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» Man v. Food: Fifth Third Burger
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Man v. Food: Fifth Third Burger

By • Jul 16th, 2009 • Category: Burger Blog

The West Michigan Whitecaps hosted two different visiting competitors on July 15.  The first was the Peoria Chiefs.  The other- the one most of the 7,921 fans seemed to be more interested in- was Adam Richman.  The host of the Travel Channel series Man v. Food came to Grand Rapids to take on the suddenly-legendary namesake burger at Fifth Third Ballpark.

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The Fifth Third Burger is available at just one concession stand in the stadium and the line was a long one throughout the entire evening.  Some were crowding around just to get a glimpse of the 4,889-calorie behemoth, but plenty of brave souls were lining up to take the Fifth Third Challenge for themselves.

Competitors gunning for gastronomical glory are herded into one eating area, sectioned off and monitored by actual referees, where they dig into the 4-pound burger, served in a pizza box.  The rules of the challenge are clearly stated on a sign nearby: the entire burger and all of its standard toppings must be eaten with no help from anyone else.  Competitors have until the game’s final out to polish off the monster, and absolutely no… um… burger “reversals” are allowed.  (That is, without question, the most pleasant euphemism for “vomiting” that I’ve ever heard.)

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The eating area was packed with crazies competitors, all of them on display for hundreds of gawking spectators.  One look at the Fifth Third, and I knew instantly I wouldn’t be trying it.  Despite a number of mandatory toppings that I don’t care for, the most terrifying element to me seemed to be the massive bun.  Simply stated, it’s just too much bun.  But a quick survey of competitors at a nearby table brought a surprising result.  When I asked them, “Is it a good burger, or just a big burger?” Matt, Joe, Joe Junior, Ryan, and Mike told me that, to them, the predominant taste in the Fifth Third was… the nacho chips and cheese sauce.  Hmmph.  If I wanted nachos, I’d order nachos.  The Fifth Third is a great conversation piece, chock full of shock value, and the winning T-shirt is cool and all, but twenty bucks for a burger that tastes like nachos and leaves you feeling bloated isn’t my idea of a good time.

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But plenty of others disagreed, as the ballpark sold 98 Fifth Third Burgers during the evening’s game, the best effort since opening day of the season when the burger made its debut.  Over twelve hundred Fifth Thirds have been sold thus far, with 157 people winning the challenge.  Wednesday night was also historic as the stadium saw its first female winner of the challenge.  (And I can confirm that she was, in fact, smoking hot.  A smoking hot girl who loves baseball and cheeseburgers.  Now that’s the kind of girl you want to marry.)

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But no Fifth Third for me.  As I settled into my seat just behind first base, I unwrapped a basic double cheeseburger.  It may have paled next to the stadium’s star attraction, but let me tell you, this was no wimpy burger.  I was stunned at how good it was.  This was a pair of big, thick, juicy patties that I’m positive were actually charbroiled over real flames and then topped with great gooey cheese and served between perfectly-proportioned buns.  My first thought was one of feeling sorry for the extreme eaters across the park.  If these were the same one-third-pound burger patties used in their Fifth Thirds (and I’m guessing they were), they were missing out big-time.  This ballpark serves an exceptional burger, but theirs was buried under mountains of hype… and Fritos, apparently.  Mine tasted like a phenomenally good cheeseburger that would stand up to any restaurant’s; theirs tasted like the free appetizer at a Mexican dive.  They got a T-shirt at the end of their burger; I got another of these top-notch burgers.

In the eighth inning, Adam Richman stepped up to the plate.  And quite a plate it was.  The competition area was a mob scene with fans trying to get close and within camera range.  As part of the show’s taping, Adam had thrown out the first pitch, led the crowd in singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” and been trailed by a camera crew as he took part in other activities around the stadium.  Now they served him his Fifth Third Burger for the main event.  The field producer whipped the crowd into a frenzy, leading them in chants and cheers and invoking wild applause at all the right moments.

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A group of Fifth Third vets near where I was standing was intently interested in whether or not Adam would go for the speed record of 17 minutes.  The rest of the crowd seemed happy just to be there watching the festivities and mugging for the cameras.

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Two short innings later, it was all over, with the ballgame and the challenge ending within mere minutes of each other.  It was a rough night all around for the West Michigan home team.  On the field, the Peoria Chiefs posted a 4-2 win.  In his Fifth Third Challenge, Adam won in 27 minutes.  See all the gory details when Travel Channel airs the episode of Man v. Food, probably sometime in September or October.  For my money, I got the best of both worlds.  I saw the Fifth Third Challenge up close and personal… but I had an even better tasting cheeseburger to talk about afterward.

2 Responses to “Man v. Food: Fifth Third Burger”

  1. 1
    Matt Says:

    This was amazing! I was at this game and it was so much fun to watch him. He actually walked right by us when he went onto the field. It was such a good time! I wrote about it too :) Adam Richman

  2. 2
    Raiders757 Says:

    That double cheeseburger looked really good. I’m with you on this one, screw the Fifth Third Burger, I’ll take two double cheeseburgers please..

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