My friend Brandon, with whom I work, had an idea.
“We eat out a lot for lunch, right?”
“We do,” I agreed.
“And we eat at many different restaurants on the northwest side of Indianapolis, correct?”
“I feel like that level of detail is more for the readers’ benefit, but sure.”
“So here’s what I’m thinking. I propose…a tournament.”
The tournament, as he described it, would see each of our regular haunts set in battle against each other, only one victor emerging from each conflict, until an ultimate winner emerged. The only question, he said, was whether we could find an even 16 to compete.
“Can we find an even 16,” I scoffed. “Gyro Stop, Blaze, Philly Steak and Fries, Ted’s, Charcoal Mike’s, Imperial Palace, Five Guys, Boathouse Grill, Chapati, Culver’s, Gatsby’s, Yats, Le Peep, DiBella’s, Eat Thai, Ruth’s Cafe. That’s 16, and I didn’t even have to think too hard.”
“You forgot Skyline.”
I did forget Skyline. That’s 17.”
“And Firehouse Subs. And Hotbox. And Noodles and Co.”
“Noodles sold me brown tomato soup.”
“So they probably won’t make it to round 2. Any more than Panda Express or Flapjack’s.”
“Hey, maybe we can even visit Vitality Bowls.”
(Vitality Bowls, a weird hipster-looking place sandwiched between Yats and Eat Thai, was a point of frequent derision. We laughed, but added it to the list all the same. Little did we know…)
“…Can we come up with 32?”
We did come up with 32. And then 47.
“Yakisoba,” I said.
“There’s a restaurant called…?”
“No, the 55 cent ramen we eat on rainy days.”
“Well, we do eat ramen more than we eat at most of these restaurants…”
And then we had 48. It wasn’t divisible by 2, but it was close enough. We gave our 16 most-visited restaurants a bye into round 2, while the other 32 restaurants would compete to go against the champs.
We then made the mistake of telling our friends Austin and Josh about this.
“Oh, so you’ve got bbi Cafe on the list, right?”
Brandon and I looked at each other in alarm.
“And Manhattan Pizzeria? The Loft?”
And back to Google Maps we went.
“Wing Bar 46268,” I said.
“…I don’t eat at restaurants with more than one number in the title.”
“But we already have Pho 54 on the list. And you just added the confusingly named First Wok II.”
“Okay, you have me there.”
“I think it’s a chicken restaurant from a dystopian future. I want to know what kind of wing sauces are Big Brother approved.”
“Fine. Then I’m adding White Castle. If we’re dying, I want you to suffer first.”
“If you’re adding White Castle, then I’m adding ‘Shrimp Hut’.”
“Shrimp? Hut? Shrimps don’t belong in huts,” said Brandon. “Shrimps have never belonged in huts. Shrimp should never go into a hut. Shrimp should never come out of a hut. I’m not eating shrimp from a hut.”
“You’re gonna go hungry, then.” I stopped. “Oh, dear lord.”
“There’s a restaurant called ‘Grilliant Foods’.”
“…Is this the best thing we’ve ever done?”
This was our full bracket of 64 restaurants.
Our 16 most-frequented places were already spread out, one to each hemi-demi-semi-final. The remaining 48 were transposed to the bracket by random dice rolls.
We have decided to visit two restaurants a week, judging them on a number of factors before electing a victor. The factors are as follows:
(Feasibility relates to how easily we can eat at the restaurant within a one-hour lunch break.)
Each is rated on a ten-point scale and then we compare scores, but the scores are more for talking points than a final determination. Ultimately, when choosing a winner, we’ve got to go with our guts.
I’ll update in a few weeks with the results of our first four weeks of food competition.