Man v. ‘nuclear wings’: Sauce, sweat and tears

04/12/2012 5:00 AM

04/12/2012 4:06 PM

After what I witnessed last weekend, I really cannot advise my readers to take the challenges that Fat Tony’s, the sports bar at 417 E. Douglas, has thrown down.

A very nice reader named Frank White called me last week to let me know that he planned to go to Fat Tony’s on Saturday and try to defeat the restaurant’s nuclear wings. Fat Tony’s offers several “Man v. Food”-style eating challenges.

Anyone who can eat a 9-pound burger with all the fixings plus a pound of fries in 45 minutes gets the $34.99 meal for free. A 5-pound Philly cheesesteak sandwich with all the fixings and a pound of fries must be devoured in 30 minutes, otherwise it’s $29.99. (No one’s ever successfully completed these two, by the way.)

But many, many manly men have been tempted to take the wing challenge, which requires the eater to down 12 chicken wings in 10 minutes or pay $9.99. Easy enough, right? Except that the wings are coated in Fat Tony’s “nuclear sauce,” which is made with ghost peppers and scorpion peppers, two of the hottest peppers available.

Frank loves hot food, and he loves a fun challenge, so he was confident going into it. He brought his family, wife Natasha Hollis and son Chad Raybon, along for support.

The first signs of trouble came when manager Matt Howard arrived at the table with a waiver for Frank to sign. The sauce is pretty dangerous, Matt insisted. Once, a man with ulcers had to be taken to the hospital at the end of the challenge. He was fine in the end, but the ambulance drivers came back later to try the sauce for themselves.

Of the 300 people who have taken the challenge, only 20 have successfully completed it, Matt said. Frank was not dissuaded.

Matt started the timer, and Frank dug in. He seemed fine at first, happily gnawing away at the wings. It wasn’t that bad, he said. “It usually kicks in after the second wing,” Matt said.

Right about then, Frank’s ears turned red. A few seconds later, his head started to form beads of sweat. A couple of minutes later, involuntary tears were streaming down his face. About that time, Frank started to seem a little incoherent. He wasn’t communicating well, and he seemed like he was in a bit of a trance.

His family and I assured him we’d still like him if he stopped. And finally, about eight minutes in, Frank did just that. He had made it through 10 wings but couldn’t handle another bite. He excused himself to the restroom, and I didn’t see him again. I felt so sorry for him, I decided to bolt rather than stick a camera in his face at the height of his misery. The guy did not look good. At all. (Matt said, for the record, that Frank made it a lot farther into the challenge than most people do.)

I texted Frank later on Saturday evening to check on him, and he said he was almost half-way recovered.

“Actually, that was fun,” he said. “Glad I did it, but won’t do it again.”

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