Minor League Burger is a Grand SlamBy Todd • Jul 7th, 2009 • Category: Burger Blog
Minor League Baseball’s West Michigan Whitecaps are having a decent season. They’re solidly in second place within their division in the Midwest League, ahead of rivals like the Great Lakes Loons and Lansing Lugnuts. But what’s really packing fans into Fifth Third Ballpark in Comstock Park, MI isn’t necessarily what’s on the field.
It’s what’s on the menu.
The team, Class A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, introduced a new cheeseburger at their concession stands this year. Named after the bank that owns the stadium, the Fifth Third Burger has exceeded all expectations and has brought worldwide attention to this tiny Grand Rapids suburb.
The Fifth Third Burger starts with a bun that measures 8 inches across. Then an entire cup of chili is ladled on top. Then 5 one-third burgers (Five thirds. Like “Fifth Third.” Get it?) are spread out, each one dressed with cheese. Then the toppings: scoops of salsa, a mountain of Fritos, a smothering of nacho cheese sauce, then heaps of lettuce, tomato, and sour cream. Jalapenos are optional, if you’re trying to take it easy. All in all, it weighs 4 pounds and has to be served on a 12-inch pizza pan. It literally dwarfs a regular McDonald’s cheeseburger, as shown in the photo below (from Rex Larsen of the Grand Rapids Press).
The team makes an annual effort to invent a new extreme menu item, having offered turkey drumsticks and deep-fried Twinkies in past seasons. This year, possible ingredients discussed at the brainstorming session included cactus, Spam, and grape jelly. But the Fifth Third uses ingredients that are already in the ballpark, so to speak.
The 4,889-calorie behemoth has brought beaucoup buzz, having been featured on NBC, CBS, ABC, and ESPN, and mentioned on local broadcasts as far away as South America, Europe, and Australia. But the gastronomical gimmick is leaving a bad taste in some mouths. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (who, it turns out, is actually a vegan advocacy group that’ s been described as “fanatical” by some) issued a public statement blasting the burger, calling it a “dietary disaster” and demanding that the team slap a warning label on it. In response, Whitecaps spokesman Mickey Graham says the Fifth Third is just “a gimmick that’s being promoted as a very unhealthy menu item.” Obviously.
The media blitz will continue on July 15, when the team hosts the Travel Channel series Man v. Food for that evening’s game against the Peoria Chiefs. Host Adam Richman will attempt to down the entire burger by himself with cameras rolling for a future episode.
If he’s successful, he’ll bask in eternal gut-busting glory… and get a special T-shirt. As of June 24, the team has sold 915 Fifth Thirds, mostly to families who split the $20 burger. 174 have attempted to take it deep all by themselves, and 99 have been successful. The fastest time thus far for downing the whole thing is a staggering 17 minutes… posted by Brian Williams, who just happens to be the East Grand Rapids PUBLIC SAFETY CAPTAIN!
If you just want to wear the Fifth Third proudly on your person instead of in your colon, the Whitecaps’ website offers a T-shirt that, while different from the one you get if you eat it solo, does feature a full-color picture on front, and the “actual” nutritional label on back. (Yes, that says 597% of your recommended daily value of saturated fat. But it is available in sizes up to XXXXXL, so it should still fit.)
In a fortuitous bit of scheduling, I’ll be just three hours away from Grand Rapids on the night of July 15. Don’t be surprised if I make it to the ballpark to see the Man v. Food showdown for myself. I can’t promise that I’ll attempt to deposit an entire Fifth Third into my system, but who knows? I just might get up there and take a swing. Put me in, Coach.