You can’t beat the big dogs.
Steeplechase Beer Garden threw a bratwurst-eating competition right after the Nathan’s hot-dog-eating contest wrapped up a few blocks away on July 4. Owners of the bar — home base for hot-dog-revivalist Feltman’s as it challenges Nathan’s for sausage supremacy — knew they couldn’t take down the Super Bowl of competitive eating, but they held the contest for underdog regulars who could only dream of taking the stage at the corner of Surf and Stillwell avenues, one barman said.
“You can’t compete with Nathan’s — they’re a billion-dollar franchise with professional eaters, and we’re a small business with amateur eaters,” said co-owner James Quigley, a former amateur eater himself who has judged the Nathan’s contest seven times. “We want to keep our events amateur — it’s for friends, family, and customers — no professional eaters. It’s for amusement and good times.”
So it’s no surprise that Quigley loved that the winner of the first-ever contest was literally a hungry guy who walked in off the street. The 26-year-old Bronx man who took home the inaugural brat-eating title was not even a patron at the restaurant when he signed up — he was waiting outside for his spouse.
“My wife was using the bathroom at the restaurant, and I heard them announcing it,” Blake Tariq said. “They just had me sign a waiver and I was in.”
The great American — who had no competitive eating experience — trekked to Coney Island from his native borough with his family to watch the contest at Nathan’s and to enjoy a nice day at the beach. He figured he would only leave with memories of a beautiful Fourth of July, but thanks to his good ear and empty stomach, the hungry opportunist walked away with a Steeplechase Beer Garden T-shirt, $50, and a full belly.
Tariq blew away the seven other eaters by downing seven brats and buns in 5 minutes. Second place was a three-way tie between eaters who each put down a meager four franks. The big wiener’s strategy was simple — “chew, swallow, chew, swallow, drink water, and just keep going,” said the champ, whose modesty gave the impression he had won a humble-pie-eating contest.
Tariq has no plans to pursue a competitive eating career, but said he’d return to the Steeplechase Beer Garden to defend his title. And Quigley looks forward to serving him his brats for as long as he will keep coming, he said.
“We love hot dogs, we love Nathan’s, but at Steeplechase we serve bratwurst, and we look forward to serving the people of Coney Island and Brooklyn and everywhere for the next 100 years,” he said.