I have always been intrigued by food challenges and those who attempt them. What compels people to take on these feats of gluttony, punishing their bodies in ways that often leave them with broken hearts and aching stomachs?

I don’t know the answer, but it doesn’t stop me from seeking these challenges out. Mostly it’s so I can say to myself, “No, I won’t eat a pound of ghost pepper-coated wings for a free t-shirt and a picture proving my lack of common sense.” But it’s also because I’m truly in awe of the people who are bold and/or foolish enough to vanquish these Himalayan-size portions of food.

While attending Washington State University a few years ago, I wrote a food challenges article filled with debauchery. There were tales of arm-length burritos, wings coated in liquid fire, and a burger so big one of the men who conquered it couldn’t move for nearly two hours.

The rules are laid out inside AB Crepes’ Railroad Avenue establishment: eat 26 crepes, split between two people, in an hour or less. The low success rate speaks for itself. Photo credit: Matt Benoit.

So what kind of food challenges does our fair city of Bellingham contain? While they’re few and far between, here are a few worth considering. Or not considering. Take your pick.

AB Crepes

They’ve come for six years now – by the hundreds. And in all that time, most have failed.

AB Crepes, located at 1311 Railroad Avenue, is home to the “Alpha-Bet Challenge.” The wager? You and a friend can test both your stomachs and friendship by eating 26 plain crepes – equaling nearly 10 pounds of folded dough – in an hour or less. Victory will gain you a free t-shirt, a picture on their wall of fame, not having to pay for the $40 challenge and – most lucratively – half-price crepes FOR LIFE. Defeat will gain you only shame.

More than 260 pairs have attempted this challenge in the six years it’s been offered, and as of this writing, only four pairs have tasted glory. The massive lack of success in this challenge, evidenced by the amount of vomiting its participants have conducted over the years, shows itself in a $10 damage deposit. The money is refunded even if you lose, provided you don’t “toss your crepes.”

These eight people, which include two women from Western Washington University and a pair of twin brothers, are the only people who know the thrill of getting half-priced crepes for life. Photo credit: Matt Benoit.

The challenge is the brainchild of owners Alberto and Bailey (The A-B in AB Crepes). One of the owners once ate 15 plain crepes, so they knew the challenge was feasible before offering it to the public. The challenge’s title, “Alpha-Bet,” is a play on words. There’s one crepe for each letter of the alphabet, and there’s also the bet of whether or not you’re an Alpha. Will you dominate the dough, or will the dough dominate you?

“It’s a fun challenge to do in a college town,” says Christina Johnson, an AB Crepes employee. She’s never seen anyone beat the challenge, but was present when a man failed spectacularly within sight of the finish line.

“He definitely threw up inside the shop,” she says. “Once you throw up, the game’s over.”

Luke Morgan is AB Crepes’ general manager. In the three years he’s worked there, Morgan has seen hundreds of people attempt the challenge, with only one pair winning in front of him. Plenty have given up halfway through, while others have come to regret ignoring their body’s pleas to stop.

“It’s kind of funny,” he says. “The most humble and the smallest people typically get a lot further than the big macho people that think they can just come in and destroy it.”

The faces of those who’ve conquered 24 inches of sub sandwich adorn the wall of the Lakeway Drive Port of Subs. Photo credit: Matt Benoit.

The first to beat the challenge was a pair of unassuming women from Western Washington University. Morgan says that whenever either of the women visits Bellingham, they come in for their half-priced rewards.

When both Johnson and Morgan were asked if they’d attempt the challenge themselves, they both answered with an abrupt “No.” It’s clear they’ve seen too much crepe-related trauma. But both of them had the same advice: if you try it, train for it.

“Eat as many carbs as possible,” Morgan says. “Pancakes, noodles; anything filling throughout your week. Every meal, get accustomed to filling up to where it hurts. And then eat even more than that.”

Those who take the challenge get both a savory and a sweet sauce to dip their plain crepes into, and can also drink whatever they like during the challenge. Also, plan to take the whole hour, as those who’ve won have done. Finally, it’s important to note that if one person has a gastrointestinal edge, it’s best to use it: each person doesn’t have to eat 13 crepes, but together you must have consumed 26 when time expires.

Port of Subs

The entrance to a place that will let you eat a two-foot-long sub sandwich in less than 30 minutes, if you really want to. Photo credit: Matt Benoit.

At the Port of Subs sandwich shop located at 1068 Lakeway Drive, one wall is adorned with the photos of those who have triumphed against a rather large lunch: a two-foot-long submarine sandwich.

For $18.47, you must eat this sub in 30 minutes or less. The toppings don’t matter, but Phil Chernitsky, a Port of Subs employee, says you must at least put on cheese. The prize for succeeding is a picture on the wall of fame, plus a free medium sandwich the next time you come back.

More than 85 people have completed the challenge, but Chernitsky says still having to pay for the enormous sub if you win turns some people off. He thinks the contest might be improved with additional rewards.

Chernitsky says he’d probably give it a shot, if not for the fact he already eats their sandwiches on the regular. Looks like that means it’s up to you.

Do you know of any other local food challenges? Let us know! We’d love to feature them.

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