How to Eat Across America for Free

Food challenges from coast to coast that foot the bill

Carnivore Challenge

The old adage that there is no such thing as a free lunch has some updating to do. It should be: There’s no such thing as a free lunch, unless you’re willing to down impossibly gargantuan-sized meals in front of a crowd of spectators watching in a state of both horror and awe. If you are willing to take on Adam Richman-style food challenges, you could actually make your way across the country without paying for a single bite, though non-believers like doctors and the surgeon general would likely advise otherwise. Downing pretty impressive (read: nauseating) amounts of hot wings, slices of pizza, ice cream, or even oysters, has never been so budget-friendly.

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The many hundreds of food challenges across this country offer all kinds of prizes, though most will refund your money for the giant-sized meal, put your mug on their “wall of fame,” and send you on your way with a T-shirt, trophy, or bottle of Maalox (seriously). But those honors are hard won, with restaurants constantly trumping each other in creativity and pounds of food. Burritos Mexican Grill, for example, challenges diners to finishing an 8-pound (and 2-foot-long) burrito in less than an hour. To the victors go the burrito on the house and one free dinner per month for an entire year.

Then, at the Big Texan Steak Ranch, finishing a 4-pound steak dinner with a roll, shrimp cocktail, salad, and baked potato garners a free meal and high-fives for toppling a challenge that many have attempted and failed. And it’s not all savory, either — the San Francisco Creamery concocted a sweet challenge all their own. Called the Kitchen Sink Challenge, they present brave souls with three sliced bananas topped with scoops of eight ice cream flavors, eight servings of toppings, heaps of whipped cream, toasted almonds, and cherries. Gorge on it all in less than 30 minutes and you get free ice cream for an entire year.

So whether you’re hungry for a challenge or are a glutton for punishment (or just a glutton), these are 12 of a myriad of challenges that will take you from coast to coast (and even into Alaska and Hawaii) without having to pay for even one of those 50 hot wings.