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In Dining

Server Lindsay Krchma delivering a 72-ounce portion of prime rib. (PHOTO: Ward's House of Prime)

In Dining

Brian Ward with a big hunk of beef. (PHOTO: Ward's House of Prime)

In Dining

From left, Kurt Schmidt, Mike Litman and Al Halaka each dig into 10 pounds of prime rib on the Travel Channel's "Big Beef Paradise." (PHOTO: Ward's House of Prime)

Prime by the pounds: Ward's gets national attention for its portion sizes

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While all of this was going on, producers at the Travel Channel were trolling the web looking for restaurants to feature on their "Big Beef Paradise" series. They found Katie Ward's tweets and Facebook posts and came to Milwaukee in October to tape a segment at Ward's.

Three regular diners who had previously eaten more than 100 ounces of prime – Kurt Schmidt, Al Halaka and Mike Litman – sat down at a table with the cameras rolling. They were served 160-ounce – that is 10 pounds – portions, and Halaka was the first to finish the serving, in 31 minutes. Litman was a few bites behind, and decided to up the ante. He ate 8 more ounces, making him the reigning consumption champion at 168 ounces.

The Travel Channel aired the Ward's segment in December, and the impact was immediate. Unable to handle all of the traffic, the restaurant's website crashed.

A group of 18 from Indianapolis drove to Milwaukee to eat at Ward's. Reservations came from as far as Atlanta.

"People ask us to ship them the meat. We don't do that," Ward says.

The Travel Channel has the program on a broadcast rotation, and the restaurateur said he always knows when the feature has been aired again. The phone starts ringing with calls from out of town.

"This doesn't just benefit us, although it has been great for business," Katie Ward says. "People ask about Milwaukee, and we tell them about all the things to do here."

Ward's uses post-cooked weights in its measurements. When the bone and fat is removed from a 10-pound portion, Brian estimates the diner gets between 8 and 9 pounds of pure meat.

Customers receive a potato choice and their option of soup or salad with the beef. Ward says his big eaters often devour the entire meal, adding that Halaka had a slice of chocolate cake after consuming 96 ounces of prime rib.

The publicity has boosted sales of all prime portion sizes. The smallest, 8 ounces, is priced at $23, and the 168 ouncer, named after Litman, costs $230. The 40-ounce slab – "Mike Litman eats that like a snack," says Ward – is $63.

For a $10 per plate split charge, multiple customers can order and share one monster portion. A party of eight could not collectively finish a 168-ounce serving.

You don't have to be a beef eater to dine at Ward's. Other entrees include panko-crusted walleye ($31), lobster ravioli with white truffle cream sauce ($23), and even a vegetarian dish, eggplant involtini ($16). Flatbreads and seven salads are also on the menu.

Ward says his big eaters have a general strategy when going for the high numbers. Drink a lot of water the day before to expand the stomach, nibble on breakfast, skip lunch, and when the platter of prime is placed before you, down the serving quickly before your body catches on to what you are doing.

The big question now is whether Litman's 168-ounce record will stand. "Someone came in here and tried to eat 212 ounces," Ward says. "He didn't come close."

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buck | June 25, 2012 at 10:54 a.m. (report)

This man is dead. Looks to me like beef poisoning. Probably from some other restaurant. -Dr. Hibbert

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