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The Contest Day Five Finale: Shared Noodles, Veggie Dogs, and More Pizza

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Here is the climactic end to New York's greatest budget dining competition.

[The spread at Papaya King last night, by Sonia Chopra]
[The spread at Papaya King last night, by Sonia Chopra]

Eater's $10-per-day dining challenge has finally come to an end. Here's the final report from the editors in competition. Stay tuned for the official scores for the last three days, and for the announcement about the winners. Thanks again to all the readers that played along at home.

Dinner on Friday, July 17:

Player: Vince Dixon

Finally, the last meal of the The Contest. Sticking with the pizza joint theme, I walked to 38th and 8th and found two. I got a sausage pizza from 2 Bros Pizza for $2 and a $3 veggie-loaded supreme pizza from Roll and Go Pizza across the street. I also bought three garlic knots for $1.

It's been fun exploring iconic New York eateries under $11, but I am looking forward to eating vegetables, fiber, and cereal.

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Player: Sonia Chopra

Purchase: Veggie dog ($4). Remainder: $0.

To wrap up my day of classics AND of course #thecontest itself, I dragged some people to Papaya King, a storied New York favorite. The veggie dogs here are a whole dollar more than the non-veg versions — just like with the dumplings earlier this week — but they all come with unlimited toppings, the two sweetest words in the English language (sorry cellar door). I topped mine with cheese sauce, jalapenos, crispy little onion bits, something called "New York onions," ketchup, and curly fries. I'd asked for onion rings in lieu of the crispy things and the fries but they were sold out. How are you going to be sold out of onion rings on a Friday night on St Marks? My colleague and our friend did their own thing, but y'all: This hot dog was VERY GOOD. Maybe it was the cocktail I had before, maybe it was because it was my last meal of the challenge, or maybe it was because I was with two people I like a lot — but really I think it was just a damn good veggie dog.

Papaya King. 3 St Marks Place. (646) 692-8482.

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Player: Jarret Meskin

For my final meal of the contest, located outside of New York City, I had to face the reality of a dinner made up entirely of items off a fast-food value menu. Hungry and exhausted, I put my hope in my leftover Costco hot dog.

As my friends grilled up their own hot dogs and burgers, I stared hopelessly at my meal. I reheated it to the best of my ability and consumed it in a few big bites. While it certainly couldn't compare to the fresh version, a Costco hot dog will always offer a bit of nostalgia - bringing me back to the many years I've accompanied my parents to Costco, often just to eat at the food court.

Costco's hot dog is above average in size, but it was not enough. I broke. I ended up eating a delicious cheeseburger.

So, with the end of #theconest in sight, I was unable to make it to the finish line. I'm proud of the progress I have made, but I am happy to wave farewell to The Contest.

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Players: Robert Sietsema, David Yee, and Greg Morabito

Greg: For the final meal, David, Robert, and I decided to pool our resources on a feast at Sheng Wang, one of Sietsema's cheap Chinatown favorites. I had $5.50 left and so did David. Amanda Kludt joined us, too. I've never enjoyed eating bok choy so much in my entire life.

Robert: Here are the stats: The final meal, with beverages, came to $24.50, with $4.50 owing to beverages. (One of the things we drank came from China, so was $1.50 instead of $1.) So, $20 divided four ways comes to an amazing $5 each. Since I had $6,25 to spend, that means my daily total was $8.75.

Like the amicable resolution of a Shakespearean comedy, all rivalries fell away as the four of us chowed down at Sheng Wang on noodles, noodles, and more homemade noodles. The peel noodles with egg and baby bok choy was a sentimental favorite for me, but we also enjoyed beef soup with Lanzhou hand-pulled noodles, and those same noodles in a stir fry with duck — the most expensive dish at a whopping $7. Only the fried dumplings stuffed with a ground pork mixture were mildly disappointing, maybe because we had them fried instead of steamed to ramp up the calories. It's morning as I write this, and I can't wait to go out into the world and start eating normally again.

Final meal of #TheContest at Sheng Wang, including these knife-cut noodles with egg and bok choy. What a run.

A photo posted by david yee (@tangentialism) on

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Player out of competition: Hillary Dixler

Location: 99 Cent Fresh Hot Pizza, 51 Willoughby St, Brooklyn

Order: 2 plain slices

Cost: $1.98

Order/Strat: I had my sights set on a halal cart Eater contributor/The Contest dominator Sam Kim told me about, but unfortunately it was nowhere to be found. Committed to staying in Downtown Brooklyn, I opted for two slices from the local 99 Cent Fresh. I was pleasantly surprised. The pizza could have been hotter, but the sauce had actual tomato flavor and the crust had good chew. Five years of living here I'd never gone in and now it seems clear that I'll definitely go back.

After my pizza I'm left with a $1.27 surplus. I've had so many carbs and cheese combos today that I feel totally full. Imagine that with that $1.27 I bought a bunch of bananas only to throw them one by one into the trash. This contest isn't about bananas.

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