In Cleveland, Ohio, the Melt Bar & Grilled has a five-pound grilled cheese challenge. In Nashville, Tenn., Roosters Texas Style BBQ and Steakhouse has a 72-ounce odyssey. Trimbo’s Pizza in Butte, Montana, tempts customers to gobble up an entire five-pound stromboli.
In the current state of over-indulgent, food-filled fun and eating contests—fueled in part by popular artery-busting television like Man vs. Food—Oldtown Salinas now offers its own eating competition: the XL Grindhouse Challenge.
The contest starts with no less than three patties and hungry patrons are urged to add as many more as they think they can handle. They don’t award a plaque (as they do at Melt) or a t-shirt (at Roosters), but for those who demolish 10—as Marty “the One-Man Party” did in February—they do enjoy bragging rights on XL Facebook site and all the joy that comes with a belly full of beef.
Several months ago, brothers Robert and James DeLeon, who take pride in using local produce and dairy, and curing, grinding and smoking all their meats, unveiled their over-the-top bar and grill where small portions or diet plates just don’t exist.
At the heart of the duo’s expansive menu are the burgers. My favorite of the six gourmet originals is the wonderfully evil and appropriately named 2AM burger with fries ($10.99). It all begins with a nicely charred burger, breakfast sausage patty and a trio of bacon slices; it ends with cheddar and Monterey jack cheese and a fried egg on a traditional dusted ham roll. This stoner’s delight is a symphony of highly caloric ingredients that work together to create a savory and juicy haven that few will manage to finish completely.
Coming in at a close second is the Juicy Lucy ($10.99). The massive matrix of rich cheese-filled bliss includes a slice of melted American cheese sandwiched between two beef patties and then packed between two grilled cheese sandwiches. One gentle squeeze of this behemoth sends velvety cheese waterfalls flowing from the sides. It’s deliciously indulgent, and not as overwhelming as it seems—that is, if you can get your mouth around it.
Other outlandishly large oddities stand out in the long and narrow space just a few storefronts down from the Maya Cinemas, namely the 60-ounce beakers of beer called the XXXL ($10.99-12.99). A good 19 varieties are available on draft, including Lagunitas I.P.A. and Humboldt Brown Hemp Ale. Grindhouse takes pride in the fact that its the only spot in town to serve such a gargantuan portion of brew. Waitresses carry the tankers to tables with two hands and extreme care, as if they’re balancing a stack of fine China. For those unable to guzzle down five beers in one glass, there’s the 32-ounce XXL ($6.99-$7.99) and the diminutive 16-ounce XL ($4.99-$5.99). And 17 varieties of bottled beer are also offered ($3.99-18.99).
For my first visit, I couldn’t figure out what I should start with—there are 13 tasty appetizers to choose from—so my server recommended the house sampler, any three appetizers for $13.99 or the any five for $16.99. She also said that we should definitely choose the deep fried ravioli, served with marinara sauce for dipping. We also tabbed the sausage plate featuring three grilled varieties along with a housemade whole grain mustard sauce, and bacon wrapped stuffed jalapeños bursting with cream cheese, fresh chorizo and Monterey Jack cheese.
The ravioli, boasting a nice fried texture that complements the soft, beef filling was a homerun, but the sausage wasn’t as striking as it should be in spice. The stuffed jalapeños had way too much going on.
Before I embarked on the 2AM burger on my second visit, I decided to try a plain old cheeseburger ($6.99). The first rule when ordering a Grindhouse burger (served with lettuce, onion, tomato, pickle, mustard, mayo and ketchup) is choosing the meat: fresh ground beef, pork, chicken or vegetarian patty. Then you can expand upon that, adding $1.99 for each additional patty, and a reasonable 99 cents for avocado or bacon.
Every burger—from the Tweety Bird-sized to the Yogi Bear-sized—comes with fries or, for $1.99 more, onion rings. For an additional $3.99, there’s another way to go: carne asada fries (available own its own for $8.99). This original conglomeration of jack cheese, pico de gallo, sour cream and red and green salsa is a festival of spicy, salty and cheesiness and goes great with beer.
But the face-stuffing fest doesn’t stop there: Grindhouse is also serving up the soul food classic fried chicken ‘n’ waffles ($10.99) and a choice of six specialty sandwiches like Italian roast beef ($9.99) braised in oregano, thyme, red and black pepper, rosemary and a few other spices, and served on a baguette.
There’s also the flat iron-grilled California Burrito ($6.99; add $1.50 to have it wet) loaded with carne asada, cheese, avocado and pico de gallo. And for those feeling especially decadent, deep-fried candy bars or Oreo cookies ($3.99) have the potential to seduce any sweet tooth.
If watching enormous hamburgers being devoured isn’t entertaining enough, the Salinas spot also hosts live music and DJs on a weekly basis in the back room. Besides, the dance-floor exercise can come in handy after tangoing with the 2AM beast.
XL Grindhouse, 129 Main St., Salinas • 11am-10pm Mon-Thu; 11am-midnight Fri-Sat; 11am-10pm Sun. 422-5500