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1ST ANNUAL COLUMBIA LUNCH MARCH MADNESS SHOWDOWN

Posted by The LunchMen Thursday, March 17, 2011


Greetings Sports Fans!! Its that time of year again – March Madness. In honor of the NCAA Basketball Tournament, the Lunchmen are proud to bring you the 1st Annual Columbia Lunch March Madness Showdown. This afternoon Tank, Frodo, the Publican and yours truly got together and put 64 Capital City Area restaurants into 4 brackets, seeded 1-16. We’ll invite you to review the first round matchups and based on your feedback, we’ll post results of the first two rounds Early Next week, along with pairings for the Sweet 16 next weekend. We’ll then do it all again until we crown one champion- the ultimate lunch spot in Columbia. So, take a look at the seedings and match-ups below, and let us know who you think should or would win on some of your favorite showdowns. Enjoy:

TANK REGION

1
Café Millwood
~vs~
16
Hong Kong Grill
2
Hunter Gatherer
~vs~
15
300 Senate
3
The Mousetrap
~vs~
14
Liberty
4
Vella's
~vs~
13
Very's
5
DiPrato's
~vs~
12
5 Guys Burgers
6
Thirsty Fellow
~vs~
11
Golden Chopstixx
7
Publick House
~vs~
10
Which Wich
8
Bombay Grill
~vs~
9
Nick's House of Pizza

RABBIT REGION

1
No Name Deli
~vs~
16
Hardee's
2
Other Store
~vs~
15
Swanson's
3
Andy's Deli
~vs~
14
Loose Cockaboose
4
Hampton Place
~vs~
13
Tako Sushi
5
Mathias
~vs~
12
Rockaway's
6
Beezer's
~vs~
11
Compton's
7
Taqueria Jalisco
~vs~
10
Brookland Baptist
8
Motor Supply
~vs~
9
Pita's

PUBLICAN REGION

1
The Kingsman
~vs~
16
Cabo Fresh Taco
2
Immaculate Consumption
~vs~
15
Atlanta Bread Co.
3
End Zone Grill
~vs~
14
Tio's
4
Mr. Friendly's
~vs~
13
Thicket
5
Drake's Duck In
~vs~
12
Sandy's
6
Yesterday's
~vs~
11
Groucho's
7
Al Amir
~vs~
10
Greek Boys
8
Carolina Café
~vs~
9
Cock n Bull

FRODO REGION
1
Tony's Downtown
~vs~
16
1441 Main
2
Garden Bistro
~vs~
15
Hennessey's
3
M Café
~vs~
14
Casa Linda
4
El Burrito
~vs~
13
Za's
5
Salty Nut
~vs~
12
Nathan's
6
Zoe's
~vs~
11
Villa Tronco
7
Dano's Pizza
~vs~
10
Chick Fila
8
Café Strudel
~vs~
9
Pawley's Front Porch

Wow - there are some intriguing match-ups on the board. Taqueria Jalisco v. Brookland Baptist right off the bat?? Mathias and Rockaway's?? Yesterday's v. Groucho's?? These clashes seem more suited for the elite 8, not the opening round. And what about potential upsets? Can Cayce Stalwart Golden Chopstixx take down newcomer Thirsty Fellow? Will Tank's hatred for El Burrito open the door for Za's to advance? The possibilities are endless...

Okay faithful readers – let us hear from you. Either post comments to this blog, or email the lunchmen at lunchmen@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing from everyone soon. Results will be posted Monday, March 21.

-Rabbit

5 comments

  1. Tex Says:
  2. These are TEX's picks, with some input from Ms. Tex:

    TANK Bracket: Tex's choices for first round winners
    Cafe Millwood (cold egg rolls and hose ice water)?
    Hunter Gatherer
    Mousetrap (never been their but I despise Liberty)
    Vella's
    Diprato's
    Golden Chopstix
    Public House (close call for lunch)
    Neither Bombay Grill or Cock N Bull - I'll take a loss in the Round of 32

    RABBIT Bracket: Tex's choices for first round winners
    No Name Deli
    Other Store
    Andy's
    Hampton Place Cafe (hate this matchup...love TakoSushi...worth the dough)
    Rockaway's
    Compton's
    Tacquiera Jalisco
    Motor Supply Company

