The sound of beef sizzling on a hot and steamy grill was faint behind the sound of roaring music as contestants prepared to fill their bellies with several quarter-pound burgers. The room was filled with people, who were laughing, smiling ear to ear and holding signs in support of their favorite contestant.
Mark’s Outing, a burger oasis located on the East Side of San Antonio at 1624 E. Commerce St., hosted for the second year in a row Food Fight Friday, which is an eight-round burger eating contest running from June-September. The winners of each of the eight rounds qualify to compete at the All-American Burger Festival, where they will have a chance to win $1,000.
As contestants began to take their seats for the challenge, Mark Outing, the owner of the restaurant, carefully walked out of the back kitchen carrying two trays overflowing with burgers. Competitors of Food Fight Friday must eat five plain, quarter-pound cheeseburgers in five minutes or attempt to eat the most burgers.
A microphone buzzed, quieting the room as Uchennaya Ogba, co-founder of EHCU Public Relations — a company representing Mark’s Outing Food Fight Friday’s contests, welcomed guests and explained the rules.
“The rules are simple: no throwing up, respect each other’s space and have fun,” Ogba said. “All right, ready, set, go!”
The two participants began stuffing their cheeks with burgers as fast as their mouths could move. Each contender had their own strategy, with some dipping their burgers in water, causing the bread and meat to become soggy.
“A minute left,” shouted Ogba. “Let’s help them count down everyone: five, four, three, two, one, zero.”
Outing approached the contenders’ table and declared the winner of the seventh round of the Sept. 2 contest as Alex Tam, a 22-year-old Massachusetts native who teaches for AmeriCorps in San Antonio.
“I felt good when I caught the ‘W,’ and now I have to train for the finale,” Tam said.
Tam won the contest by eating three and a half burgers in five minutes.
“It is important we host Food Fight Friday because we’re providing a fun event for our city,” Outing said. “It is also a road to get local and surrounding contests for the All-American burger fest.”
Mark’s Outing hosts the yearly All-American Burger Festival, which is scheduled this year 3-11 p.m. Oct. 15 and is free and open to the public.
This year’s Burger Festival will be bigger and better than ever, said Robertta Portillo, junior publicist of EHCU Public Relations.
“Outing plans to block off the whole street of E. Commerce,” Portillo said. “We are anticipating a Battle of the Burgers Vendor cookoff between food trucks and other vendors here in San Antonio, which will all lead up to the finale.”
The rules for the finale at the All-American Burger Festival are similar to the Food Fight Friday’s contest series but, instead, the eight qualifying contestants must eat 10 burgers in 10 minutes.
“Last year’s burger fest winner won eating seven burgers in 10 minutes,” Portillo said.
Several local politicians will also take part in the burger festivities at the All-American Burger Festival.
“We are also anticipating a cookoff with Ron Nirenberg, mayor of San Antonio; Jalen McKee-Rodriguez, District 2 councilman; and Tommy Calvert, Bexar County Precinct 4 commissioner,” Portillo said.
Outing will donate all proceeds from the All-American Burger Festival to Essence Preparatory Public School, a tuition-free school on the East Side of San Antonio offering classes from kindergarten to fifth grade.
“The school is dedicated to creating a space for black and brown children to learn how to advocate for themselves and their community,” Portillo said.
Registration is done through Eventbrite, and it is required to be 18 years of age or older. A $15 entrance fee and a completed liability waiver form are also required. Forms must be sent to email@example.com.
“People also sign up at the last minute at the restaurant, and we have the waivers here for them to fill out,” Portillo said.
Those who attend the final qualifying round of Food Fight Friday on Sept. 23 will also be eligible to win tickets for various local San Antonio shows by signing up for Mark’s Outing’s newsletter. Previous ticket giveaways included two LowLow Car Show Concert, Culture Fest tickets and two Alamofest Music Festival tickets.
For questions about Food Fight Friday or the All-American Burger Festival, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“It is always a joy when you see people turn out to the event,” Outing said. “Come stop by and get a big, fat, juicy burger.”