Durham, N.C. – Thai Zebra spiders have crawled out of their dirt burrows in the forests of Cambodia onto the tables of a North Carolina restaurant – and people are going wild for the crunchy garnish on their burger.
“When I got done, I was like I can enjoy another one right now. It’s strange….but the flavor is good,” said Mark Christmann after trying the Tarantula Burger at Bull City Burger and Brewery in Durham, N.C. for the first time.
To eat the burger, patrons have to go through a lottery. Daredevils pay $30 to put their name on a raffle ticket and the restaurant draws a winner from a box about every other day. The winner, announced on Facebook and Twitter, has 48 hours to respond with a date and time to take on the Tarantula Challenge.
“Once I actually put aside the fact that it was a spider, once I ate it, it wasn’t bad. It was really crunchy,” 17-year-old Anthony Jarvis told Fox News.
He is a repeat offender, devouring the gargantuan burger adorned with a big, black tarantula every year for the past three years.
The restaurant hosts the challenge every April to play its part in Exotic Meat Month. For the past three years, the Tarantula Challenge has grown in popularity.
“It’s everybody…we’ve had kids, adults. I mean, every type of person,” said Seth Gross, the owner of the restaurant. “There’s something thrilling about eating your fear.”
Gross said surprisingly, many people who have braved the restaurant’s Tarantula Challenge have a fear of spiders.
“If they can get through this, they can conquer their fear or, at least, (get to) eat it for a day,” Gross said.
Christmann, who took on the challenge said he doesn’t have a fear of spiders – it is quite the opposite.
“I love spiders,” Christmann told Fox News. “That’s actually the only thing that was making me kind of not want to do it.…. I don’t know how I feel consciously about eating them.”
Christmann says after reading about Bull City’s challenge on social media, he was instantly intrigued.
“It’s not something you see every day, especially with exotic meat,” he said.
The restaurant manager said there are three ways customers usually eat the burgers: the Band-Aid approach, where “they just pick up the spider and eat it. Get it over with.” Others, Gross explained, “have one leg at a time and it takes them a while to get it down.”
Other customers slather the burger with a little bit of everything. They “just put the bun on top and eat it like a burger with everything and you don’t taste it so much,” Gross said.
Gross said the restaurant initially started by serving bug burgers, which had scorpions, larvae and crickets in it.
“Then,” he said, “we started learning about spiders that are eaten in Cambodia, the zebra tarantula, and we created the Tarantula Challenge.”
At the restaurant recently, while chefs flipped the sizzling medium-well beef burger over a hot grill in the kitchen, Christmann said he thought about how it would taste. He used words like “crunchy” and “spidery gusher” to describe the burger.
“I hope it tastes good,” Christmann said. “I mean it could be strange. I’d be alright with that. But as long as it doesn’t taste slimy or, like, overly crunchy.”
Christmann ended up eating the grass-fed beef burger with gruyere cheese, an oven-roasted tarantula and spicy chili paste in less than eight bites.
“When I first sink my teeth into it, there’s a lot of crunch,” he said. “Imagine snapping twigs, that’s what I heard in my head when I was biting. Twigs snapping, a lot of them.”
He described the taste as earthy with a hint of “middle eastern spices, like sumac.”
Not only does he get the bragging rights for eating it, but he was also given a white t-shirt from the restaurant to trumpet his bravery.
The Tarantula Challenge ends on the last day of April. This year, 18 tarantulas were purchased for the challenge, but next year the owners say the meat of choice could range from an exotic fish to bull testicles.