Day Three. Devra Ferst tapped out of the game last night, but Vox Product team member (and fierce Contest competitor) David Yee got called up to the majors. That leaves the Day Three cast of active characters at eight, each of whom earn the quotidian +1 for making it to another dawn.
According to The Contest's scoring matrix, "Theme Adherence/Fidelity" can be worth anywhere from +10 to +50 points. While not every contestant is working a theme, enough are that it's likely to have significant game-end impact. Vince Dixon scored +10 theme points on Day One by outlining his plan to rotate through five different quintessential New York dining experiences across the five days. Besides that, no other theme points have been awarded in The Contest. It's going to stay that way until the last day.
Managing Editor Sonia Chopra's multiple themes—eating only vegetarian food, choosing a different style of cuisine for every single meal, and visiting only restaurants she's never been to before—are impressive on their face. During just the first two days, she's dined on Japanese, Vietnamese, Chinese, Polish, Taiwanese, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian, and Filipino food. The challenge of abiding by so many concurrent themes is the risk of faltering on one. Can she keep every ball in the air for three more days?
Jarret Meskin's theme is the simplest and in some ways the most enjoyable: eating plain slices from a different pizza place each day for lunch. Were a competitor to do this for every meal for the duration of The Contest, +50 for sure, no? Vince's theme has seen him attack delicatessens on Day One and street food on Day Two. Today, he's on to fast food chains, which seems likely to hold back his score. Will a potential payoff at the end of the week make up for it?
Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, Robert Sietsema cheerfully admits he's going into Day Three with no plan at all. "Better not to overthink your $10 day ahead of time," he writes. "Spontaneity is a gift where budget dining is concerned."
DAY THREE SCORING
Scoring by player, rather than meal, today. Players are listed in reverse order of The Contest standings at the start of Day Two.
Amanda Kludt: Our intrepid editor-in-chief starts the day with a banana (-1), but offsets the lost point with a cream-filled Japanese pastry from Midtown's Cafe Zaiya (+1). At lunch, she executes her first player team meal of The Contest, sharing a meal with the master of the team play herself, Sonia Chopra. They split a Laminated Baguette from Arcade Bakery. Amanda is rapturous: "It's a straight-up masterpiece. Do people know this thing exists? It filled me with great joy." (+5.) Dinnertime finds Kludt at Polo Bar, where she dines on a wedge salad, Dover sole, corned beef sandwiches, steak, French fries, and a giant brownie covered in hot fudge. Uh, whaaaaa? Yes, the unthinkable has happened: Amanda has tapped out of The Contest. Her attempt to explain her actions is so over-the-top apologetic that I'm tempted to award no points for this exit, but geez, that is a damn perfect tap-out feast. So: a final +10, served cold. TOTAL: +16
Jarret Meskin: Our Man in the East Village is clearly on a suicide mission: he purchases four bananas and eats two of them for breakfast (-2). But he's straight on-theme with two plain pizza slices for lunch (no points yet, but dedication to the cause: noted, as Jarret's trademarked—literally—Slice CountTM now equals seven). Dinner is dumplings and a sesame pancake sandwich from Vanessa's Dumpling House. This meal could have tallied points, but Jarret's own disgust with himself over his choice of venue and food summons a goose egg (+0). This isn't the kind of day that's going to win this thing. TOTAL: -1
