Capitol Police lock up burger-eating bragging rights

“C’mon, Wells!” shouted Frank Quick of the U.S. Capitol Police. “Get it in, get it in, get it in! C’mon, Wells!

Travis Wells nodded. Or maybe he was trying to swallow yet another mini-burger.

It was lunchtime Friday, and a Capitol Police team had just launched an assault on a platter of sliders at the Hard Rock Top Guns Legendary Burger Eating Contest.

Three off-duty Capitol Police officers — Wells, Mike Hallas and Jeff McGuire — were speed-eating against a U.S. Park Police detail for bragging rights and charity.

Quick — a veteran of the contest, with two team wins under his adjustable belt — had hung up his bib and was serving as team captain/coach/mascot/scout.


The coveted trophy and plaque bearing the names of previous winners is seen Friday in Washington. (Bill O'Leary/WASHINGTON POST)

“If you guys don’t win, I’m not talking to you anymore,” he threatened.

He glanced down the long table set up outside the Hard Rock, on 10th Street, just down the block from Ford’s Theatre.

The U.S. Park Police guys were lagging.

“We got it, easily,” he said.

Each team had been given a platter with 25 burgers on it. They had three minutes to snarf as many as they could. They had to eat everything — patty, bun, lettuce, tomato.

No biggie these days, Quick said: In the contest’s first year in 2009, the Hard Rock served full-size, 10-ounce burgers. Quick thinks he ate seven that year. The U.S. Capitol Police won, and then won again in 2010.

Wear the badge. Feel the honor. STUFF YOUR FACE.

Then, the Metropolitan Police Department guys started eating their lunch.

“We always worry about Metropolitan,” Quick said. “Those dudes impress.”

But this year, the MPD team — the two-time defending champs — were no-shows at the event, which was part of the Hard Rock’s Founders’ Day celebration and raised about $1,000 for the Capital Area Law Enforcement Foundation, which supports injured officers.

Perhaps the MPD guys were busy arresting the Hamburglar?

“Friendly competition events are always fun, and whenever MPD is involved we generally show out as top cops,” said department spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump. She noted that the contest “was not an official MPD event” and said she was “not aware of MPD having a team involved this year.”

Then, Crump added: “On another note, earlier this month we kicked off MPD’s sixth fitness challenge . . . to increase and maintain good health.”

Quick himself pointed out that he and his Capitol Police brothers “don’t normally eat like this; we’re just doing it for charity.”

And, he said: “I’m getting older, and my arteries are getting a little hard. I’m getting the younger, healthier guys involved.”

His replacement on the team was Hallas, a towering slab of muscle who was wearing a fitness band around his wrist.

The emcee, Toby Knapp — a host on radio station WIHT (99.5 FM) — wondered whether the band’s calorie counter was going to break mid-competition.

“Thank you for putting your lives on the line,” Knapp said to the eat-off contestants.

He clarified that he was talking about their law enforcement work, not their participation in the burger contest.

“We’re way past doughnuts,” he added.

The clock ticked, and the cops inhaled mini-burgers.

Hallas double-dipped: He held a slider in each hand, dunking one into a cup of water while gnawing at the other.

Switch, chew, repeat.

As the clock wound down, Quick pumped his fist, then looked at the trophy. “Just bring it over here, baby,” he said. Its future home is a trophy case beneath the Capitol Visitors Center.

The Capitol Police had eaten 16 (or so) sliders — at least five more than the Park Police team. It was a rout.

“It’s not a physical contest,” shrugged Park Police Officer Robert Berretta. “It’s your innards.”

Hallas tried to fist-bump McGuire, but McGuire was busy holding his hand in front of his mouth. He’d stuffed a final slider into his mouth — whole — during the countdown and was still trying to finish it.

Hallas celebrated by eating one more himself.

Quick joined him for a post-victory bite.

The win was bittersweet, Wells said. “I wish MPD was here so we could beat them heads-up,” he said. “Come back next year — don’t be afraid.”

J. Freedom du Lac is the editor of The Post's general assignment news desk. He was previously a Local enterprise reporter and, before that, the paper’s pop music critic.
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