We've been meaning to check out the veggie dogs at Massive Wieners for some time - we even wandered past their old Greville Street store one Sunday evening hoping for a fix only to find them closed, so this post has been a while coming. Our motivation for visiting on this Saturday afternoon was the chance to watch a handful of our friends tackle the Massive Wiener Challenge - a race to eat a 25 inch hot dog in under five minutes. You pay $15 for the privilege but can earn a refund by breaking the 5 minute barrier, along with a glorious place on the wall of fame.
My spectator status was soon challenged by the last minute cancellation of one of the competitors, meaning we had two eaters booked in for three giant dogs. I folded and joined the ridiculousness after about 30 seconds of token resistance and some taunting from the guy behind the counter. If you sign up for the challenge you get a fair bit of hyping up from the staff - apparently 'tall dudes' have an advantage and the key strategy is 'less chewing, more swallowing'. It was all very entertaining even as it made me more and more apprehensive about what I'd signed up for.
And then the wieners appeared. As the shop name promises, they're pretty massive - three sausages long with one giant bun and a lubricating smear of ketchup and mustard, it's an intimidating sight. The rules are strict: no tearing, no dunking, no folding - you've got to eat this ridiculous monstrosity like a regular hot dog. In the final few seconds before we started I squished the bun a bit and sized the whole thing up and, just for a second, wondered if maybe I could do this - I mean it's big, but it's not *that* big. And five minutes is really quite long isn't it?
And then I took my first bite. Nope. Nope, there was no way I was going to get through this in five minutes. The roll is chewy - I think my first mouthful took up most of my first minute, and by the time three minutes had passed and I hadn't even got close to halfway through. The whole experience was made even more intense by having Ivan right in my line of sight, calmly smashing his way through all 25 inches in just 4:28 without even raising a sweat. (Side note: the record for one of these is an incomprehensible 2:16, presumably achieved by some sort of remorseless eating machine.)
Meanwhile, I struggled on, finding the gigantic hot dog less and less palatable as I went - the last third was basically disgusting and only eaten through force of will. I was happy to squeeze in under 10 minutes, but can't really say that I 'enjoyed' the experience - it left me feeling bloated and queasy and swearing off hot dogs for at least the next few weeks.
Cindy was much more sensible, opting to order from the regular menu. You can choose one of three sizes (little pecker - 3 inch ($4), average joe - 6-inch ($6) or massive wiener - 12-inch ($8)) and then go with either the classic (cheese, ketchup, mustard and onions), the kraut (classic + sauerkraut, $1 extra), the pickle (classic + zesty pickle relish, $1 extra) or the chilli cheese (classic + a beef or bean chilli, $2 extra). They've got vegan cheese at no extra charge and you can also add extras like diced tomato or jalapenos for $1 more.
Cindy went straight down the line - an average joe-sized classic minus the onion ($6) and a little vanilla shake with added malt ($4 + $1 - there are no vegan shakes on offer just now, but they assured us that they're working on it). The dog was pretty basic - the general consensus was that the wieners were the Sanitarium brand that are widely available in supermarkets and the buns were light and a bit chewy. If you're just going classic, you can probably do something equivalent at home without trying very hard - I'll be interested to taste the pickle relish or the chilli cheese options when I eventually feel ready to face another hot dog. The shake was super sweet and not thick at all, a passable beverage from Cindy's perspective.
Massive Wieners is a super fun shop - the staff are enthusiastic about their hot dogs, the decor and vibe is fun Americana (including bow-tied staff and checkerboard floors) and their menu is simple with clear vegan and vegetarian options. I can't in good conscience recommend the challenge though - it probably took six months off my life and I still wound up on the wall of shame.
Surprisingly few food bloggers have taken on the Massive Wiener challenge, with just one recounting of the experience on The Dodgy End (who beat my time, but still couldn't break the 5 minute barrier).
There are a few bloggers who have sampled the vego options before us - Louise by Degrees wasn't overly impressed, while A Rhubarb Rhapsody and The Juliet Report were more enthusiastic. Meaty bloggers have generally enjoyed Massive Wieners - see Not Quite Nigella, About Susanna, New International Students, Nutritious Substance, Let Me Feed You Melbourne, For Food's Sake, Vanhell's Corner, Find Her Eating, Foodie About Town, My Town, Melbourne, One Fat Spork, The Bake-a-Nista, Ichigo Shortcake, The World Loves Melbourne and Sharking for Chips and Drinks for positive reviews and Jar Fed for a less glowing report.
Accessibility: There's a small step up as you enter. The interior is flat and spacious, with the only seating options tall stools at a high counter. You order and pay at a lowish counter. We didn't visit the toilets (which was a relief, to be honest).