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Heh heh.

Been meaning to do this for a lawng time. Test of manhood. Come here to the IB Forum...

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...the last restaurant in America, right? - on a Thursday night and order their Ultimate Gut-Buster Burger and a bottle, yes, bottle, of Cab-Sauvignon. The aim: get through them both for under $20.

This is one small step for man...I've never had a one-pound burger, and never ordered a bottle of wine, as opposed to a glass. Sure Carla's gonna call me on this. That woman has instincts.

The Forum's called the last restaurant in America because, well, it is. The most south-westerly eatery before the Tijuana River sloughs and the border. It's here at the corner of Seacoast and I. B. Boulevard (1079 Seacoast Drive, Imperial Beach, 619-429-7507).

Carylie, the waitress does warn me. "It's big. Two half-pound patties, lots of French fries..."

This is when I spot that they have Arrogant Bastard beer - still my fave - but it's $5. And hey, tonight's half-price wine bottle night and the bottle of Spanish Cabernet Sauvignon, normally $15 - a deal in itself - is going for $7.50, couple of bucks more than AB. No contest. I order the bottle.

House description of da boiger: "The ultimate gut-buster: topped with grilled onions and mushrooms, melted American and Swiss cheese, bacon, and lettuce, tomato and mayo, on a bun."

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"It's always men who take this on," says Carylie. "But they usually finish it, too."

So now, the pressure to prove I'm a real hombre.

I start off with a lunge at the side where the bacon's sticking out. Oh yes. Good and juicy, not dry. It sends out plenty of sautéed onions to flick around your face. Bun's kinda light, airy, eggy.

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So twenty minutes later, I've had two of the small glasses of my wine, just to swill down the burger and fries. It seems fine and tasty. This is when I get talking to Ed and Yadi, who are eating next door along this long table filled with people.

Actually the whole place is filled with people talking and laughing. Get the feeling this is a real local hot spot.

"I had the Forum Burger," says Ed. It's the basic house burger, $7. "I like it. Only complaint: the bun. It's not crispy. It's light, maybe too eggy for me. Hawaiian. But we're locals. We eat lots of their stuff. We grill our own burgers here. You can at the Forum. We're here all the time."

Yadi says she had the clam chowder ($5).

"It's almost as good as the chowder at the Del Mar Fair."

Almost?

"We'll this is a little thicker. I think I prefer their consistency up there. But this is still good."

Then, guess what? Tami, the gal who makes sandwiches at a Von's I go to, comes up.

She lives right back of here. Came in to get the "Forum Sampler," a collection of "4 potato skins, 4 hot wings, 2 tenders, onion rings, sour cream and ranch dressing" for $12.

"Love those skins," she says.

Meanwhile, the struggle goes on. Must say, the burger helps the Spanish wine go down. And the wine helps the boiger. We're just below the half-way mark in the bottle when I get a call from Carla.

"What are you doing?"

"Uh, eatin' a one-pound boiger. Drinking an en-tire bottle of vino, is all."

"What thu...Bedford, we've been down this road before. You won't sleep all night. Your legs will start twitching. You'll start fighting with your ex-girlfriends in your dreams. Out loud. Think of me, for God's sake. Stop eating. Cork the damned bottle!"

In the end, I make it to two-thirds down da bottle, and nine-tenths through the Gut-Buster. Jes' can't seal the deal by the time they're closing up.

As I leave, I remember reading about Douglas McArthur, the legendary general in World War Two, as he retreated from the Philippines.

"I'll be back!" he said.

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