And then there was a final four. The Big Dance Restaurant Challenge started with 32 Houston restaurants of all types and sizes and now only a quartet remain in the race, competing for your votes.
But how to decide which to vote for? Sure, there's the food, the service, the community aspect, the potential freebies. But in addition to all these, this contest has brought out stereotypical NCAA Tournament roles and personalities for each remaining contestant. The Cinderella? The Perennial Powerhouse? The Sleeper? They're all here. Check it out.
The Powerhouse: Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse
Coming from a corporation with over 30 restaurants around the country, Del Frisco's has made it no secret that it's putting the full power of the entire organization behind the bid to be No. 1. And even though employee votes alone aren't enough to have strung together this impressive trio of victories, it hasn't hurt.
With a consistently strong performance and a take-no-prisoners desire to win, Del Frisco's is the Duke of the tournament — expensive and classy, you either love them or love to hate them.
Cinderella: The Tasting Room
It seems wrong to call The Tastoing Room a Cinderella story — not when the popular cafe and wine bar is about to open its biggest location ever in CityCentre. But after wins over Hearsay and Gigi's Asian Bistro, it's the third-round takedown of House of Blues that defines TTR as something of a giant killer.
After all, House of Blues had (inexplicably) vanquished two other worthy local rivals: Danton's Gulf Coast Kitchen and Mockingbird Bistro.
With a somewhat stealthy success, The Tasting Room is the bracket's Memphis or BYU — a winner that dares you to overlook it.
The Traditionalist: Ninfa's on Navigation
Ninfa's on Navigation has a storied history and a lot of heart. That's why it doesn't ask its patrons to prove they voted to earn an appetizer, I think — they know if you're there and you know about the Restaurant Challenge, of course you voted for them.
Ninfa's has also been one of the most consistent winners, and this combo of passion and success reminds us of Kansas or Ohio State.
The Sleeper: Max's Wine Dive
Move over, Mark Walhberg. We think Max is a fighter, like Pitt or UConn. Its first-round takedown of local (and national) fave The Breakfast Klub signaled it wasn't here to make friends. Max's went on to knock out parking lot neighbor Molina's and most impressively Sullivan's Steakhouse, despite the fact that the latter had the same corporate network of support as Galleria sibling Del Frisco's.
Don't think Max's Wine Dive can win it all? Go ahead. Make its day.
Voting in the semifinal round of The Big Dance Restaurant Challenge continues until Thursday at 2:59 p.m. The champion of the challenge gets to serve food (for purchase) at the Big Dance Concert Series at Discovery Green alongside three other restaurant chosen from the Challenge's final eight by a panel of judges.
The Big Dance Concert Series will bring A-list music acts to Discovery Green for free concerts during the Houston Final Four.