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Free-For-All Friday: Iowa City Eat-A-Palooza Regional Finals

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The time is now. The people have spoken. Let’s recap who survived to advance to the Final Four and preview the matchups in the first annual Iowa City Eat-A-Palooza!

This is it, baby. The Final Four is here!

JPinIC: Jerry! My man! Welcome back! You survived the shenanigans in Myrtle Beach, how ya feelin’ buddy?

Hello Jerry: I don’t know how people only do one day Bachelor/Bachelorette parties. I had three total nights (which was the perfect amount) and each day got a little bit deeper into the debauchery; ending with a perfect crescendo on Saturday night/Sunday morning.

Though, I will say, it was a bit rough on Monday. My body hated me and basically shut down… but I suppose that’s how you know you did a good job. But I can’t get over how we used to be able to do that in college five times a week. Savage.

I will tell you one thing though, I could’ve really gone for some Bluebird breakfast to sop up all the booze from the weekend. If only I was still a block away.

JPinIC: You know, it’s funny you brought this back to Bluebird, because when I read “my body hated me and basically shutdown… but I suppose that’s how you know you did a good job,” I actually thought you were talking about eating for a minute. I mean seriously, what’s better on a lazy Saturday or Sunday than crushing a buffet (it is a travesty that Graze wasn’t even voted into this thing) to the point where you just feel miserable and your body goes into full on reboot? You unbutton the top button, you lay on the couch, you don’t move for 6 hours. That’s food.

Hello Jerry: That’s essentially what I did on Monday. I went to the gym just to sit in the sauna and then got a burrito that needed a second tortilla just to keep it wrapped. Popped a couple Advil’s and chugged a few Gatorade’s and I was back on track in no time.

Also, since you brought up the subject, there was nothing better than housing 27 chicken lips at Graze with a sip of soup and a few of those teriyaki green beans on the side. I miss Iowa City so much.

JPinIC: Let me just say that if you’re wasting space in your belly at a buffet on vegetables, you’re going at it wrong. Graze buffet would be perfect if it was only chicken lips, sliders and mac and cheese. You might talk me into some of that pizza, but it’s not likely. Good lord could I go for a few dozen chicken lips right now.

Speaking of great lunch spots, I think it’s high time we give the people what they’re here for: the results are in and we have our regional winners. Let’s get right down to it, shall we?

Let’s start at the top, with the matchup to end all matchups. The bout that will crown the one true champion of Iowa City mornings. Let’s start with the Breakfast region. Jer, you wanna do the honors here?

Hello Jerry: Well, it was a good run guys. It was a damn good run. This pains me to say, but, Hamburg Inn is the 2017 Iowa City Eat-A-Palooza Breakfast Champion.

I hate losing more than anything else in this world, but I’m not a bad loser (ok yes I am) but this was out of my hands. I could only do so much. Like any coach, I couldn’t want it for you guys. You needed to want it for yourselves. I pumped #BirdIsTheWord. I fought the good fight. But if people enjoy the artist formally known as The Cramburg, well, I guess the tribe has spoken.

Bluebird may be a loser today, but the next time I’m hungover after a night out in Iowa City, when I walk right into Bluebird and get served immediately while the rest of IC is waiting for the four tables in Hamburg, I’ll be the real winner again.

I’ll give you the floor now JP. Enjoy your victory.

JPinIC: Wow, I don’t even know where to begin. There’s so many people to thank I’m sure I’ll forget someone. I guess first I’d just like to say how truly blessed and honored I am to be here. I’d like to thank God, and my parents, and the fine people of this site who voted, and whose intelligence I have never questioned even for a moment, especially not a few paragraphs ago. You know, there’s no “I” in “Team” but there is an “I” in “Hamburg Inn” so i have to say this win is a reflection not only of the tasty goodness of the Burg, but also my impeccable taste in restaurants. I’m sure I won’t take any L’s in any of the other matchups we reveal.

But seriously, both of these places are fantastic spots for breakfast. And really, can you go wrong with breakfast? I could eat it 3 times a day. Breakfast food is the bomb.

And now on to the Lunch region, where we had Shorts and the Vine matched up in a battle royale. These are two fantastic places as well. The Vine in Iowa City was a mainstay in my college days and the second location in Coralville remains a go-to as I try to do adulting now. Short’s, on the other hand, only came into existence toward the end of my college years (yeah, yeah, I’m old) and my visits have increased over time. The east side location is nice and easy for me, though it lacks the charm of the downtown location. Either place has a damn fine burger.

I voted Short’s here, what say you, Jer?

