Former fireman Sean Gregory knows a thing or two about smoke. These days, he’s serving succulent barbecue at his firefighter-themed restaurant, where locals crowd in to sample the smoked meats and stellar sides such as rosemary-laced cornbread and nachos topped with pulled pork. Josh Denny stopped in to take down the towering Flatliner, a five-pound sandwich that comes stacked with a heap of meat, including a burger patty, brisket and pork loin, all smothered in layer upon layer of cheese.
This spot takes the hot chicken game to a fiery new level with its Tender Royale. Chicken tenders are brined, fried and doused with an oil made from Carolina reaper peppers before being served on a grilled cheese sandwich. Another standout is the Battle Royale, which clocks in at 9 pounds. Cheese sandwiches are fried until golden, then heaped with hot chicken tenders. Another layer of sandwiches and fried tenders are stacked on top, then finished with a mound of sweet apples.
This cozy spot draws the crowds with its creative takes on downhome favorites. Josh Denny stopped by to tuck into The Big Daddy Hot Brown, a stunner of a sandwich that weighs in at 10 pounds. This supersized spin on the classic hot brown starts with dozens of toast points, which are then loaded with turkey, silky Mornay sauce, chopped tomatoes, bits of bacon and shredded parmesan cheese. After a 10-minute turn in the oven, the massive sandwich gets an elegant tweak in the form of edible flowers.
This neighborhood fixture keeps the crowds coming back with comforting staples such as chicken and waffles and a 10-pound take on French toast known as Car 23. This beast of a breakfast dish starts with an entire loaf of cinnamon challah bread, which is dunked in a cinnamon-laced egg wash, cooked on the flattop and then stuffed with a cream cheese-based berry filling and layers of fresh strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries. “Such a balanced bite,” said Josh Denny of the sweet and savory creation.
The chili at this Cincinnati institution can be served plain, 3-way, 4-way, 5-way or 6-way. Learning the lingo didn't take long for Guy Fieri. He ordered the 6-way, which includes everything: chili, spaghetti, beans, onions, cheese and fried jalapeno caps. When Josh Denny stopped by, he took on the ultimate chili challenge, a hefty dish aptly named No Freakin’ Way. Massive portions of spaghetti, chili, Cheddar cheese and jalapeno caps are piled together to create this 8-pound masterpiece.
This tiny jewel of a restaurant dishes up a quirky, homey vibe, thanks to the offbeat art and oversize plates of food. The bustling spot attracts droves of Virginia Commonwealth University students and other diners, with Josh Denny taking a trip here just to tackle the massive CSS Manassas sandwich. Four fillets of rainbow trout are fried until crisp and golden, then stuffed into a 24-inch-long roll and loaded with tomatoes, lettuce, sliced radishes and a spicy layer of Cajun tartar sauce.
Burger lovers crowd in to this joint for the beef patties smothered with ingenious toppings. Josh Denny couldn’t resist the Macho Nacho, a massive creation that comes stacked with a trio of 12-inch patties covered in molten cheese. This burger is shot through with nacho-inspired flavors, thanks to the addition of guacamole, pico de gallo and chipotle mayonnaise. “The pico’s bite balances perfectly with the rich guac and cheese,” Josh declared after tucking into the towering creation.
People pour into this bustling beer garden for the German brews and bites. Popular picks include the sauerkraut balls and schnitzel, but Josh Denny couldn’t resist the sandwiches. He started with a beer-battered cod sandwich, then tackled a sauerbraten sandwich stuffed with thick slices of wine-marinated beef roast. The most over-the-top creation of them all, though, proved to be The Uber Terminator, which stars a 38-inch grilled Mettwurst sausage laced with paprika, garlic and cayenne pepper.
This neighborhood spot is known for its menu stuffed with massive diner staples of both the American and Greek varieties. Josh Denny was left impressed by the flaky spanakopita stuffed with feta and spinach, as well as the cheese-smothered skillet composed of perfectly grilled meats and vegetables. But the dish that really blew his mind was the Greek Feast, a 17-pound gyro brimming with chicken, onions, tomatoes, lettuce and housemade tzatziki.
Crowds line up down the street to bite into the fresh Montreal-style bagels at this Philadelphia spot. The wait is worth it, as Josh Denny found out when he was lured here by The Whale, a 14-pound creation that he deemed a “bagel leviathan.” Smoked salmon delivered fresh daily from Brooklyn is heaped on a massive bagel that’s piled high with mounds of cream cheese, hefty slabs of tomato and a thicket of sliced onions. Two pounds of housemade whitefish salad and a flurry of capers complete the creation.
Crowds pack in to Bard’s for the craft burgers and Cincinnati-style chili. There’s even one dish that combines them both: the Cincinnasty. Six cheese-smothered beef patties are layered with bacon and a Cincinnati breakfast meat known as goetta, then crowned with grilled onions and chili. The result is a 5-pound burger that Josh Denny says is “stacked with Cincinnati attitude.” The fried cheese curds are another menu favorite. Each nib of ultra-fresh cheddar cheese is coated in a crunchy golden crust.
When Josh Denny visited San Antonio, he couldn’t leave the city without sampling some succulent barbecue. Taking a lead from the locals, he headed to Smoke Shack to try a ‘cue-centric creation known as The Big Mac Daddy. Layer upon layer of pulled pork and brisket are heaped onto a 24-inch bun, then loaded with sausage links, smothered with 2 kinds of sauces and crowned with 4 scoops of meat-studded macaroni and cheese. “Incredible,” Josh declared after biting into the 7-pound sandwich.
Piranha’s may be a party spot, but Chef/Owner Mike Hanlon serves seriously inventive eats. Josh Denny started with the Cap & Egg sandwich piled high with spicy Italian ham, provolone cheese, eggs, coleslaw and fries, then moved on to the Doughnut Burger composed of an 8-ounce patty, fried eggs and crisp bacon sandwiched between 2 glazed doughnuts. His ultimate indulgence, though, was the 10-pound Titan Cheesesteak stuffed with grilled steak, provolone cheese, a mound of coleslaw and a heap of fries.
If this spot deserves fame for one thing, it’s the crab cakes. As Guy puts it, “This is 95 percent crab, 5 percent binding.” The crab cakes — which are about the size of your hand — are packed with fresh Maryland lump blue-crab meat. Another massive menu item is the Seafood UFO. The oversized slices of bread that hold this sandwich together can barely contain all the fillings: colossal crab cakes and crab-studded mac and cheese balls, along with mounds of fried shrimp, fried oysters and shrimp salad.
Chef-Owner Fernando Martinez churns out gourmet burgers at this hot spot. His creativity shines through in menu items like the Argentinean burger. A brisket-sirloin patty is piled high with a mound of caramelized onions and smothered in provolone cheese, then topped with a chorizo patty. The Double Southern Belle burger also ups the meaty, cheesy ante. Two 8-ounce Black Angus beef patties are blanketed in pimento cheese, then stacked between 6 slices of fried green tomatoes to create what Josh Denny calls a “skyscraping burger.”