After a slow, labored tabulation of data that required frequent stops for heavy breathing, Red Robin has been declared the winner of this year’s Xtreme Eating Awards. The annual contest, whose name ironically alludes to the sort of sports activities it makes impossible, is conducted by the Center for Science in the Public Interest—specifically the interest in not seeing the public gorge itself to death. It measures the unhealthiest meals at more than 200 chain restaurants in America, then ranks them in handy list form so you don’t waste your time with some bullshit salad.
Red Robin took the top prize with a meal consisting of its Monster burger—a regular A1 peppercorn burger rendered hideous and unlovable with the addition of a second patty—the Nietzschean abyss of its “bottomless” fries, and a Monster salted caramel milkshake, which accidentally killed a young peasant girl by throwing her into a lake. (The milkshake thought she would float! Must this milkshake be deemed a monster for not understanding our world?) All together, this classic Universal-style pairing of terrifying salt-based creatures weighs in at 3,450 calories, well above the 2,500 daily intake recommended for an adult man by the nanny-state government.
More notable, however, is that perennial winner The Cheesecake Factory did not go down easily, much like a dinner at The Cheesecake Factory. It held tightly to the second, third, and fourth-place spots—and more impressively, it did it without having to cobble together some sort of all-star saturated fat team. The chain’s Crème Bruleed French Toast—custard-soaked bread topped with powdered sugar, then served with maple-butter syrup, bacon, and sweatpants—clocked in at 2,780 calories all on its own. It was closely followed by the Farfalle With Chicken And Roasted Garlic And A Can Of Lard We’re Guessing (2,410 calories) and Reese’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake Cheesecake (1,500 calories, 500 of which are conveyed just by reading its name).
In response to its defeat, Cheesecake Factory PR director Alethea Rowe tried to play it off, bragging that its massive Book of Cheesecake also has a 50-item “SkinnyLicious” section that’s “actually larger than many restaurants’ entire menus,” and that the restaurant whose name conjures a relentless, mechanical spewing of dessert “has always been about choices.” This is often borne out in conversations among consumers, when the suggestion of going to The Cheesecake Factory immediately prompts discussion of whether there isn’t anything else.
Similarly, Red Robin’s chief marketing officer Denny Marie Pobst lamented that the study “combines some of our most indulgent items into one meal,” when a customer could just as easily order “a lettuce-wrapped turkey burger, sans cheese and bun, with a side of broccoli and a light lemonade for 540 calories.” The customer could also just as easily order a warm compliment from the cashier, with a side of a napkin folded into a swan. They also have Diet Coke.
Should you make the choice to choose to not avail yourselves of the lighter fare at Red Robin or Cheesecake Factory, take whatever remains of your heart: You can still burn off that burger meal with a brisk, 12-hour walk, or undo that French toast with a mere 7 hours of swimming—perhaps from one Red Robin or Cheesecake Factory location to another. And you can always avoid their high-calorie counts by not chewing or digesting them, but rather just ordering these meals to keep around as friends and confidantes you whisper all your secret dreams to. It’s all about choices.