I was 12 years old, and it was just after hockey practice when I first wrapped my teeth around a Jake’s hamburger.
Inside the tiny Newark shack—the original location in what’s become a hugely successful regional chain—my mind was blown.
The ever-so-slightly charred beef, brown and crisp from the perfectly seasoned griddle, always tasted extra beefy to me, so unlike the pale fast food varieties and the overcooked, under-seasoned backyard barbecue standbys. I loved the way the meat barely held together inside its bun and melted into greasy, juicy bliss. They were little, and they were delicious, so I could eat two or three at a time.
Jake’s, to me, are what burgers are supposed to taste like. Two decades later, it’s still my favorite, bar none. So when I heard about a monster called the Triple Triple, my love for Jake’s stood still.
In March, Jake’s HQ (now Jake’s Wayback, appearing in 14 states) rolled out a colossal hamburger consisting of nine burger patties between two buns—with cheese—stacked to the ceiling.
I ran through a gauntlet of reactions. Shock. Anger. Disgust. Curiosity. Finally came wide-eyed wonder. I had to try the Triple Triple. There was no way around it. It was my Mount Everest. I had to eat it because it was there.
But by the time I walked up to the register of my local Jake’s, my courage had melted, replaced by pure, stomach-flipping fear. The mere thought of swallowing two pounds of beef made me feel ill, dashing any lingering traces of appetite.
At least the Jake’s staffers were happy. “You’re the first person to order it!” chirped the teen cashier, who struggled for a while placing my order into the computer. It was still three days until the Triple Triple became an official menu item, so my receipt looked kind of funny.
With each line the printer spat out, bemused chuckles turned to outright humiliation. Another staffer noticed the look on my face and offered a silver lining. “It’s not as many calories as they’re saying it is,” she said, referring to the news story picked up by Yahoo!, and food blogs that estimated the Triple Triple probably contained around 5,000 calories. “It’s only about 1,900.” That made me feel better, I told her, but neither of us believed me.
Finally, it arrived, as ominous as the Tower of Babel, as intimidating as some evil fortress from “The Lord of the Rings.” About as tall as I expected—the height of my 20-ounce water bottle—and oozing with yellow cheese lava. All that was missing was the giant glowing eyeball on top. I carefully cradled the meat statue and settled it onto my digital scale: 1 pound, 8.6 ounces. In my hands it felt about the same weight as a cordless drill, a substantive, noticeable heft.
But—puhh, one deep breath—and off I went. And I started strong, remembering why I loved Jake’s in the first place. That hot, crisp, greasy, delicious meat began going down easily. My technique was rudimentary, but it worked: I divided the Triple Triple into three sections and worked my way down. After just five minutes, the top third had vanished.
But the terrifying fall from Everest came quickly, and unexpectedly. Six patties in, I slammed into the base of the beast—hard. It looks liked nothing, just three patties and a bun. Only now I was in pain.
“I feel like I swallowed a boa constrictor,” I told my wife, who was too busy feeding our infant son to listen. On cue, my boy burped up some of his baby formula. I got the hint. It was time to throw in the towel.
Ragged, defeated, smelling of french fries, we piled into the car and drove home, whispering promises of vengeance. I’d caught a whiff of the Triple Triple, and I’ll reach that summit yet.
(Matt Amis, who also took the photo, has recovered from his bout with the nine-story cheeseburger, and his love of Jake’s burgers remains strong. A rematch with the Triple Triple is being brokered by both camps.)
Want to submit a Final Word for Delaware Today Magazine? Click here and tell us your idea!