By ANDY MCCAMMON
The prices at Eddie's Sandwich Shop are imminently reasonable. A hamburger costs a scant 65 cents. You can make it a double for an extra 20 cents. Cheese on that? No problem-- what's another 10 cents?
Yes, Eddie's offers a good burger-- similar in size to what you might find at White Castle, but somehow much, much better-- at an affordable price.
But the most attractive bargain here isn't listed on the menu. A double cheeseburger for under a buck is nice, but for $13.78, Eddie's will sell you a little slice of immortality.
Since it was established some four years ago, the Eddie's Hamburger Hall of Fame has admitted only 48 members. Their pictures are taped to the wall behind the lunch counter, and their faces all look the same: Slightly dazed but glowing with a sense of achievement, like a victorious boxer who may have taken one too many blows to the head.
What did they do to get there? These brave souls ponied up their $13.78 and devoured 20 Eddie's hamburgers in one sitting, plowing through 32 ounces of ground beef, 1,400 calories worth of buns and whatever assorted condiments they chose to pile on them. The rules are relaxed for children 12 and under, who are allowed to stop after a dozen.
It's harder than it sounds. Just as Mount Everest has claimed the lives of countless adventurers who have challenged its summit, the Hamburger Hall of Fame boasts its share of casualties.
"More don't make it than do," warned Eddie's co-owner Beth McGinty, who decided to preserve the Hall of Fame when she and her husband Kelly took over for former owners Rod and Elaine Clark in 2003. "If they don't make their quota, then they go to the 'Hall of Shame.'"
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When a Hall of Fame hopeful tries and fails to conquer the 20-burger challenge, their Polaroid still goes up on the wall, just a few feet away from the triumphant smiles of those who went the distance.
The Eddie's Hamburger Hall of Shame counts 53 members on its rolls, some of whom came excruciatingly close to 20 hamburgers before their minds or bodies-- or both-- failed them.
On Dec. 2, 2005, three Brazil men-- Greg Brunett, Josh Manion and Brian Jorgensen-- bellied up to the counter at Eddie's and made their bid for the Hall of Fame. To hear waitress Kelly Fitch tell it, the trio labored over their burgers for more than two hours only to fall just short of the quota.
Brunett came the closest, managing to choke down 19-and-a-half sandwiches before throwing in the towel. When you're done, apparently, you're done.
But for nearly every customer who can't make it to number 20, a modern-day folk hero is born.
Take Adam Evinger, who on August 28, 2005, downed his 20 in a blistering 21 minutes, becoming the fastest finisher in the history of the Hall of Fame.
Then there's Jennifer Bass, the only adult female member of the Hall, who secured her place in history on June 9, 2005.
But those achievements pale in comparison to the story of Justin Mitchell, the gastro-intestinal John Henry who set an all-time Eddie's record by manhandling six hamburgers and 20 cheeseburgers. Indeed.