HINTON, Iowa | A platter containing a two-pound, all-beef patty, eight slices of American cheese and a crap-load of lettuce, tomatoes and onions served on a comically humongous bun appeared on a table.
Sitting next to this big burger was one-and-a-half-pounds of fries plus an equal amount of squeaky cheeseballs.
In total, this was a meal that consisted of at least six pounds of food, and Journal Communications online production manager Rob Kritzer needed to polish off this gargantuan selection of comfort foods in 30 minutes or less.
Yup, Kritzer was anxious to take on the Salvage Yard Challenge.
The brainchild of Joe Junck, owner of Junkyard Pub n' Grub, the Salvage Yard has become a meaty Mount Everest for fans of the 1116 Starview Drive sports bar.
"Guys will see the Salvage Yard Challenge on the menu and think, hey, I'm a big eater," he said."I can eat that much food."
Junck shook his head.
"In the past couple of years we've had the Salvage on our menu, no one has come close to finishing off all that food in 30 minutes," he admitted, "Nobody has gotten his picture on our wall, received a Junkyard T-shirt nor was given $40 worth of food for free."
"To be honest, nobody has even gotten close," Junck said with a maniacal smile.
Let's hear the back story on this burger lover's belly bruiser from the Dr. Frankenstein of deep-fried meats.
THE MAKING OF A MEATY MONSTER
A head-end manager for Long Lines, Junck opened the Junkyard with his wife Haylee, a Sioux City middle school teacher, more than three years ago.
Over time, Junck has established a consistent clientele of Sioux City and Le Mars residents wanting creative food in Hinton, a Plymouth County town with a population of less than 930.
Clearly the owners enjoyed playing up the Junkyard's theme.
For instance, appetizers are called "trash-itizers" and kid meals are called "junior rubbish." You've got to love a place where the house cocktail is the "Junk-Na-Do" and the most popular menu item is the pepperoni, hamburger, sausage, green peppers, black olives, onions and mushrooms "Garbage" pizza.
Junck had been experimenting with such oversized food after creating "The Wrecker" -- a one-pound beef patty filled with queso cheese, topped with eight slices of bacon, onion rings and barbecue sauce, served between two pieces of sourdough bread.
"I wanted the Salvage Yard to be a step or two above the Wrecker," he said.
First, Junck had to figure out how much meat was truly manageable.
"I didn't want a big burger for the sake of having big burger," he reasoned. "I actually wanted the burger to be delicious in spite of its size."
That's why Junck settled on two pounds of beef as opposed to something larger.
"We can cook a two-pound patty but, more important, diners can lift a two-pound patty," he said. "Who wants a burger that's impossible to eat?"
But who'd want a burger that came with a dinky topper? That's why Junck worked with Sioux City's Sunkist Bakery for a suitably sized bun.
"You need a lot of bread to support that much meat," he said.
While Haylee Junck has seen plenty of people take the Salvage Yard Challenge, many simply order it for their families.
"It may be too much food for one person," she said, "but it's the right amount for a family of four."
Hmm, it's clear that Haylee Junck has never met Rob Kritzer, a man who thinks he has the appetite of a family of four.
MAN MEETS MEAT
Kritzer is a smoker of meats and the maker of such overstuffed masterpieces as the Bacon Explosion -- a football-shaped dish that consisted of bacon wrapped around a sausage that's covered with even more bacon.
A gourmand as well as a gourmet, Kritzer is certainly the right person to take the Salvage Yard Challenge.
Plus it was even his own idea.
"I've already had the Junkyard's Wrecker," Kritzer explained. "I figured why not try the Salvage Yard?"
ADVICE FOR THE CRAVEN CARNIVORE
A tall, slender man who bikes every chance he gets, Kritzer ate very conservatively during the day of his challenge.
After years of watching shows like the Travel Channel's "Man Vs. Food," that seems like a sensible strategy.
Did Junck have any suggestions? Simply eat at a steady pace.
"A half-hour isn't that much time for so much food," he warned. "It will be easy to have the time get away from you."
Given the OK by Kritzer, Junck marked the time on his cellphone and the challenge officially began.
Kritzer decided to turn the Salvage Yard burger into an open-faced sandwich of sorts. Strategically, he focused all of his attention on the bottom patty-cheese-and-bun portion of the burger, leaving behind the top bun that's covered with veggies for later.
That seems reasonable since the two-pound could become a bit of a gut puncher.
"The burger tastes great," Kritzer said, "but it's still so hot it's burning the roof of my mouth."
We would have started slipping cheeseballs on top of the scalding beef and American cheese. This would have cooled things off while eliminating one of the sides.
Alas, we didn't want to spoil Kritzer's strategy.
During the half-hour, he alternated between stuffing his mouth with food and washing it down with water.
"After a point in time, your mouth gets tired from all of that chewing," Kritzer said. "It actually becomes a workout since all you're doing is chewing and swallowing."
That became even more challenging when he finished the meat and the bottom half of the bun (in about 25 minutes).
"Wow, these cheeseballs are chewy," Kritzer noted. "Chewy and not very warm anymore."
At the half-hour mark, Kritzer finally threw in the towel.
So, what was his final damage? He finished the two-pound patty, a one-pound hamburger bun and a handful of cheeseballs.
"That's more than three pounds of food," Junck said. "Rob actually did great."
And how did Kritzer feel after scarfing down so much food?
"I feel thirsty," he said. "Very, very thirsty."
Plus Kritzer is game for taking the challenge again if need be.
"I wouldn't take the challenge if I didn't like the food," he said. "You can always get a good burger at the Junkyard."