CHALLENGE: Casa Linda Tacos

Posted by The LunchMen Thursday, June 10, 2010

For those of you regularly following, we said last week that the "interns" would be squaring off in a taco challenge the likes of which Columbia has never seen. It happened. Pig Pen and Jules Winnfield took on Hot Pockets and Cupcake this Monday at Casa Linda on Beltline. For those of you who don't know, Casa Linda offers dollar tacos on Mondays and Tuesdays, and I think the soft chicken tacos are one of the best bargains in Columbia. Mrs. Tank and I started going after a Spanish-for-Dummies class we, along with TakeOut, were attending at Midlands Tech. We gave up on the Spanish classes, but not on those tasty tacos.

The competitors had some basic rules that they agreed to abide by in this challenge. The time limit was set at 30 minutes. Rabbit, The Highlander, Tex, and The Publican agreed to be plate judges to ensure that nearly every bite of a taco was eaten, even the fallen lettuce and meat, before that taco counted in the tally. The ladies, Jules and Cupcake, agreed to eat all hard shell tacos with chicken and lettuce. The fellas opted for hard shell beef tacos with lettuce. None of the competitors wanted cheese. This distressed Caveman and I immensely because Casa Linda's cheese adds a punch to those tacos, but as you might imagine, Rabbit swooped in and justified the change because of the health effects, etc. Health effects concerned me little after each "intern" signed a legal waiver of liability, but whatever. As a substitution, the competitors agreed to put salsa on each taco prior to eating it.

The first order of 26 tacos took the staff at Casa Linda by surprise. The mountain of tacos was impressive. Once we were rolling, the staff did nearly a flawless job of keeping the tacos flowing to order throughout the competition.

The contestants came out of the gate with guns blazing. Inexplicably, Hot Pockets managed to cram 10 tacos down in just over six minutes. It was horrific to watch. Pig Pen, in stark contrast to how he eats chicken wings, chose the "tortoise" approach - slow and steady. Pig Pen wore headphones the whole time to maintain his zen-like composure; I believe he was listening to the soothing sounds of Celine Dion.

The ladies stayed neck and neck throughout the competition. They are both petite, and the five tacos each that they consumed were impressive, and the total of 10 tacos between the two of them well cleared the over/under of 5 we set going into the competition. In full disclosure, Cupcake actually beat Jules Winfield, because Jules was still working on the back-half of the fifth taco when time expired, but we gave her credit for the finish anyway. The real difference came down to Pig Pen and Hot Pockets. Hot Pockets downed a total of 17 crunchy tacos to Pig Pen's 14 tacos. Team Cupcake/Hot Pockets won by a slight margin of 22 to 19. We were all amazed by the "interns" and their ability to down tacos.

Mrs. Caveman, the Pewter Pirate and the Mighty Eskimo all brought their children to witness this outlandish feat of taco gluttony. I believe that the children learned a very valuable lesson. If you don't want a huge, bloated belly, then don't sit down and eat 17 tacos in the course of 30 minutes.

Unlike Hot Pockets, Jules Winnfield set a good example for the children by slipping on her head phones and running home from Casa Linda to try and burn down those calories. Hot Pockets is still suffering the aftermath of his excess. Congratulations to Cupcake and Hot Pockets, they are the first winners of a new tradition for the Lunchmen.


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Rabbit, Tank, and The Publican are three dudes just trying to get through the work week here in Columbia. Rabbit is a Columbia native, Tank is from Charleston, and The Publican hails from Greenville. Rabbit's favorite lunch spot is the No Name Deli on Elmwood, where you may find him putting down a grilled chicken salad and a side of vinegar pasta. The Publican usually wants to find food to cure his all-too-common hangovers. Tank claims no favorite lunch spot - he lives for the thrill of the hunt.