From hope to nope: the varying stages of attempting the Porthole Pub Burger Challenge

On Monday, Feb. 21, The Daily World employee Jason Walen decided to do something a bit different with his day off. Full of confidence, Walen sat down at a table in the back of the Porthole Pub, a local favorite in Ocean Shores, to attempt their holiday weekend burger challenge.

According to owners Heidi and John Coffer, the extreme burger was intended to highlight the best of the pub’s menu. The “burger” included a burger patty, slices of steak, cheese sticks, and a grilled cheese sandwich – all served on a 6-inch hamburger bun. The towering monstrosity was accompanied by a basket of fries to finish the meal.

“I regretted doing this as soon as I saw it,” said Walen.

The premise was simple: finish the whole burger meal, by yourself, in one sitting (and no, bathroom breaks were not allowed). The reality, however, was far more painful.

“Everyone sits down with 100 percent confidence they will finish, until the burger comes out,” said Heidi Coffer. “It’s called a burger challenge for a reason, it was always intended to be difficult.”

One of nine challengers, Walen started off strong. He devoured nearly half of the burger portion of the meal in 15 minutes with a “protein first” strategy. Food purists would’ve been appalled by his crude deconstruction of the burger, with one particularly low point when he poured on water to make it easier to swallow.

“What am I going to get out of this? Misery,” he said.

About 30 minutes in, he lost steam, but was still confident in his ability to finish the meal — pending a small break. It was around this time that Walen’s supporters began to order sliders, relishing the juxtaposition between their meal size and his.

Around 50 minutes, the excuses kicked in. Obviously, the one finisher from the weekend had been given a smaller burger, at least it looked like a smaller burger. Even if it wasn’t, the burger was definitely smaller in the promotional picture. He never would’ve been so certain if he had actually known how big the burger would be.

At this point, Walen was in pain. It was difficult to swallow, and he regretted not wearing a long-sleeved shirt so he could stuff some of the meal in his sleeves when no one was watching.

And yet, despite the obvious discomfort, he was still confident that he could finish the challenge at an hour and 10 minutes in, just with a precautionary bin nearby.

“This was a stupid idea,” he said.

Since Heidi and John took over the Porthole Pub in April 2021, they’ve been hoping to host something like the burger challenge. Taking advantage of the off-season, they decided to introduce the challenge over the holiday weekend after support from their staff.

“We thought that people were going to be able to finish it!” said John.

Unfortunately, at about an hour and a half in, Walen decided that he would not be meeting that expectation. After various waves of confidence, risk won out over reward, and his name was cemented in the Porthole Pub Burger Challenge Wall of Fame as a “nope.”

According to Heidi, there was a lot of interest from people who wanted to participate but were unable to make it last weekend. They will be bringing the burger challenge back in the future, with some changes to keep it interesting in case anyone is misguided enough to try it more than once.

“One of the main reasons why we selected President’s Day weekend for the Challenge was because it aligned with the closing of the Winter Olympics. We thought it would be fun to have our customers ‘go for the gold’ with the Porthole Burger Challenge, and it also aligned nicely with a three-day holiday weekend,” said Heidi. “Felt like the stars aligned to give it a go, and see if there was an appetite for the Challenge. We definitely felt there was!”

As to the fate of The Daily World employee? He came into work the next day, but has no intention of eating another burger anytime soon.

“It’s just salad for me after this,” he said.

Hopefully he enjoyed his consolation prize: a to-go box.