Hello Jerry: As most of you hopefully remember, Short’s in Iowa City holds a very special place in my heart (once again, shout out to A.J. Clayborn’s cousin Peanut wherever you are in the world). Good fries. Great Burgers. Even better people. Like I assume many of us did, I learned how to drink fancy beer here instead of just chugging Keystone Light at SpoCo.

On the topic of The Vine, I have to say… when I was on campus the Iowa City location was FILTHY. I went there all the time and didn’t really care because I was 21 and liked $2 Apple Pie Shots, but man, a Swiffer only costs like $15. Can you imagine what the kitchen looked like?

Regardless, both are Iowa City/Coralville (as that would be now adult preferred Vine’s location) staples, but I think the people got this one right (thankfully). Congrats people.

Now, what did we have finish up with the Pizza Pizza showdown?

JPinIC: Oh Jerry, this one pains me. I’ve been outspoken in my love for Pagliai’s and thin crust pizza in general. Like I said above, I love food. All food. Well, all food that isn’t a vegetable (or spore, f mushrooms man). I enjoy a good Wig and Pen deep dish, all meat pizza as much as the next guy. I just also happen to enjoy some delicious Pagliai’s pizza a little more. And now the people have spoken. They’re wrong, but they have spoken.

I will take the L with grace and dignity, and hand it over to you, my fair Chicagoan to bask in the glory of a deep dish victory.

Hello Jerry: In a world where innocent breakfast shops are being defeated by major corporate conglomerates that are expanding into prime locations like *cough* the side of gas stations *cough* there is only one TRUE hero that can save us all…

DEEP DISH WINS THE DAY. CARPE DIEM Chi-Hawks. CARPE EFFING DIEM.

Also, suck it thin crusters. You lost to THE most superior casserole on the face of the earth.

JPinIC: BREAKING NEWS UPDATE - Deep dish pizza lover proclaims it is a casserole, not pizza!

Carry on.

Hello Jerry: Damnit! My sarcasm doesn’t play as well in text form even though I KNOW you knew that it was.

But whatever. This win just proves what we all already know… Iowa City is just another Chicago suburb. Don’t @ me.

What do we have next, J?

JPinIC: Truer words, man. I swear to God if I see another kid in a Kris Bryant jersey and a backwards snap-back walking down the street talking about World Series wins I’m going to hit him over the head with a deep dish pizza.

But I digress. The last region out there the Other region perhaps better known as the Drunk or After Hours region. We had the juggernaut of all juggernauts in Pancheros taking on the 2am entry for pizza: Falbo’s. And this one looked like it was going to be a complete blowout, right up until someone apparently really enjoyed their Falbo’s last night and submitted about 30 votes in a row for the pizza joint. Things finished closer than expected here my friend.

Hello Jerry: Rest in pizza, my dear old friend:

YOUR MY BOY FALBO!


Regional Finals Recap

Hamburg Inn 56, Bluebird Diner 44

Short’s 56, The Vine 44

Wig and Pen 60, Pagliai’s 40

Pancheros 58, Falbo’s 42


So this is it, we are down to the Final Four. Let’s take a look at the matchups.

Breakfast/Lunch Region

Hamburg Inn vs. Short’s Burgers and Shine

JPinIC: [Best Gus Johnson voice] This. Is. June. Or July, or whenever you get to this, I suppose. We’ve got a pair of #1 seeds from the Breakfast and Lunch regions, each of which took down their respective #2 seed by a 56-44 margin and this should be a great one. Since we’ve already got one Bob Ross reference in here, let me paint the picture for you:

You’ve got an Iowa City staple that’s not only been around for decades, it’s frequented by the (politically) rich and famous and has survived a fire only to come back stronger and apparently ready to take over the world.

And they’ll take on a relative newcomer, that’s been around less than a decade but has the backing of a former Hawkeye and NFL kicker and has literally changed the lives of thousands of college kids over that time by teaching them beer can not only get you drunk fast, it can taste magnificent and wash down perfectly a tasty burger.

So who am I taking? Is this still a question? It’s Hamburg and it’s not close people. Look, Short’s is great. I love the burgers (gimme the Burnside all day) and the beer selection is fantastic. I’m sure it holds a spot near and dear to the heart of many an Iowa college student. The place is introducing Iowa’s youth to the craft beer world almost as fast as the ped mall introduces them to their new friend PAULA.

But at the end of the day, you can’t stand up to the history and the old diner vibe of Hamburg. The place is all that is Iowa City. It’s a place where you run into people of all walks of life, sit closer than you want to them and eavesdrop on the ridiculous story they have from last night or their terrible political opinion. You soak up the pictures and newspaper clipping of every major presidential candidate since Reagan on the wall (maybe even from the Reagan booth) and cast your vote in the coffee bean poll. You eat a ridiculous amount of breakfast food, slathered in syrup and top it off with a pie milkshake. Hamburg Inn is Iowa City. And Hamburg Inn is America.

