Your vote may decide it
It's crunch time in the Big Dance Restaurant Challenge: At the buzzer for thewin ...
The Big Dance Restaurant Challenge may have some close races, but we're not planning to have a Florida 2000 situation. (Online voting = no hanging chads.)
This is March Madness foodie style — and only half of the original 32 restaurants can survive and advance. The winners of the first round advance to the Sweet 16 with the champion of The Big Dance Restaurant Challenge getting to serve food during the Final Four concert series at Discovery Green. The Big Dance concert series will feature free entertainment and A-list musical acts throughout the extended Final Four weekend in Houston.
But now the clock is counting down to the end of the first round (at 8:59 a.m. Tuesday). We're in crunch time and there are still a good half dozen matchups in which only a percentage point or two separates victory from defeat. It's the restaurant challenge version of a 3-pointer at the buzzer — except the voters are the ones making the last minute moves. Remember, you get to vote (as often as once per day) to determine the victors.
Want to influence some buzzer beaters? Let's look at several of the matchups where everything is still in play.
Cadillac Bar vs. Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen
Cadillac Bar has the name recognition of an inner Loop icon, even if the scruffiness and Sharpie-d walls have been cleaned up (we think joining the clean-cut Landry's empire had something to do with it). Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen is a bit more off the beaten foodie path with two locations on the west side of Houston, but its fabulous enchiladas and more bring fans out from the inner Loop and beyond.
Current leader: Sylvia's held a 52 percent to 48 percent edge as of late Sunday afternoon.
My Pick: Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen
Chili's vs. Salt Grass Steakhouse
This chain versus chain showdown has split the vote, with Chili's holding a slight lead. Chili's has Texas roots (founded in Dallas by Larry Lavine) and global reach as well as the original Crispy Chicken Crispers. Salt Grass also talks about a Texas heritage and a solid menu of steakhouse favorites.
Current leader: Chili's was up 52-48 percent as of late Sunday afternoon.
My Pick: Chili's
Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse vs. Rainbow Lodge
We knew this one would be a battle, with the decadent interiors of Del Frisco competing against the warm rusticness and epic patios of Rainbow Lodge (remember no one can bring their decor with them to Discovery Green), not to mention the debate between a traditional steakhouse menu and more creative dishes and exotic game offerings.
Current leader: Rainbow Lodge is trying to run out the clock, nursing a 53 percent to 47 percent advantage.
My Pick: Rainbow Lodge
Gigi's Asian Bistro vs. P.F. Chang's
No offense to P.F. Chang's, which has brought mid-priced Chinese to the masses, but this contest should have been a no-brainer in favor of Gigi's. Not only is the restaurant gorgeous (hello, cherry blossoms) but the menu is large and varied, the dumplings are the real deal (not to mention the ultimate hangover cure drunken chicken) and the restaurant comes from a pedigree of Houston restauranteurs.
Instead, this is the closest of the ultra close matchups.
Current leader: Hello upset? PF Chang's still stands egg roll to egg roll with Gigi's, tied at 50 percent of the vote each.
My pick: Gigi's
House of Blues vs. Danton's Gulf Coast Kitchen
Whether you prefer the Gospel Brunch at House of Blues or the Blues Brunch at Danton's, both offer a a great vibe. But if you take away the music, Houston original Danton's mix of Cajun and classic seafood flavors comes out ahead in my book.
Current leader: House of Blues, 52 percent to 48 percent
My pick: Danton's
Editor's note: Food writer Sarah Rufca's picks are hers and hers alone. Many on the CultureMap staff disagree. After all, that's the beauty of the Big Dance Restaurant Challenge. How about you? Make a case for your choices in the comments and then vote.