(Photo by Michelle Felter, Staff)
SIKESTON -- It's a sandwich that makes children's eyes grow to the size of saucers and amazes adults. The 7-pound Frankenstein burger made at Stan's Wagon Wheel is generating some buzz in Sikeston, and even some friendly competition.
Owner Frank Stanley has another bar near Midland, Mich. It was there that he came up with the idea for the burger, which he brought to Sikeston when opening a new bar a few months ago. It's part of the Wagon Wheel challenge, in which a customer can order the sandwich and, if they eat it in its entirety in one hour without leaving the table, the meal is on the house and the customer also gets $100.
"I didn't make it impossible for someone, but I think it's going to take an awfully skinny person to do it," said Stanley. Only one person -- his son-in-law -- has completed the challenge.
Served on a 16-inch pizza tray, the hamburger itself isn't 7 pounds -- but as a whole, the sandwich is. It features 4 pounds of fresh meat, a two-pound bun and one pound of condiments.
Any of the condiments -- which include cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, ketchup and mustard -- can be left off. But, other condiments, or fries, must then accompany the order to make sure it really does weigh 7 pounds, Stanley said.
Stanley said the idea for the burgers came about three or so years ago. He recalled a couple of men who came to his bar one night and pointed to the 1-pound hamburger on the menu and said he wanted a triple.
"I just thought he was kidding," said Stanley. But he wasn't, so the order was filled. The customer was unable to eat the whole burger, so Stanley decided to feature that as a challenge -- and make it free for anyone who could eat the entire sandwich in one hour, without leaving the table.
"Eventually, one guy did," said Stanley. "So I said 'They won't the next one.'"
Then he came up with the idea of the Frankenstein burger. The 2-pound buns are custom-made at a bakery in Michigan. Stanley makes the drive north every few weeks, and picks up enough of the 14-inch buns to last until he'll make the trip again.
"Everyone thinks they can eat it, until we bring the buns out," laughed Jones. "Once you show them the bread, it kind of freaks them out."
But when someone does order the burger to take the challenge, it's not cooked by whoever is on staff, but Stanley himself. And typically, one who does take the challenge finishes about half the burger before throwing down their napkin, said Stanley.
The burger sells for $20, and it's not uncommon for several people to order one to share.
Waitress Dawn Jones said groups of co-workers or friends will sometimes come in and split the Frankenstein or order it to share. It's also a popular item for children's birthday parties. "We've sold quite a few for parties," she said.
"And the kids' eyes really get big when you sit that burger down in front of them," added Stanley. He noted that it is a country bar and he wants it to be family-friendly, so he encourages people to come in with their children and split a meal.
There's a full menu of other items available, including appetizers, fresh baked subs, steaks, fish, sandwiches, pizza, sides and dessert. Within the next few months, Stanley said he plans to serve breakfast.
Stanley said he is known all around Michigan for being the home of the 7 pound burger -- and that's what he hopes will eventually happen in this area, too. In fact, the challenge is something he plans to use as a marketing tool, and what he plans to display on a billboard on Highway 60 near the bar.
And word has already spread in the area. Customers will come in and ask about the burger, saying they've heard about it from others, said Jones. "We had a group of guys from St. Louis doing construction work that had heard about it," she said.
At his Michigan bar, Stanley said he sells an average of 62 Frankenstein burgers each week. It's generated a lot of interest in Sikeston since the bar and restaurant opened in mid-May, but only about two dozen orders, with eight to 10 challengers.
Like his bar in Wisconsin, Stanley said he will add a 72 ounce steak dinner challenge in Sikeston, too, once he has the charbroiler needed. It will include the same rules and prize. But if one can't eat it all -- or several people come in and split the meal -- it costs $35.
Stan's Wagon Wheel is located at 311 County Line Road, off Highway 60 just east of Sikeston across from Duckett Truck Center. The kitchen is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Monday and 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturdays. Phone number is 471-2970.