Man v. Food Tries to Conquer Milwaukee

The rebooted Travel Channel favorite returns with stops at three Milwaukee eateries.

It’s downright fitting that the first episode of the resuscitated Travel Channel show Man v. Food – scheduled to air Aug. 7 at 8 p.m. – features a gut-busting visit to Milwaukee. Absolutely fitting. The show, which ran for four years (2008-2012), features a gung-ho host who attempts to master a particularly menacing food challenge offered up in a specific U.S. city.

In its original incarnation, the host was actor Adam Richman. In the reboot, he’s replaced by comedian Casey Webb. (Citing health issues and a suffering love life, Richman pulled out of the series.) Last spring, Webb and his crew visited three Milwaukee landmarks – Sobelman’s Pub & Grill (1900 W. St. Paul Ave.), Jake’s Deli (1634 W. North Ave.) and Mader’s (1041 N. Old World Third St.) – and was greeted with challenges that would certainly flat-line the average person. The restaurants’ challenge is to offer a food creation that Webb won’t be able to finish.

Of the Sobelman’s Chicken Fried Bloody Beast prepared for this episode, Dave Sobelman was understandably tight-lipped but did reveal that he didn’t get his “a-s kicked like on ‘Food Wars’.” The “kicking” he refers to is his ill-fated 2010 burger battle against AJ Bombers on the Travel Channel’s “Food Wars.”

The Bloody Beast is whole nother animal – a pitcher-sized bloody mary topped with accouterments like bacon-wrapped jalapeno cheese balls and a whole fried chicken. When the drink was introduced in 2014, it garnered national attention, including a piece in Huffington Post.

At Jake’s Deli, Webb was treated to the Commish Challenge, which is perhaps the biggest corned beef and pastrami sandwich you’ve ever seen.

It starts with a loaf of rye bread. Besides a veritable mountain of meat, it’s filled with Swiss cheese, jalapenos and sauerkraut, sauce and then crowned with an entire pickle. Weighing a little under five pounds, the sandwich is a challenge that any Jake’s customer can face.

If he or she finishes the Commish in 45 minutes, the $75 cost is waived, plus Jake’s throws in a pair of Milwaukee Brewers baseball tickets and gives the winning challenger street cred on the wall of the restaurant. So far, three people have conquered the Commish – that’s not including the Man v. Food host, should he be victorious…

This all makes the Mader’s challenge – a tray of sausages, a traditional pork shank and a German beer served in a boot – sound almost pedestrian by comparison. Or not.

Find out if the Milwaukee businesses prevail on Aug. 7 at 8 p.m. on the Travel Channel.  



Ann Christenson has covered dining for Milwaukee Magazine since 1997. She was raised on a diet of casseroles that started with a pound of ground beef and a can of Campbell's soup. Feel free to share any casserole recipes with her.