The Stacker [stak - er]
1. A person or thing that stacks.
2. The monster challenge burger at Melange, Pittsburgh, created by owner Bobby Bilder. This beast has fifteen (15) one quarter pound beef patties, collated with fifteen (15) slices of American cheese, three (3) potato and onion pirogies and garnished with tomatoes, onions, pickles and olives. Just about enough to feed a youth baseball team, or maybe an average person for a week. But Bobby wasn’t finished; add a hearty side of steak fries to complete the… ummm… meal. One hour to finish it, (a task that 17 previous challengers have failed at)! A victory will get your name immortalized, inscribed on a plate mounted on the back of a bar stool that is reserved forever for you, anytime you visit, and your picture on the wall. Failure results in a $25 bill for the food, and more than likely, a very uncomfortable evening!
Enter… “The Eliminator,” Eric Clark, one of the newest “burger guys“ in our group. We welcome the Niles, Ohio resident who comes with credentials; an associate’s degree in culinary arts from the University of Maryland, and he received numerous awards and commendations while serving as a Food Service Specialist in the United States Army. His formal training, food knowledge, experience, and insatiable appetite have earned him a seat on the board.
He has always had a huge appetite, a fact that Chassity, his wife of 10 years, will attest to. “Eric has always eaten very large portions that would be three meals for someone like me,” she elaborates. “I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen anyone put away so much food and not be sick or gain weight.” She recalls a few of the more memorable instances, “Jack’s Big Omelet, made with 8 eggs, 1/2 lb of bacon, 1/2 lb of ham, 1/2 lb of home fries, green peppers, onions and tomatoes inside.” This sounds very do-able, but she wasn’t finished! “He also had a side of ham and pancakes, and tried eating our daughters food also!“ Another time was the Monster ’Challenge’ Burger from the Grub Club, in Niles. That was 3 lbs. of ground beef with bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and fries. “He ordered a steak torpedo on the side! I’m not sure the exact time but it was like 10 minutes or so. He had all of it eaten before I finished my 6 inch sub!” Without hesitating, she added, “And, of course, the all you can eat shrimp! He had his meal and sides finished before I ate my baked potato! The waiter was in shock and just started ordering him extras, 2 at a time! I had to finally say, enough, because we didn’t have time for more.” She tells another story of a time they went to the all you can eat steak at Ponderosa. After 8 steaks his grandmother actually threatened him to stop ordering!
Eric can often be spotted at the local buffets, or maybe grabbing a 50 piece box of McNuggets for lunch at the McDonald’s on Main Street in Niles. It’s safe to say, he loves McDonald’s, and McDonald’s loves him. The mutual attraction is clear - McDonald’s serves a lot of fast food. Eric eats a lot of food, fast!
He is very confident going into battle versus the UNDEFEATED in 17 attempts, Stacker. Owner, Bobby Bilder, said that the Stacker’s official “win/loss" record is actually 16-0-1. He explains that a draw was awarded to Pittsburgh Nose Tackle, Casey “Big Snack” Hampton, when he finished the burger, but not within the 1 hour time limit. He noted that the 6’1”, 325 pound Hampton finished a huge order of wings before his attempt.
Eric has a 1-0 record in food challenges, and is definitely the underdog in this match-up, but you wouldn’t know that by talking to him. When asked about his strategy, he responded, “My strategy? I don’t know… I guess my strategy is to finish it, and then check out the deserts. I like deserts.”
As the time of the challenge arrived, there was nothing more to talk about. Now is the time for action - put up or shut up! As Bobby Bilder carried his champion creation through the restaurant, heads were turning. This was truly a “monster” challenge burger! The estimated 5 lb sandwich, plus the accompaniments is an intimidating sight capable of deterring the heartiest of appetites from attempting it. But Eric showed no emotion as he stared down his opponent, and didn’t flinch as Bobby went over the rules of the challenge.
Let the eating begin. All eyes were focused on Eric as he dug into the mammoth meal. He methodically began disassembling it, eating one patty at a time, mixing in the toppings and fries with nearly every bite. Ten minutes into the match, he was eating like a machine and had already put a huge dent in his task. The crowd roared with laughter as he stopped briefly to answer his cell phone, speaking through a mouthful of food, “I can’t talk right now!”
After 25 minutes, a small crowd was gathering outside the restaurant, too, watching the battle through the window. Those who were at first, nonbelievers, were now changing their opinions. The fries were history and only 7 patties and 2 pirogies remained. The underdog was looking strong. Sensing the defeat of his burger, Bobby commented, “You’re going to do this! You’re going to be the first!”
In the next 22 minutes, with the spectators chanting his name and shouting out words of encouragement, Eric, although at a noticeably slower pace, had put away 5 more patties and one of the pirogies. He was seemingly coasting to an epic victory.
But at the 47 minute mark, something happened. Something that caught everyone off guard. Something bad. Without going into too much detail, we’ll just say that the Stacker scored a knockout, and that there will be no desert today, for anyone!
The challenger had given it his all, but came up just one burger short. The Stacker has again shown why it is undefeated, now in 18 attempts. The amount of food has once again proved to be too much for yet another challenger.
After being applauded for his gallant effort, Eric humbly said, “I can’t offer any excuses. I thought I had it! I still think I can do it. But today, the Stacker has beaten me.”
Owner, Bobby Bilder, impressed with the effort put forth by our man, joined him for a shot to console him.
At the conclusion of the evening, upon exiting the building, Eric turned around, shaking his fist in the air, confidently proclaiming, “I’ll be back!”