Cinderella hurts: Sylvia's laments ultra-close Restaurant Challenge loss,"strategic" voting
As the minutes ticked down at the end of round two in The Big Dance Restaurant Challenge, one matchup stood above the rest in terms of drama.
Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen and Arturo's Uptown Italiano both showed exactly 50 percent of the vote. So it was a tough sight for Sylvia's fans to see Arturo's squeak by into the third round, winning by less than 100 votes out of more than 10,000 cast in the Sylvia and Arturo's showdown.
"We've been crying about it for an hour," Sylvia's partner Michael Warren said after the loss. "But we gave it a hell of a fight."
Warren says Sylvia's sent out e-mail blasts to customers and reminded people to vote at the Rodeo Uncorked! Best Bites Competition on Sunday night, where he served up Sylvia's famous chicken and cheese enchiladas.
Arturo's would win by less than one percent. And that teeny tiny percentage means a lot. By making the elite eight, Arturo's is eligible to be one of the four restaurants that will serve food at Discovery Green during The Big Dance Concert Series, where a collection of A-list musical acts will play during the extended Final Four weekend in Houston. The champion of the Restaurant Challenge is guaranteed one of the four Concert Series spots, but the Houston Local Organizing Committee will select three of the remaining seven from the final eight to join the champion on-site, serving food to the masses.
No wonder why a Sylvia's rep called up CultureMap immediately after the second round ended to "dispute" the vote. What Sylvia's was really looking for was more of an explanation and the final vote tally. Cinderella was heartbroken.
Warren says Sylvia's received tremendous support from customers and fans, both in the round two face-off and in the tough first round race against Cadillac Bar. But he thinks the national voting bloc of Del Frisco's might have had a hand in it, voting against Sylvia's so the power wouldn't have to face Sylvia's in the round of eight.
Arturo's moved on to face Del Frisco in the third round.
"In my personal opinion Del Frisco's is just so large, with restaurants in so many states, and they were looking ahead to round three, especially since they won this round so big," Warren says. "We're just a little Mexican food restaurant, so that was huge to have to battle against.
"But that's what competition is. We pushed it and pushed it and were tickled to be part of the 32 and the 16."