With all due respect to Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating champ Joey Chestnut, we South Floridians have no problem stretching our jaws like Burmese pythons for the sake of comfort food.
In July across Broward and Palm Beach counties, we’ll have plenty of chances to practice during an embarrassment of festival riches firing up chicken wing-, hot dog- and apple pie-eating contests, along with hamburgers, tacos (and tequila), and even vegan barbecue.
Yes, we’ve officially hit peak hot grill summer.
Here are five bashes happening in July guaranteed to stretch your mouths as much as your waistlines.
Vegan BBQ Party, Fort Lauderdale
The healthiest of these comfort-food parties, this inaugural event devoted to tasty meat alternatives — think mushroom steaks, smoked seitan burgers, plant-based wings — will feature 79 meatless purveyors selling barbecue, healthy drinks, dessert treats and other snacks. The ticket price includes admission only, although some vendors will serve free samples. A central stage in Esplanade Park will host a BBQ Burger Eating Contest along with a Plant-Based Push-Up Contest (yes, there’s exercise at a food festival), a limbo contest and something called a Pineapple Chug. There will also be live music, giveaways, wellness workshops and art.
4th of July Spectacular
Noon-9:15 p.m. July 4 on Fort Lauderdale beach and Las Olas Oceanside Park, 3000 E. Las Olas Blvd.; free; FortLauderdale.gov
Observe folks chowing down hot dogs and apple pie at an alarming rate (#Murica) during Fort Lauderdale’s annual star-spangled celebration on the beach. Strong-stomached festivalgoers can register for both eating contests during the event — or simply watch from afar, which also requires some abdominal fortitude. Or they can take in the city’s bill of live music, this year headlined by homegrown rapper Flo Rida (“Wild Ones,” “Right Round,” “Cake”), along with live acts Gypsy Lane, Relentless and Higher Ground. There are also bounce houses, a water balloon toss and limbo contests. The evening will wrap with a 23-minute fireworks show at 8:45 p.m., and, probably, a bottle of Pepto at bedtime.
South Florida Wing Bash
Fried chicken is no joke in this region, with many boneless and bone-in wing joints roosting in South Florida over the past year. Which makes judging this inaugural chicken fight especially tough: At least 24 vendors (and growing) will jockey for wing supremacy, including Bru’s Room Sports Grill, Tucker Duke’s Lunchbox, Thirsty Turtle Seagrill, Windy City Pizza and Lantana Local Tavern. Admission includes access to unlimited wing samples, beer and hard seltzer, and ticketholders can vote with tokens for their People’s Choice winner. A separate four-judge panel will also assay the best wings during a blind taste test. Other diversions will include live music and a gaming area stocked with ax-throwing bays, cornhole and beer pong.
10th Annual Boca Burger Battle
7-10 p.m. July 15 at Sanborn Square Park, 72 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton; $65-$75 regular, $85-$125 for VIP (includes 6 p.m. early access); 561-338-7594; BocaBurgerBattle.com
During this smoky throwdown, ticket-buyers can sample handhelds from 11 contestants: Burtons Grill and Bar, M.E.A.T. Eatery & Taproom, American Social, The Munchies Report, Marco’s Top Burgers, Tucker Duke’s Lunchbox, Funky Buddha Brewery, Yard House, Papamigos Delray Beach, The Cove Waterfront Restaurant and Tiki Bar, and Lucky Fish Pompano. A five-judge panel will select top-scoring burgers, and the public can also vote for a People’s Choice winner. “I make it a true blind contest and so we don’t know what the ingredients are (before the event),” organizer Russell Spadaccini says. “Our event is basically different every year because every contestant has to make a brand-new burger.”
Riverwalk Tacos & Tequila Fest
This inaugural event staged by Riverwalk Fort Lauderdale hasn’t announced its full lineup of taquerias yet, but you can certainly bet at least one will serve trendy quesabirria with savory red consommé. Countless local restaurants have hopped on the birria bandwagon since the pandemic, and these tantalizing tacos (deep-fried orange corn tortillas, shredded beef, blistered queso dripping down the sides) are worth your taco money. Of course, there’s also al pastor, chorizo, carnitas, carne asada tacos, along with ceviche and street corn. Some participating vendors so far include Don Chingon Tacos, Mr. Serrano Food Truck and Tacos El Machine Gon. There will also be premium tequila cocktails, margaritas and live music.