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Free-For-All Friday: Iowa City Eat-A-Palooza Championship Round

This is it. The moment we’ve all been waiting for. We’re in the Championship round. We recap who advanced and preview the final matchup in the first annual Iowa City Eat-A-Palooza!

This is it. The championship we’ve all been waiting for is finally here. Vote your heart, and your stomach!

Hello Jerry: HELLO!

How are you feeling JP? Are you ok? Do you need a moment or two? Do I need to head over to Hy-Vee and buy out all of the syrup they have on their shelves for you to drown your sorrows like some overgrown Elf impersonator?

I’m somewhat worried about you and your family’s well being, but I do have one question for you: Does Hamburg’s defeat taste like overpriced pancakes in a crowded room?

JPinIC: It’s a sad day, my friend. I’d say we should pour one out for my dead homie, Hamburg, but that’s not really in the spirit of the Burg or my combination of frugality and husky build. So instead of pouring one out I’m going all in on the place I love.

Live look at JPinIC, in a random, new Hamburg location, likely attached to a gas station:

Now that you mention it, I don’t feel so good.

RIP Hamburg. It was a good run.

Hello Jerry: It was a fluke run. Don’t forget Jonah… we may have closed the polls but there was a huge uptick in voting for The Bird that could have (SHOULD have) made this thing go to a vote off.


In all honesty, I’m shocked that Cramburg went down, but they had a rough draw. Short’s is a monster that I think we both didn’t see coming when we first started this thing. We both appreciated it for what it was (craft beers and delicious burger choices), but weren’t sure how the rest of Iowa City felt about it. We know now. But, what has me mortified is how Wig and Pen beat the hell out of Pancheros.

Wig and Pen came out like Buster Douglas against Mike Tyson.

What just happened? Is Panchero’s that hated? Is Wig and Pen that loved? Did I overrate one while completely dismissing the other when I was hungry for lunch and dinner? Is this all about the experience you have early in the morning after Country Night at Bo James for Panchy’s? If so, that’s just a blasphemous overreaction in my opinion.

JPinIC: Yeah I didn’t see this coming at all. I’ve told you already, I’m a fan of both Wig and Pen and Short’s but I really felt like Pancheros and Hamburg were the two juggernauts. Pancheros was the number one seed overall in this thing. I really expected to see those two face off in the championship.

Hello Jerry: Did we just witness voter fatigue? Did The Great People of The Pants just end up voting for someone other than Panchy’s because they got tired of handing wins over to them? Just because the last time you rolled through at 28-years old and couldn’t handle the drunk goobers running around, doesn’t mean you should forget all of the good time while hate voting for Wig and Pen!

This is why Derrick Rose won the MVP over LeBron James a couple of years ago and everyone ended up overvaluing him including his own Front Office (sorry it’s true and I’m guilty of it just like you, my beloved Chi-Hawks).

Sorry… carry on.

JPinIC: I don’t think it’s a matter of Pancheros being hated. I think people just view it as drunk food (though I will say I frequent locations other than the downtown spot we all know and love at bar close and it’s not just drunk food) and while that has a special place in their hearts and memories (maybe), it’s not quite the same as a restaurant they go to with friends and family sober for the good food. Maybe that’s an overreaction, maybe not. Whatever it is, it’s surprising to me.

And you KNOW I’m thoroughly crushed to see Hamburg taken down. But such is life, I suppose. Hawkeye fans know it well: excitement, hope and anticipation follow but disappointment and what-ifs. Now the question for me is whether it’s better to come close and fall just short like Iowa in the Big Ten Championship game in 2015 or to just get thoroughly destroyed like they have in every bowl game the last handful of years. At least then you get to move on quickly I guess?

And that’s what we can do for Pancheros and Hamburg, because they didn’t fall just short, they got routed. Here’s a look at the results for the Final Four matchups:

Shorts 58, Hamburg 42

Wig and Pen 66, Pancheros 34

Here’s the updated bracket:

3rd Place Game

1 Hamburg Inn vs. 1 Pancheros

JPinIC: Let’s be honest with ourselves, this is the matchup we all wanted to see. Sure, the two restaurants in the championship game are great and they’ve earned everything they’ve gotten, but these are the two blueblood restauarants in this whole bracket. You may have voted against them, but deep down you all wanted to see these two face off. And since it’s Friday and we do what we want, we’re giving you an opportunity to see it in a completely meaningless, made-up matchup. Deal with it.