This. Is. Not. A. Choice.

Dinner/Other Region

Wig and Pen vs. Pancheros

Hello Jerry: There was never a shot in the world that Wig and Pen was ever going to get me to write positive things from them. It’s not that I don’t enjoy Wig and Pen. I do. It’s just that I ride or die with Falbo’s.

So forgive me for doing the “well, my team lost to them, so might as well adopt ‘em” thing, but I’m riding with Pancheros for two BIG reasons.

  1. I think this is our only hope at beating Hamburg in the finals. Yes, I know I’m salty AF.
  2. THESE:

From Quincy V. who has one HUGE sense of entitlement for a guy that’s drunk at 1:30 in the morning on a Monday:

“Very sloppy service, overcharged.

Made the mistake of coming here at 1:30 a.m. on a Sunday. They rushed our order and threw everything into a bag as there was a huge line out the door. There was cross-contamination of ingredients and all of the sauce was spilled inside the bag. They made us pay for replacement chips and queso, as well as the other sauce that they spilled. I had to pay for replacement sauce, queso and chips because they were too incompetent to close the lids on the queso and salsa. They wouldn't even give me a receipt after.

Frauded us for their own negligence.

I will never come back here.”

Who wants a receipt at 1:30 in the morning? Are you entering these all into a spreadsheet of shame when you wake up at two in the afternoon on Monday?

Ten bucks says this dude was at fault for ALL of the “replacement” issues he came across because he had one too many Long Island Iced Tea’s at Brothers.

From tiny headed MIchaella R. from Portland, OR:

“I came in on Nov.4th and ordered a burrito bowl around 11:30pm. My food was cold, so I requested that it be warmed up. To which I was told that there is no microwave. I asked for a refund. I was then charged and refunded the incorrect amount on Nov. 7th. Charged: $8.48 refunded: $7.16. Granted this is not a huge difference but my food was cold and I ordered warm food and I was told I would get a full refund. I then called and Nick the manager hung up on me because I used an elevated voice with him. I agree I was pretty upset when I was told I had to come back down to the store, but there is always a way to calm someone down. So I calmed myself down and I called him back, he was nice, then realized it was me and yelled at me. I told him that I was going to do my best to speak calmly and I tried asking why I needed to come down to the store when they should have a record of my order since I was just billed. to which he told me to "use my tiny little head and think." I tried to explain that the people working that night never gave me receipts, but before I finished saying that, I was hung up on again. How am I suppose to know what you need for the refund if you keep hanging up on me?”

As a sales manager, I want to shake this guys hand. There have been so many times I have wished I could say things like this without giving zero effs.

One last one, from Devashis R who I have a big problem with:

“I think I'm being generous with two stars. It's more deserving of one, but we have history Panchero's, so you'll get a bonus star (think of it as extra credit you banked from a previous life). Nothing like what I remembered back in the day. Could it be that my palate has matured and progressed leaps and bounds from the days of college?! Perhaps and likely, but it's really more like this plus sucked--food, service, atmosphere, and all. Employees couldn't care less about my food or questions (that shouldn't be a surprise in a college town on a Sunday evening), the portions were tiny, the steak tougher than the sole of my shoe, and the tables and floor appeared as if a cyclone came through (see what I did there, An Iowa State Cyclone dig?).

All couldn't be bad, right? Wrong! Ok, the free water glass was a nice surprise. I used to love you Panchero's, but now you've shown me it's time to move on. For that, I thank you. Our tumultuous relationship and this chapter can finally come to an end. I won't be "burrito calling" (see what I did again?) you at 2 am anymore either.”

Another Sunday evening train wreck and I absolutely love it. Also, Devashis, if you read this blog, one “see what I did there” is borderline acceptable (but since it was a Cyclone dig, I’ll allow it), but two in two paragraphs... on YELP? That sir deserves one star… but I’m a nice guy, so I’ll give you a bonus star as well. Think of it as extra credit you banked from a previous life in Iowa City when you weren’t so grumpy about the drunken food you ate at 2:00 am after bar close on a Sunday (see what I did there?).


This is it folks, the Final Four. The winners of this round will face off in the Championship next week so be sure to vote in each of the above polls for your choice to advance. And don’t forget to use the hashtag #ThatsFood on the Twitters if you want to lobby for your choice. We’ll be back next week to preview the Championship and keep you hungry over the lunch hour.

Happy Friday, people!