    PUBLICAN Bracket: Tex's choices for first round winners
    Kingsman
    Immac
    End Zone Grill (Tios is way higher than 14)
    Mr. Friendly's
    Sandy's
    Groucho's
    Al Amir
    Cock N Bull

    FRODO Bracket: Tex's choices for first round winners
    Tony's (1441 is horrendous)
    Garden Bistro
    M Cafe
    El Burrito
    Nathans
    Villa Tronco (by a long shot)
    Dano's
    Cafe Strudel

     
  3. tug Says:
  4. I'm going to weigh in on a couple of these tougher categories if I might.
    I'm going to have to give it to Thirsty Fellow just edging out Golden Chopstixx. I love Golden Chopstixx (I ate there last night), but for lunch, Thirsty Fellow has been killing it as a newcomer to the scene.
    In what may be controversial, I'm going to go with Five Guys over DiPrato's. DiPrato's is great, but I always think of it more for a weekend thing rather than a weekday lunch.
    I'll put Mathias over Rockaway's mainly because I've had horrible service luck at Rockaway's before and never at Mathias.
    I'll also put Casa Linda over M Cafe. Wait, does M Cafe count M Vista?

     
  5. Tank Says:
  6. Tug, M Cafe does not count M Vista.

    I'm with you on Mathias over Rockaway's for sure. I took my family from Charleston into a couple of weeks ago, and we were turned out of the (at the time empty) restaurant because they could not muster us up a table for 6 due to a group scheduled to come in "later."

    I'm on the fence about the Thirsty Fellow and Golden Chopstix. I went in on Monday and had those stuffed peppers again. Amazing. However, the Tom Ka at Golden Chopstixx is my favorite soup in town for lunch, except perhaps the tomato soup at DiPrato's.

    In other news, I just returned from lunch with Ms. Tank at Vella's. Vella's is paired up against Very's, the restaurant that inspired the launch of this blog. They are two evenly matched opponents, really, despite the #4 vs. #13 seeding. Both are outside of downtown, have big, comfort-food menus, employ similar decor, etc. However, Vella's came through too strong to fall to Very's in the first round. My ribeye steak sandwich today, although not a philly cheese like Very's, was absolutely top notch.

    Tank

     
  7. Rabbit Says:
  8. Many of these are obvious blowouts (Other Store v. Swanson’s, Immac v. ABC, No Name v. ANYONE), but some of these are really tough for first round games. Here are my picks in the closer match-ups:

    Vella’s takes Very’s in a close match-up. Two things to keep in mind here: (1) Vella’s is now smoke-free, so you don’t have to leave your jacket in the car anymore, and (2) Very’s recently (last 12 months) got less than perfect DHEC rating. In the end that is enough to tip the scales for Vella’s.

    I think Public House is better than Which Wich in terms of menu depth and atmosphere, and gets bonus points for serving booze. However, Its only open for lunch on Friday and Saturday, and also has some admitted issues with service speed. Therefore, this being a weekday lunch blog, I’ve got to give the edge to always reliable Which Wich in a mild upset.

    Nick’s House of Pizza over Bombay Grill. By a lot. This one was over before it started.

    I’ll be the first to admit that Rockaway’s is a Columbia institution, and a great place to grab crab legs on Sundays. However, I’ve had too many bad experiences there where I found myself still waiting to give my drink order 20 minutes after sitting down. I haven’t been to Mathias as often, but I’ve never had a bad experience when I did go. Slight nod to the shop in Irmo for this one.

    Taqueria Jalisco is the best at what they do (Standard Mexican), but so is Brookland Baptist (Banquet style Buffet). This really is a match-up more deserving of the later rounds. I’m reminded of this year’s NCAA tournament and Marquette-Xavier or UCLA-Michigan State. In the end, though, TJ gets the call – there is no bottomless chips and salsa at the BBC.

    Some people are touting Drake’s v. Sandy’s as a possible 5-12 upset. Those people are delirious. Sandy’s is mediocre AT ITS BEST. Drake’s is baller on several levels, from the diversity of the clientele (lawyers, vagabonds, construction workers, doctors) to the consistency of the product (its all fried). The Duck in wins this in a route.

