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The Contest Day Five: Empty Carbs, Unlimited Possibilities

Essential updates on the greatest food competition in the galaxy.

[Milk and cookies by Vince Dixon]
[Milk and cookies by Vince Dixon]

The $10-a-day dining challenge knowns as The Contest is coming to an end very soon. Tomorrow, the editors in the competition will be able to eat as much salad and protein as they want. And next week, one player will also get the added bonus of being crowned The World's All-Time Greatest Cheap Eater. If you're playing along at home, please share your day five meals in the forums, and don't forget to tag any photos on Instagram or Twitter with #thecontest — we'll share our favorites.

Here's a look at how everyone started the day:

Breakfast on Friday July 17:

Player: Robert Sietsema

When I was a kid, Danish was a magic word. It betokened a whole range of coffee cakes and sweet rolls, sweet, buttery, flaky, nutty, and squirted in squiggles with a white frosting we adored, and sometimes tried to lick off first. Turns out Danish was a misnomer — these were really Viennese pastries that were called Danish only because they contained gobs and gobs of Danish butter.

Time has not been kind to these pastries, which have disappeared in favor of breakfasts that run to bagels and Pop Tarts. Imagine my surprise when they reappeared a few years back at the metal-box-on-wheels discount breakfast carts poised on nearly corner in certain neighborhoods. "We get them from an old German bakery outside Paterson," said the Afghani gentleman who runs mine. My ring shaped beauty cost me only $1.25, leaving $8.75 for the rest of the day.


Player: Sonia Chopra

Before breakfast, a quick note about post-dinner snacking for those keeping track at home — or from a window seat on the tenth floor: After tacos, I went to meet a friend for a drink (NB: I ordered a cocktail, exempt from #thecontest, with rye, mint, and muddled bananas as a little hat tip to the banana eaters in our midst) and then came home and ate that remaining Hokkaido cake and the crisp apple I picked up on my way home from Mission Cantina.

Purchase: 1 bagel, 1/4 lb. egg salad, however much tofu vegetable cream cheese is worth 25 cents, 1 free Munchkin ($3). Remainder: $7

Order/Strat: Today I have a plan, and I am going to stick to it. What's the plan? I'll tell you: Inspired by my decision to explore new places this week, I've decided to save some very classic New York spots for my last day. I'm a year into living in the city and there are still so many iconic restaurants I haven't been today. Today I'll check off as many as I can. First up: Russ & Daughters. I've been to the cafe, but while I've picked up birthday bagels from the original on Houston, I've never actually gotten something from there for myself. I've done careful calculations because of My Plan, so I know I have $3 to spend. A bagel at R&D is $1 (I opt for onion, which might be a kind of bagel I may have never tried before), and note that the tofu cream cheese is significantly cheaper than the real kind. I'm skeptical, but I try it — asking the also-skeptical guy behind the corner for $.25 worth because I want a quarter-pound of egg salad ($1.75), too. He gives it to me and it's actually enough for the bagel! A contest miracle.

I've been instructed by my self-designated coach/actual boss to go to Dunkin' Donuts, since our judge is awarding automatic points for those who do so. This is a real conundrum, because I recognize the value in this strategy but also am pretty proud of myself for sticking to all of the guidelines I made for myself. At least Dunkin' Donuts is a true classic in every sense of the word, and one that I cherish from the bottom of my suburban heart. Coach Kludt gently suggests that I go to a franchise location that I've never been to before, which feels a little gray-area, but I listen. And then LOOPHOLE ALERT: I actually get a Munchkin for free with purchase of coffee, because I ask to buy just one, which is not something you can do (an order of six is the minimum), and then I offer to pay for a large coffee even though I want a small to make up the difference, which is maybe not a thing the cashier is morally okay with, apparently. So instead she just gives me the little guy. Problem solved, rules abided, doughnut hole acquired. Game on.

Russ & Daughters. 179 E Houston Street. (212) 475-4880.

Dunkin' Donuts. 250 E Houston Street. (212) 388-1637.

Player: Jarret Meskin

Purchase: egg white flatbread sandwich: $2.99

Strategy: Finding a healthy-ish breakfast (that isn't bananas) on a budget is not easy, but Dunkin' Donuts managed to satisfy. I was able to acquire a a seemingly healthy egg white patty on flatbread from Dunkin' Donuts for $2.99.

The slice of semi-melted American cheese provided the bulk of the flavor, which was fine with me. As a child of the Northeast suburbs, I'm a loyal DD fan. Additionally, I may or may not have noticed DD earning some serious points with #thecontest judge.

Player: Vince Dixon

My goal for the week is to buy from a different type of quintessential New York eatery each day of the week. Yesterday I tried local business that sell international cuisine. Today, I'm eating breakfast, lunch and dinner from New York pizza joints.

To start, I went to Bravo Kosher Pizza in Midtown at Broadway and 37th. I got an almond cookie for $2.50--definitely overpriced, especially considering it was rather dry and flavorless, but not many pizza places are open at 8:30 in the morning selling pastries. Surprisingly, though, it was very filling, with milk. that's $7.50 for lunch and dinner!

Player: David Yee

[Ed. note, David didn't eat breakfast this morning, but  here was his first meal]:

1:00 PM: I really wanted to hit up a bagel spot before the end of this game, and Murray's in particular; this is a controversial topic, but I think Murray's is the best bagel, egg, and cheese this side of the river. I've spent all morning in the same coffee-and-choice paralysis that plagued my first meal—saying to myself, basically, "This is it; don't screw it up." I hit the downtown F to 14th for an everything bagel with egg and swiss.

[Ed note: stay tuned for part two of this story later today]


Player: Greg Morabito

The Order/Strat: I feel like I have visited some pretty unremarkable Greenpoint restaurants this week. So for the first meal of day five, I decided to go to one of the neighborhood's true stars: Bakeri.

My favorite breakfast item here is this frittata-quiche thing that, like any good egg dish, looks and smells revolting to everyone except for the person who's eating it. That dish was $5, an untenable sum. So I got a ciabatta square for $1. Swoosh:


Playing out of Competition: Hillary Dixler

I've committed to staying in Downtown Brooklyn for the final day of the contest. It's a neighborhood awash with fast food chains. On Day 1 I opened the contest with a trip to my nearest Dunkin Donuts. That location now being disqualified, I went to the Dunkin Donuts three blocks away for an appetizer portion of Munchkins.

Cost: $0.75

Order: 3 Munchkins

Address: Dunkin Donuts, 56 Court Street, Brooklyn, NY

Energized by sugar, pure joy, and an insatiable will to win a contest I've already been disqualified from, I headed to a magical place called Fast & Fresh Burrito Deli. I didn't know that burrito delis were a thing but they are, and they're the best. This burrito deli doesn't stick to its stated opening hours, so after waiting ~45 minutes for them to open I got a vegetarian tostada to go. What awaited me at home was pure delight: super crispy tortilla topped with perfectly ripe avocado, spicy salsa, and enough iceberg lettuce to make the whole thing taste like Taco Bell (in all the best ways.) I will definitely go back to the burrito deli.

Cost: $3.00

Order: Vegetarian Tostada

Address: Fast & Fresh Burrito Deli, 84 Hoyt Street Brooklyn