Now, I think my stance on the true champion of this whole thing should be abundantly clear by now, but in case it’s not.....


They have literally anything you could ever want. Need a nice, greasy, high-calorie Iowa breakfast? Hamburg. Need a delicious, yet basic burger with fries? Hamburg. Need a delicious pie shake to wash it all down? Hamburg.

Now, on the other hand you’re looking at the undisputed champion of late night cravings on the ped mall and best burrito shop around (get at me with your love of Chipotle, I’ll get back to you with salmonella and a bob). But at the end of the day, it’s just burritos. And that’s why the only real choice here is the Burg.

Unless, of course, there’s a giant burrito bouncing on your head. In which case, go ahead and pump it up, I guess.

Hello Jerry: Oh JP, I fully disagree. This is not the matchup we came to see. That already happened and it was tied 30 minutes after you said you “closed the polls”. This has some Frank Underwood stink all over it. I’m going to put on my Tom Hammerschmidt pants and uncover this ginormous cover up. I SWEAR I WILL.

But, since that’s going to take time, let’s at least look at this logically. At the core of this third place (but first place in your heart) matchup, it’s one extreme vs the other. Panchero’s is the place you go when you’re in zombie mode and crave something disgusting to soak up the demons you put into your body. Hamburg is that nice breakfast spot you bring your parents to after you release those demons the following morning.

So, the question I have to ask all of you is... are you anti-fun and anti-mistakes or anti-family time? Choose wisely.

Championship Game

1 Short’s vs. 1 Wig and Pen

JPinIC: OK Jer, this is it. This is what we’ve been working toward. All your hard work, clicking on polls and refreshing The Pants has guided us through several dead Fridays in the middle of summer and now we’re facing the final showdown of our first ever ICEAP.

So, without further ado, the matchup you didn’t know you wanted to see....


Short’s Burgers and Shine vs. The Wig and Pen. The winners from the Lunch and Dinner regions who had double the opportunity to get in because people loved them so damn much they voted them in twice. It’s not quite Hamburg and Bluebird (breakfast is the best meal, @ me), but these are both juggernauts in their own right.

Now, despite my previous degredations of deep dish pizza when matched up against thin crust, I am a fan of Wig and Pen and pizza in general. I don’t entirely know what a British pub has to do with pizza, especially deep dish, but it just kind of works for Wig and Pen.

But I gotta go with the new(er) kid on the block here. And here’s why: tomatoes. I don’t need whole tomatoes on top of my pizza. Sure, I can pick them off and eat a delicious slice or five, but then I look like the kid at the adult table picking apart his meal (if the shoe fits, I guess..).

Short’s has a damn fine selection of both burgers and beer. And the downtown location is something Wig and Pen doesn’t offer. Perhaps I could be swayed on this if Wig’s east side location mere blocks from my house actually allowed you to sit down and eat there. But as it stands, Short’s has the great location overlooking the pentacrest paired with their own east side location with easy parking and ample seating.

The variety of burgers leaves everyone happy. Even those of us with significant others who don’t eat meat can find something for everyone. The beer selection is nearly unparalleled for eating establishments downtown and perhaps more importantly, they were early in the movement. They got it before some of these other places followed suit.

At the end of the day, this is a matchup that pits American burgers and beer vs. British-inspired, deep dish pizza with lots of tomatoes. And you know who wins a matchup of America vs. Great Britain? I do. Iowans do. And Ricky Stanzi does.

It’s Short’s. It’s America. If you don’t love it, leave it.

Hello Jerry: We’re here. We’re finally here. I just want to say thank you to all of you that have read/voted in this. This was a weird passion project for your Free For All Friday boys and the fact that it was a semi-hit means we hopefully built up some credit with our editors for when we want to run the best “2-on-2 Street Fighter bracket with former Iowa athletes and coaches” at some point this year.

Now, there is absolutely one restaurant I am voting for here. If you’ve followed along, you know which one that is. So instead of writing even more about my infinity for that one establishment, I have a gift for you all... The Two Best Worst Yelp Reviews I Could Find.

What can I say, you’re welcome.

