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Join Eater for The Contest, a Cheap Eats Week Food Challenge

A test of will, endurance, and creativity. Not for the faint of heart.

Pinkie swear
Pinkie swear

Eater's Cheap Eats Week launches across all sites on Monday and to celebrate, staffers here in New York are participating in a food challenge that will test endurance, will, and creativity. It's called The Contest, and you're invited to join.

Here's the deal. During the entirety of Cheap Eats Week (7/13- 7/17) Eater staffers will attempt to spend only $10 per day eating out in NYC. We will document the process onsite all week and encourage readers to participate in the Eater forums. Contestants will publicly tap out when they break the rules and will be disqualified from play. A winner will be decided among the players left at the end of the week by a panel of impartial judges.

Judges will choose one Eater staffer winner, one non-Eater Vox Media staffer, and one reader as winners (to be announced on 7/20). Read on for the rules, the prizes, the hashtag.

The rules:

  • Every player must spend no more than $10/day before tax and tip
  • No cooking with groceries or eating groceries is allowed.
  • Players cannot visit the same restaurant twice (though they can visit different locations of the same restaurant).
  • Coffee, tea, alcohol and other beverages that cannot be considered a snack or meal are exempt. Get as drunk as you want. Smoothies and fancy $9 juices are not exempt.
  • Fruit from a stand, cart, or bodega are permitted.
  • all prepared bodega/deli food is permitted.
  • Leftovers are allowed, so long as they were acquired during The Contest.
  • Takeout is allowed.
  • Chain restaurants are allowed.
  • Team/couple play is allowed.
  • No freebies that aren't available to the general population.
  • Grocery store salad bars are permitted (but rotisserie chicken is not).
  • Money doesn't roll over from one day to the next. You must spend under $10 each day.
  • Judges will award points based on creativity and presumed deliciousness.


Is there a hashtag?

#thecontest. Use it on instagram and get regrammed by the Eater account.

Who's the favorite?

Robert Sietsema, roving restaurant critic and cheap food enthusiast, is the man to beat.

Can you elaborate on freebies?

No free office snacks or comped meals, no meals that someone else buys you. No solicited freebies. That said, if a restaurant is handing out free samples to all passersby, that is permitted. If you go to a bar where free food is offered alongside drinks, that is permitted. If some stranger, unaware of your identity or The Contest, hands you a burrito on the street and you had no say in the matter, you can eat that.

Who will these judges be?

Larry David (or Vox Editorial VP Lockhart Steele and a collection of Vox Media EICs if David is unavailable).

Is this inspired by Seinfeld?

It's just like the Seinfeld episode, except with food.

What do I win?

Lifelong glory. Also, the winning Eater editor and the winning non-Eater Vox staffer will each get their $50 back. The winning reader will get $50 and a dinner with restaurant critic Robert Sietsema and Eater EIC Amanda Kludt.

Can't players just cheat without you knowing?

Like George, Jerry, Elaine, and Kramer, we're operating on the honor system.

Editors will be discussing their strategies for the week over in the forums today. Good luck to all.