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The Contest Day Four: Rise and Shine and Eat a Tomato Like an Apple

We're getting close to the finish line of the greatest cheap eats challenge in recorded history. Here are notes on this morning's action.

[A Greek salad consumed by Sonia Chopra]
[A Greek salad consumed by Sonia Chopra]

A few major updates on the $10-per-day dining competition known as The Contest:

1) Another editor has tapped out: Daniela Galarza.

2) According to Chapter 17, subsection 3a of The Contest: Official Rules and Regulations, one member from outside the Eater editorial team can get drafted into the blog stream at any point during the competition. And now that move is in play: Below you'll find notes from Vox product team champion David Yee, who has been diligently blogging about his meals in the forums all week.

3) Anyone playing The Contest should avoid bananas at this point — they will hurt your score.

4) If you're playing along at home, please share your day four meals in the forums, and don't forget to tag any photos on Instagram or Twitter with #thecontest — we'll share our favorites.

And now, without further ado, here are notes from day four, meal one:

Player: Robert Sietsema

Order/Strat: I woke up craving tomatoes and Vitamin C. Accordingly, I decided to eat one of those vegetable tea sandwiches Brits are famous for. I went to a local deli and got two slices buttered whole wheat toast ($1.25) and then to the street corner fruit seller to acquire a single small tomato (65 cents). But when I got them home, I was plagued with self-doubt. Are we allowed to make a sandwich, if the bread is already toasted and buttered and the tomato has merely to be sliced?

Still, to err on the side of caution, I decided to eat alternate bites of tomato and toast. It was a perfect combination, the bread nutty, the tomato sweet and extra juicy, as those street cart tomatoes often are. And I ate the tomato without slicing it, reminding me of George's observation in Seinfeld: "I love Hampton tomatoes. You know, you can eat 'em like apples. You know it's funny, the tomato never took on as a hand fruit."

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Player: Jarret Meskin

Purchase: two eggs and cheese on a roll: $3

Strategy: I was lured to Downtown Bakery Cocina Mexicana by the $3 egg and cheese ON A HERO listed on the internet menu. As with many of my colleagues participating in #thecontest, I was deceived by information on the internet, in this case: Downtown Bakery's own website.

So, having learned than the egg and cheese hero would actually cost me a significant $4, I opted to get it on a roll. I was looking forward to getting some serious points for locating such a large breakfast sandwich for only $3, but with this dream crushed, I waited anxiously to see what this little Mexican deli could churn out.

Turns out, Downtown Bakery's breakfast sandwiches are about as average as it gets. You could purchase a similar sandwich at any bodega in New York City. I happily ate it all, of course, but if you're looking to spend $3 on a breakfast sandwich, my suggestion will always be Sunny & Annie's Deli.

Downtown Bakery Cocina Mexicana | 69 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10003

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Player: Vince Dixon

Order/Strat: My goal for the week is to eat under a different quintessential New York dining experience each day. Yesterday I ate at fast food places that usually target New York tourists. Later today I am taking the opposite route with locally-based international cuisine, supporting the city's local small businesses and "melting pot" culture.

For breakfast, though, I took it easy with a mixture of green tea, herbal tea and an effervescent immune system dietary supplement--trying to stay healthy to finish the race!

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Player: Sonia Chopra

Purchase: Greek salad ($3). Remainder: $7.

Order/Strategy: Day four. Breakfast. I realize I went to bed thinking about today the way that Cormac McCarthy's protagonist does in The Road. I don't have the tarp-covered cart with a wonky wheel but I have my spreadsheet, a probably stale Hokkaido cake (how long are these good for, anyway?), some leftover upma, and my kulfi pop.

Scrambling to get into the office before a morning meeting, I grab the pop and decide to eat it on the way to the train. I forgot that kulfi, because it's not churned, needs to be left out to soften before eaten, and I can't get my pop out of its plastic casing. So I pop into the Mediterranean deli/grocery on my block and get a $3 Greek salad. I call it "feta salad" because even when I'm living in daily fear of contracting scurvy, I still have priorities, and one of them is cheese. I'm quickly corrected. I throw it in my bag and try the kulfi again, which has now softened enough to be opened. I eat it using the stick as a spoon while walking to the subway and I'm happier than I've been in a long time, the way the McCarthy character feels when he looks at his son, sleeping and satiated. The sun is shining, and I'm strolling along to Broadway-Lafayette, reminiscing about the first time my mom let me leave our flat in Bombay by myself to get ice cream on the street corner (I was visiting for a few months around age eight or nine, which might sound old until you realize that I was handicapped by language and citizenship and also probably common sense). I think about calling my mom, but decide to scarf down the kulfi instead. I drop a spoonful on the ground and think it looks beautiful (that's the scurvy talking), so I Instagram it.

I made to the office before my 11 a.m. meeting and run into a colleague who isn't participating in the elevator. "How's it going," he asks, and as I try to explain my whole morning into the 20-second elevator ride up to the tenth floor, he's probably sorry he did.

Yem Yem Falafel. 53 2nd Avenue. (212) 533-4892.

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Player: David Yee:

[Ed. Note: David did a double-lunch instead of lunch/breakfast, but here's his first meal:]

12:15 PM, $5: I did not plan to eat at Shopsins this week; the menu options, which number in the hundreds, are—while calorically punishing—usually more than nine bucks per serving. Except the pancakes.

The mac and cheese pancake at Shopsins is one of my favorite foods in the city. I long ago gave up trying to work through the menu, and order at least one pancake every time I visit. It has everything a body needs: pancake, pasta, cheese, syrup, salsa; it’s the five-in-one pocket tool of foodstuffs, and it is freaking outstanding. It is also five dollars per pancake, and I order just one. Luke, who works the counter, shrugs and goes, "Okay."

I have five dollars left.

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Player: Greg Morabito:

Order/Strat: Breakfast is now my least favorite meal of #thecontest, possibly because I'm now just craving red meat and leafy greens. I would mainline a skirt steak right now.

This morning, I chose a dish that had zero protein, but loads of carbs and fat on the assumption that the calories would help me work till lunchtime. Also, I'm convinced that your typical two-egg BEC doesn't really help you out very much where energy is concerned. At this point, doubling down on calories is my main objective. I went to The Garden, a hybrid grocery/deli/bakery/juice bar/cafe, and got an everything bagel toasted with cream cheese for $2.50. I did not really enjoy eating this, but it kept me sated till approximately noon.

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Not in contention player: Amanda Kludt

Purchase: giant corn muffin

Price: $1

Order/Strat: Though I am out of The Contest, I am still playing along when possible out of camaraderie. This morning, I convinced the coffee cart guy across the street from my office to sell me a muffin for $1 instead of $1.50. I wanted to do this with the fruit vendor on Monday but was too chickenshit. So today was a victory on a number of levels.

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And here's Daniela Galarza explaining why she tapped out this morning:

Walked into local grocery store on the verge of tears, ran to cereal aisle, grabbed most colorful box of sugary cereal (was it Lucky Charms? I can barely remember) and plunged my fist into its guts. Spent $50 on (mostly) wholesome groceries. $0 of regret. Going down in flames has never felt so good.

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