glasses of water must be completed at the end of the half-hour mark to successfully win this challenge.

What do you win?

While you may be paying for a stomach ache, “The Kitchen Sink” is free ($40 value), and you win a t-shirt with your picture gloriously framed and hung on their wall of fame.

Who’s finished?

With roughly 50 teams who’ve attempted, only about seven pairs have completely devoured the entire Kitchen Sink.

Native Knowledge: Fair Oaks Ice Cream Parlor’s fountain soda bar, manufactured and constructed with pristine marble, was imported from Joplin, MS in the ’50s.

1536 Mission St S
Pasadena, CA 91030


Big Mama’s & Papa’s Pizzeria

Big Mama’s & Papa’s Pizzeria’s history dates all the way back in 1985, launched by two Armenian brothers, Arro and Allan Agakhamian. Introduced into the pizza business by a job at Dominos, both decided to undertake their own pizza business, eventually surfacing into Big Mama’s & Papa’s Pizzeria. The Big Mama pizza is as large as 28-inches and the Big Papa, as enormous as 36-inches. Big Mama’s & Papa’s offers a wide array of classic and specialty pizzas, sandwiches, pastas and over a dozen beers on tap from domestic to microbrews. What they are really known for is their ridiculously large pizzas, crafted and delivered as big as 54″ x 54″. From sports fans ready to engage in celebratory revelries to families celebrating their 5-year-old son’s birthday, the 3-decade-old business warmly welcomes all people. The atmosphere is full of cosmic energy, positive vibes, and houses a professional and friendly staff. When they’re not making delicious pizza, the staff at Big Mama’s & Papa’s is giving to the less fortunate, such as the homeless community in Downtown Los Angeles and The Leukemia Society.

What’s the Challenge?

You need to sit down for this one: eight challengers must polish off a 54” x 54” size pizza with any toppings selected in two hours!

What do you win?

Apart from the respect of your peers and an anticipated burping contest, the entire group wins 1, 000 dollars, and the entire pizza is free ($218 value). You also get a photo of your team boasting success!

Who’s finished?

Although attempted every week, only roughly three groups of professionals have finished.

Native Knowledge: Featured in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2012, the Sicilian Giant (54” x 54”) was chosen as the largest pizza commercially available and deliverable, feeding up to 100 people!

321 E Alameda Ave
Burbank, CA 91502

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