11 December 2017

Best of Canberra - Food Challenges: Shorty's Mega Burger Challenge

| Elias Hallaj
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Anxious burger connoisseurs (left to right) Andrew, Vy, John, and Michael all enjoyed trying the Shorty’s Mega Burger Challenge last week. Photo: Elias Hallaj.

Have you ever watched Adam Richman during an episode of the US TV series Man versus Food and thought – I could do that for a living! Well, before you quit your day job and start scoffing down enormous meals on youtube, it’s probably wise to first try your hand (actually, your stomach) at what is arguably Canberra’s best current food challenge – the “Mega Burger Challenge” at Shorty’s in Civic.

The Shorty’s Mega Burger Challenge is available every Thursday, but you need to book by 5 pm the day before. Photo: Elias Hallaj.

Every Thursday since early November, fans of food challenges have been filling tables (which actually need to be booked the day before) to attempt this impressive feat. So far many have tried, but none have achieved the ultimate aim of eating the whole monster burger, which comes with a bowl of chips and a pint of beer. And you can see from the image below it is MUCH bigger than Shorty’s regular burgers and chips.

The Mega Burger next to a regular burger! Photo: Shorty’s.

This is no ordinary burger! Head Chef Chris explained this monster is a classic burger on steroids. He starts cooking with 1.5 kg of meat to make the thick and juicy burger patty. I had booked the burger for 5 pm and the cooking process started forty minutes earlier! With all the key ingredients including tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, pickles and a massive classic crusty cob (that could itself feed a family) each burger ends up weighing around 2.4 kg. But the challenge also includes a large bowl of chips, upon which the burger is served, as well as a pint of beer.

Shorty’s Head Chef Chris serves up another monster burger challenge! Photo: Elias Hallaj.

Andrew Brown, the brave guy in the top left of the first photo above, believed he had come prepared for this challenge. Andrew had previously succeeded at similar challenges at London Burger, Lone Star and had also recently slimmed down to 85 kg from 160 kg – he was fighting fit! Andrew had wisely eaten regularly during the week and prepped for the day by going to the gym, but sadly this challenge was not to be. Andrew and his friends admitted defeat before their 30 minutes were up.

Chris the Chef explained that a few contestants have come close but no one has been able to complete the whole challenge within 30 minutes. If you do manage to achieve this you will get a refund for the $40 fee as well as a t-shirt and a photo on the wall of fame – in fact, you’ll be the first!

The temptation was too great for me to resist.

Elias with burger. Photo: Jasmine Hallaj.

This is what a nervous giggle looks like in a still photo, when a waiter brings out a burger bigger than your head and tells you to try and finish it within 30 minutes! Photo: Jasmine Hallaj.

Now, I’m not completely stupid, I did skip breakfast and lunch that day, as well as do some google research the day before. I watched Adam Richman on youtube to try and pick up some tips. I even found a website called www.foodchallenges.com that promised lots of helpful advice and winning strategies on beating food challenges! As a guy who is known to his family and friends as a big eater, I wasn’t as aware as I should have been of the enormity of this challenge. To be honest I wasn’t really well prepared at all. That said, I was determined to have a go and it looked reasonably promising after I quickly demolished the top part of the loaf (the beer helped soften the crust on the cob), the tomatoes and pickles, a thick layer of cheese and relish, and about three-quarters of the meat and half of the chips. The beer was also gone at about 20 minutes.

shortys entrance sign.

Photo: Elias Hallaj.

But then I hit a wall. It’s not like me to say no to food. But I knew, with ten minutes to go before I even got to the 30-minute time limit, that my stomach was full and I could eat no more. I waived the white napkin to get the attention of the staff and admit defeat.

With the wisdom of hindsight and a little more time on google, I reckon my biggest mistake was not preparing my stomach for such a large amount of food. Being a bit hungry is not enough to complete this challenge. My normal appetite may have got me through two schnitzels and some pork belly and chips and beer at Schnitzel Haus, but to deal with the Shorty’s Mega Burger Challenge, appetite alone is not enough. You really do have to prep for this one. If you haven’t prepared your stomach to achieve the capacity for such a large volume of food in such a short time, I’d suggest buy the burger and share it with a couple of friends, you can take all the selfies you want while you eat it and the novelty of the experience would still be worthwhile.

