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The Contest Day Five Lunch: Corn Dogs, Costco Pizza, and Mamoun's Galore

Vital updates on the only dining competition that matters.

[A corn dog consumed by Robert Sietsema]
[A corn dog consumed by Robert Sietsema]

The $10-per-day dining challenge is almost over. Here's what the remaining players got for lunch today. Stay tuned for info on the final meal of The Contest. And 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.

Lunch on Friday, July 17

Player: Sonia Chopra

Purchase: Lentil soup ($3). Remainder: $4.

Order/Strategy: Continuing along on my quest to check off NYC icons, I go to Mamoun's for lunch. I rarely have cash on me and therefore have never been to this cash-only spot on St Marks (or MacDougal). Today's the day! I figure a falafel sandwich makes the most sense but I'm so sick of bread and there's a sign advertising a lentil soup for $3. I ask how big it is, expecting something pretty small, but it's nicely sized and sounds perfect. Despite the bread fatigue, I eat it with the leftover portion of my Cuban-ish grilled cheese sandwich, with its fresh still-green avocados, and some iced ginger tea that I made by making tea this morning, accidentally putting the mug in the fridge when I was getting water, and completely forgetting about until just now.

Update: So far I've hit the following cuisines (or "cuisines")— at least three a day, and only restaurants I've never been to before: Japanese, Vietnamese, Chinese (dumplings), Polish, two bakeries that were ostensibly-but-unconfirmed Taiwanese, Bangladeshi, Pakistani/Indian halal, Filipino, and Dominican-Caribbean, French (bakery), dive bar pizza (standalone genre), Greek/Mediterranean, Cuban-ish, fancy tacos, classic NY bagels, and Middle Eastern.

Mamoun's. 22 St Marks Place.

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Player: Vince Dixon

For my Pizza Day lunch I went to 99 Cent Fresh and got one "dollar slice" with pepperoni. That was a total of $1.50--the cheapest lunch I've had this week. The dollar slice is also the most New York meal I've had during The Contest.

That leaves me with $6 for a pizza dinner. Can't wait!

Player: Jarret Meskn

Purchase: pepperoni slice and hot dog with soda: $3.50

Strategy: When we were originally discussing strategy for #thecontest, I proposed the idea of visiting the food court at Costco. As the Costco food court is available to all, not just members, it was deemed fair game. So, to keep up the theme of eating pizza for lunch, I ordered one slice of pepperoni.

Costco charges $1.99 for a slice, regardless of toppings. As I am unable to resist Costco's hotdogs, so I also grabbed a hotdog and soda for $1.50.

The slice was greasy and cheesy - everything I look for in a good slice. Fortunately, I was unable to eat the hot dog so I've now got that as a potential snack.

The final Slice Count (TM) for the week is 11. Last Friday, I predicted I would consume 12 slices of pizza for the week, so I'm a bit disappointed to leave one out, but I presume my body will thank me in the long run.

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Player: David Yee

[Ed not: As you may recall, David was headed to Murray's last time we checked in with him]

1:15 PM, $4.00: Tragedy. After getting to the front of the line and placing my order, the woman at the counter dully intones, "The grill is off, no more breakfast items." I am gutted; I cannot lunch on bagel alone. Stunned, I emerge onto the streets of the West Village and slowly walk south. I've really done it; I've screwed up my last day; all is lost. But wait! By the time I get to Sixth Ave. and Eighth St., I know where my feet are taking me: Mamoun's. While the line is longer than my last visit, in 2002, and the falafel is now $3.50 instead of $2.50, it is still mostly identical to its incarnation circa 1993 (and presumably 1971). I know how much my dinner will cost, so I ask for extra falafel, which makes this a four dollar sandwich. I pose with my foil-wrapped falafel in front of a Keith McNally restaurant, for no discernible reason, and head back to Eater HQ.

I have only one thing to say about this sandwich: It is sooooooooooooooooooooo much drier than I remember. Otherwise, it is falafel, and I spent many intoxicated late nights at the place of its birth, when I made no money. It is Cheap with a capital C, and I was meant to be here. (Accidental thanks to Murray’s.)

I have six dollars.

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Player: Robert Sietsema

For lunch today I decided I needed something fried and phallic. Maybe malnutrition is eroding my brain, in spite of the precautionary banana (quintessential brainfood! easy to unwrap! biodegradable packaging!) I ate earlier in the week. Also, as I become foggier, my mind is increasingly transported to my happy childhood. As if in a dream, I remember going to the Minnesota State Fair with my parents and standing in line to get something called a Pronto Pup. It was probably the first time I encountered cornbread. What is it called today? A corn dog!

$2.50, leaving $6.25 for dinner

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Player: Greg Morabito

Order/Strat: I was thrilled to be back in Manhattan today. I spent my lunch money at Joey Pepperoni's, a cut-rate pizzeria crammed between an eyebrow threading parlor and a nail salon on Sixth Avenue near 39th Street. I can see this place from the window of Eater HQ, but I'd never tried it before today. I had originally planned to get two slices of $1.50 pizza, but I saw this thing and changed my mind:

A white slice with bacon, chicken, and ranch dressing. This was the most delicious dish I ate this week. $3.50. I'm not in peak physical or mental condition right now. Like, I would fail a standardized test and drive a tractor into a grain silo. I will also say that I have been hungry for approximately 55 percent of my waking hours this week. One meal left to go with $5.50 in my pocket.

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Playing out of competition: Hillary Dixler

Shake Shack

409 Fulton Street, Brooklyn

Order: Grilled Cheese, $3

Strat: I was surprised that nobody in The Contest had gone off-menu at Shake Shack. The always-available grilled cheese is a buttery delight and at only $3.00 one of the cheapest "main courses" you can get at the Shack.

I had also hoped I'd get a bit more for my dollar, because nbd but I'm currently the Swarm mayor of this particular location. I got over the terrible embarrassment of asking the cashier if they did anything like that, only to find out they didn't. I explained that I was participating in a cheap eats contest and there was a part of me that hoped they'd slip a free fries into the order, to surprise and delight a loyal customer. (I am also currently reading Danny Meyer's book about enlightened hospitality, so I think I was just letting myself get carried away). They didn't give me free anything, and that's totally not a problem. I'll still go all the time because it's actually the best restaurant in Downtown Brooklyn. I hear you grumbling about Brooklyn Fare but I've never been and am not that interested in going so

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