    I’m not saying Greek Boys is great, but unless Al Amir on South Main has drastically improved since the last time we went there, this one should be over by half-time. If someone has been more recently and had a good experience at Al Amir, let me know.

    The only match-up not as close as Nick’s dominance of Bombay Grill would be Cock-n-Bull taking Carolina Café to the woodshed.

    I think Dano’s is a sleeper to advance deep into this tournament as a 7 seed, so it will take care of Chick Fila, a strong 10 seed, and move on.

    I saved my favorite first round match-up for last: Café Strudel v. Pawley’s Front Porch, in an 8-9 battle of two very different types of restaurants. Both probably could have been seeded higher, and both have fiercely loyal followings. This is sort of like those games between a wide open Big East team that runs up and down the floor and a squad from the Big 10 that wants to slow the tempo down and play a half court offense. While Café Strudel proudly carries on a bohemian tradition in both its decorum and clientele, Pawley’s has emerged in recent years to be the epicenter of the Frat-guy (both student and alumni) universe in Columbia. While there are probably more types of things on the menu at Strudel that I like, the things I do get at Pawley’s seem to be bringing me back there more often. Thus, in an overtime thriller, I’ll have to take Pawley’s.

     
  9. The Publican Says:
  10. I can't comment intelligently on the Mathias v Rockaways issue, because I've never been to Mathias - but the terrible service at Rockaways is one of the few parts of the old charm that persists today. In fact, I think the service is too good now. What happened to the days where the waitress brought half your order and didn't care when you complained? What happened to appetizers that come after your meal is over? Rockaways will never be the same for me in the new building - but at least the service still sucks.

    In another departure from Tug and Tank, I'm taking Golden Chopstixx over Thirsty Fellow. I'm a fan of both, but Thirsty Fellow has yet to wow me with any one meal. I've had a lot of good meals there, but none that are great. Thirsty Fellow has tons of upside with location, diverse menu, and lunch-to-happy hour potential, but Golden Chopstixx wins like a Syracuse team who confuses their opponent with a different style of play.

    5 Guys dominates DiPratos. DiPratos is only good for soccer moms and silver spooners. Those guys can eat it.

    In other matchups, I like the 9's in the Tank, Publican, and Frodo regions. Nick's House of Pizza has recently occupied a special place in my heart that the unremarkable Bombay Grill never could. Bombay is running purely on my affinity for the cuisine - and not for atmosphere or execution.

    Cock n Bull edges Carolina Cafe. CC is a longtime favorite, but CnB's Shrimp Burger and Fries carries the day over the venerable Winston-Salem on an Everything Bagel. This overtime match goes to CnB for the booze factor.

    Finally, I love the concept of Cafe Strudel. I like the atmosphere. I like the people who work there. I like the location. The food, however, is mediocre at lunch. I've had some borderline boo sandwiches there recently. Pawleys's Front Porch has a great, if unoriginal, concept too. My only beef with Pawley's is the portions are too large. The buns aren't great either, but I think that is partially a function of an overwrought burger. If they could just shrink the burgers, the place would be a world beater. Splitting a burger there is the only way not to ruin your afternoon... and the saving grace for Pawley's in a close win over Cafe Strudel.

    Finally, Casa Linda is a longtime favorite of mine. It is a great place for friends to have a good cheap meal and enjoy each other's company. For lunch, though, M Cafe is doing a great thing with a solid lunch in a perfect location. A better lunch atmosphere and cuisine for an afternoon back in the office lifts M Cafe over Casa Linda.

    - The Publican

     

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Rabbit, Tank, and The Publican are three dudes just trying to get through the work week here in Columbia. Rabbit is a Columbia native, Tank is from Charleston, and The Publican hails from Greenville. Rabbit's favorite lunch spot is the No Name Deli on Elmwood, where you may find him putting down a grilled chicken salad and a side of vinegar pasta. The Publican usually wants to find food to cure his all-too-common hangovers. Tank claims no favorite lunch spot - he lives for the thrill of the hunt.

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