And if volume-based food challenges aren’t your thing, maybe you can instead try your hand (and stomach, and esophagus) at the next chilli-eating competition during the annual Canberra Curry Festival!

Shorty's Chef's working their craft, surrounded by the beautiful artwork that covers the kitchen wall! Photo: Elias Hallaj.

Shorty’s Chef’s working their craft, surrounded by the beautiful artwork that covers the kitchen wall! Photo: Elias Hallaj.

I really enjoyed my evening at Shorty’s. The staff were very friendly and the Chef and his crew enjoyed making the meal and did it well. The meat was hot and delicious and not overcooked – which is not easy in such a big patty! I enjoyed it so much that I think I will be back in the near future to try it again, but with a slightly more sophisticated strategy and better preparation.

One of the outcomes of attempting this food challenge that I didn’t expect was the hilarious enthusiastic reaction from most men and male friends on social media and at work, and the equivalent horror and disdain of most women. I’m generalising of course. Some women thought it was hilarious and some blokes thought I had committed a crime against culinary civility. But I’m just warning everyone who tries this that you may be surprised at some people’s reactions.

Have you tried Shorty’s Mega Burger Challenge or any other food challenge in Canberra? How did you go? Please let us know in the comments below and on Facebook. If you have a suggestion for another Canberra food challenge please let the writer know.

The essentials:

What: Shorty’s Mega Burger Challenge

When: Every Thursday (but you need to book the day before because the burgers take 40 minutes to prepare)

Where: Shorty’s Canberra

How much: $40 for burger, chips and beer (which you get back if you can finish it all within 30 minutes)

Why: Seriously? If you need an answer to that question this is probably not for you.

Elias Hallaj (aka CBRfoodie) is a part-time food blogger and full-time political staffer who has joined RiotACT as a regular contributor. All his opinions about eating are his own. Don’t worry he is trying to cut back on eating too much at night as it gives him heartburn, but insists food is just too damned tasty. If you have any tips or feedback or advice about burgers or other food challenges you can add a comment below or find him most nights on Twitter @CBRfoodie.

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Burger Hero in Braddon has a food/burger challenge that is up there with this. For $25 you get a burger that consists of 8 beef patties that together weigh 800 grams, as well as bacon and 8 slices of american cheese, plus an assortment of the usual condiment suspects. The meal also includes a drink and fries and you have 30 mins to eat it. Complete the challenge and you get your photo on the wall of shame/glory. I havent tried shortys, but imho burger hero make the tastiest burgers in canberra, streets ahead of the competition like grease monkey and soul cartel .. Ok maybe not streets ahead of soul cartel, but still better.

No bookings necessary and im fairly certain adam richman would approve. Enjoy.

Elias Hallaj7:44 pm 13 Dec 17

No_Nose said :

Well I’m out of town but I will certainly be giving this challenge a go on my return!

Do you think it would be alright if I brought along my own chilli sauce to help it along?

Lols! Whatever helps you get this down I suppose… check with Shorty’s when you make the booking if they will allow you to bring your own chilli sauce. I will be surprised if it helps though… I love chilli in moderate amounts though, because my experience is that chilli can slow down your digestive juices and it tends to give me heartburn if I already have a full stomach. Good luck! Let me know when you do it if you don’t mind an audience ?

Elias Hallaj7:35 pm 13 Dec 17

Michele Walton said :

Elias that is an amazing tale! I am fascinated with how much that burger would have weighed. I’d love to work out how many average burgers it is equal to.

Great question Michele!

Just comparing the stated weight of the burger patty, I’m guessing the Shorty’s Mega Burger patty is about 13 times the size of a maccas quarter pounder patty and about 33 times a maccas cheeseburger patty. Which explains why I (& others) couldn’t finish it!!

The maccas website says “These weights are approximate: the uncooked weight of our hamburger patties is 45.4g. After cooking, they weigh 30g. Incidentally, we haven’t changed the size of our hamburger patty since the first McDonald’s restaurant opened in 1967 in Canada. Quarter Pounders patties are 113.4g uncooked and 78g cooked.”

Well I’m out of town but I will certainly be giving this challenge a go on my return!

Do you think it would be alright if I brought along my own chilli sauce to help it along?

Michele Walton11:47 am 12 Dec 17

Elias that is an amazing tale! I am fascinated with how much that burger would have weighed. I’d love to work out how many average burgers it is equal to.

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