First up, Short’s Burger and Shine:

From ru G in Beverly Hills, CA. 1-star review:

Horrible! Save yourself from the disappointment and go anywhere else. Old crusty oily burger bun bread, cold burger meat, fries were dripping with oil, not warm at all...and let's just say that the service could use a lot of work. I've been there twice hoping the first time maybe it was just a bad night...nope it was worse the second time. For a place that sells burgers, you'd think at the very least their burger bread would be subpar, nope it was so hard I couldn't bite into it, and I wasn't the only one having the trouble with my burger bun! Never going there again, no thanks I'd rather go to Burger King.

Ru. Buddy. Pal. Do you REALLY refer to plain old American buns as “burger bun bread/burger bread/burger buns”? What? What do you deem as subpar burger bun bread anyways? I don’t understand this.

I keep imagining you at a 4th of July cook out/bbq/grilling raw meat on a grill out, watching one of your boys grill up some nice ground-cow-burger-but-could-also-be-taco-meat, salivating at the thought of putting it in between a slice of Grad-A, California burger bun bread.

Ru. Bruh. Word of advice. It’s just a bun. We all know it’s made out of bread and that it’s meant for burgers and other flatish meats. You don’t need all of those extra words.

From Staci H. in Bremerton, WA. 1-star review:

The owner thru his glass across the bar and demanded another drink at 3pm. He is disrespectful, arrogant and treats his staff awful. I have never written anything negative. I will not support this behavior or restaurant.

I so hope this was Nate Kaeding, in which case, I WILL support this behavior because it would be funny to me.

And for Wig and Pen:

From Shawna V. in Davenport, IA. 1-star review:

Walk in. Very rude waitress.Never been here in our lives. Handed us a menu. Gave us 2 min. And wanted to take our order. Sorry, we've never been here before we need a minute.She left 2 min. Later she's back. No not yet3rd time. No not yet. Sorry you're in a hurry.Looking at the name and the flag you would be inclined to think that this is an English Public serving such food.The only thing on the entire menu that would make you believe that was the fish and chips. Seriously. Everything else is just American cuisine. Burgers, pasta disappointed.

Is this the most absurd thing an Iowan has ever Yelped before? I mean, I get being upset over being rushed. That’s not cool and I hate that. Granted, you probably should’ve just told that underpaid college student who probably just failed her calc test that you needed 10 minutes to look at the menu; but I’ll let that slide because you were in the moment and are probably a very kind Midwesterner that just goes with the flow. Props to you for your patience.

But, Shawna, I WOULD not be inclined to think this was an English Pub(lic) if only because right next to that flag logo it freaking says “PIZZA PUB”. This is a scheme. A hook. A different medium in which someone could offer delicious pizza.

Just because YOU saw Union Jack while driving by and assumed you were going to be able to order some fresh cockles accompanied by some figs and pudding, that’s entirely on you for not reading, ya dink.

So disappointed.

From Sarah F. In Iowa City, IA. 2-star review:

The pizza is not that good, and the decor tries to be British but just doesn't quite finish the job.

“Doesn’t quite finish the job”. What does that even mean? What do you need Sarah? Should Wig and Pen splurge for a member of the Queen’s Guard to stand outside the door to greet you with their million mile stare as you drunkenly try to make them laugh by stealing their nose with your hands? Do you need your tables and bars to remain sticky from centuries of dirt and filth? Would you prefer less lighting? Maybe, like Shawna, you’d prefer more British delicacies rather than the “not that good” pizza?

Ten dollars says Sarah F. is that girl that studied abroad in college and makes sure to drop that into every conversation she’s ever in.

“Um, well, when I backpacked from London to Barthelona, I saw every pub that was ever invented and it looked NOTHING like this. Like, did they even try? Like, they’re trying to be British, but, it just doesn’t quite finish the job.”

Go back Sarah. Go back and stay there.


And that’s that. The end is near. Submit your final votes in each poll above and we’ll hit you with a recap next week when we crown our first ever Iowa City Eat-A-Palooza champion. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #ThatsFood on the Twitters if you want to lobby for your choice. Last week we had a reader get some freebies from one of the Final Four contenders for expressing their love of food. Who knows, maybe that could be you. Maybe you’ll win the lottery this week. Maybe Hamburg can come back to life like a zombie and still win this. Maybe.

Happy Friday. Enjoy your weekend. Eat some food.