ROTTERDAM – You remember the old jingle:
“Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun … ”
Yeah … this isn’t that.
To that fast-food favorite, the Graveyard Burger at Wagon Train BBQ in Rotterdam simply says, “Hold my beer.”
Construction of the burger, by chef Dave Krakat, is a feat of culinary structural engineering with few equals.
Down first goes the bottom half of a toasted, custom-basked kaiser roll, which is quickly smothered with a generous serving of creamy coleslaw. Then comes the burger itself, a one-pound behemoth adorned with two slices of melted cheese. That’s topped with two fried eggs, covered with two more pieces of cheese and — naturally — a generous fistful of crispy bacon.
Think we’re done.
Not even close.
After the bacon comes eight ounces of Wagon Train’s smoked brisket, then eight ounces of macaroni and cheese, and another eight ounces of pulled pork.
All that’s left after that is a generous squeeze of barbecue sauce, a heap of pickled jalapenos, some crispy onion tanglers and the toasted top bun, with a steak knife stabbed through the center of the behemoth just to keep it upright.
Oh, and toss in a pound of onion rings and french fries on the side.
When the meal — if such a gargantuan creation can be called something as simple as a meal — arrives at the table on a pizza tray, it weighs in at a hefty 5 1/2 pounds.
Menu price? A cool $60.
But for the brave souls who can devour the Graveyard Burger on their own within 30 minutes, the meal is free and a spot on Wagon Train’s Wall of Fame is theirs.
Owner Richard Frederick started Wagon Train BBQ as a takeout joint with his late business partner, Frank DelGallo, a little more than a decade ago.
Frederick had experience in catering but had never done barbecue.
“I’d just started. I was relatively new,” Frederick said. “Back in 2011, barbecue was in its infancy here.”
Eventually the restaurant expanded into a full sit-down establishment, with a chuck wagon outside beckoning passersby along Burdeck Street to come in and chow down, and a dining room adorned with a massive collection of Old West memorabilia.
Over time the menu expanded, with appetizers, burgers and sandwiches added to the core lineup of barbecue standards.
“We wanted to do takeout, and a lot of people were asking for different stuff for the family,” Frederick said. “They wanted to get some different things, so we added burgers, wraps, sandwiches, stuff like that. Now there’s a little bit for everybody.”
The Graveyard Burger, Wagon Train’s gloriously massive mash-up of its most popular menu items, was born as an attempt to drum up publicity for the restaurant, with the hope of eventually drawing Travel Channel’s “Man v. Food” and its then-host Adam Richman to Rotterdam for an attempt at besting the burger.
“We designed the burger with basically all of the stuff that was on our menu, our most popular items,” Frederick said. “We took all of it, put it on to a burger, and with the onion rings and french fries it ended up at 5 1/2 pounds.”
The TV appearance never materialized, but Frederick said that in the challenge’s existence more than 500 hungry souls have stepped up to the gargantuan plate.
On Dec. 8, 2012, Graham “The G-Man” Kist became the first to conquer the Graveyard Burger and Sharpie his name onto the Wagon Train Wall of Fame.
Since then the burger has been devoured within the time limit just 10 more times. The fastest eater to ever complete the challenge, Mark Gdd — in 15 minutes, 51 seconds on March 3, 2018 — is also the only person to ever finish the burger twice, as he and competitive eater Randy Santel chowed down side-by-side on Aug. 17, 2019, both finishing in an identical time of 23:42.
For most, however, their eyes are simply bigger than their stomachs.
“Most people get about 2 1/2 pounds down,” Frederick said. “That’s about it.”
There is a more popular — and, perhaps, less heartburn-inducing — method of getting a taste of the Graveyard Burger. It’s a popular sharing item, Frederick said, with parties of four or more ordering a single burger for the table, sharing the $60 cost and pigging out together.
“We sell a lot of them,” he said.