Greg Morabito: Our Man in Greenpoint breakfasts on two eggs on a Kaiser roll with cheddar cheese at Bagels by the Dozen, a move he terms "arguably my best food decision all week" (+5). Lunch is a Popeye's fried chicken order (+3, points withheld due to small portion size). Dinner finds him at a frequent Contest stop, Prosperity Dumpling on the Lower East Side, a move that scores a reflexive +5 for deliciousness. There, Morabito uncranks what is certainly the finest Yelp review ever written of the establishment, a moody, noirish thriller that turns the hell of the Prosperity ordering game into something much more human and real (+5). This was the big day Morabito needed on Day Three. The man is very much in the mix heading towards the back half of The Contest. TOTAL: +19
Sonia Chopra: Sonia's breakfast is an egg and swiss on whole wheat purchased from El Castillo de Jagua on the LES (+1 because I used to live across the street from the place). Then Sonia shares her Amanda's joy over their find at Arcade Bakery. "I cannot tell you how good this baguette was," she writes (+5). Doubling down on lunch, Sonia adds a loaded upma from Eater HQ go-to Mmm Enfes on West 39th (+2). At dinnertime, she purposefully crosses paths with Robert Sietsema at the legendary Crocodile Lounge on East 14th. Who doesn't love that place, but no way does free bar pizza put points on the board (+0). Still, a solid day that keeps Sonia in the hunt; her insanely competitive nature will only step up her game going forward. Can she win the whole thing? Absolutely. TOTAL: +9
David Yee: Yee—whose Day Three is chronicled on this Eater Forums post—reheats his day-old cocoa bread for a breakfast so sad it breaks my heart (+0). Then our newest competitor rallies hard for lunch. His dirty water dog is the first of The Contest and scores +5 for a New York City legend (the dirty water dog, not Yee). Then he's at the fantastic Trini-Paki street cart in Midtown, where his order of a chicken samosa "appears to be an empanada, but more Caribbean, and excellent. At one dollar, a total score." (+3.) Dinner is a truly delicious-looking chicken and beans platter at Williamsburg Latin American standby El Gran Canario (+5), rounding out a day in which he also spends exactly $10 (+1). Yee is coming, people. I told you. TOTAL: +15
Vince Dixon: Vince starts his chain restaurant scheme for the day with a fruit and yogurt parfait from McDonald's (+0); can't overlook that there's at least one banana in play here (-1). At lunch, he waits in line for a free Wahlburger, but the giveaway gets capped at 100 by a furious Mark Wahlberg, so it's a Wendy's chicken wrap and salad instead (+0; judge confirms that a Wendy's crispy chicken sandwich here would have tallied points). Dinner: a six-inch Italian sub from Subway (+0, overlooking the "banana peppers"—!!!—that comprised part of the sub's toppings). A crap day for points, but with his theme fidelity intact, Vince is still in the thick of it. TOTAL: 0
Robert Sietsema: Egg sandwich with secret ingredient, EXTRA BUTTER (+1), is classic Sietsema. At Five Guys for lunch, a hilarious in-the-moment insight: "I realized the guys in front of me were using every opportunity to customize their burgers. Why not the fries, I thought?" (+5 for whimsy and his delightful photo of the pickled melange.) For dinner, Sonia and Robert choose the free-food-with-beer plan at Crocodile Lounge. As previously noted, no points for that pizza, even with the jalapeños Robert adds to his pie. Dessert at Veniero's—cannoli and a tart—can't salvage the evening, but does put a single deliciousness point on the board (+1), rounding out a solid if unspectacular day for the master of Cheap Eats. Here's hoping Sietsema turns it up a notch on Days Four and Five, because if he does, he's probably unbeatable. TOTAL +8
Daniela Galarza: "Looked for a fruit stall this morning, but came up empty," Daniela writes. Born under a lucky star, our Day Two leader is. She's at the Halal Guys storefront on East 14th Street for lunch (chicken and rice with white sauce, +5). From there on out, it's dessert only: a post-lunchtime treat of cookies from an Italian bakery in Bushwick, and dinner of a robust piece of chocolate cake from Fortunato Brothers Bakery (+1). Not a bad day, but not an epic one either. Can she hold on to the top spot? (Spoiler: sort of.) TOTAL: +7
STANDINGS AFTER DAY THREE
Daniela Galarza 42
Robert Sietsema 42
David Yee 32 [includes +2 for Attendance Bonus on Days One and Two previously omitted from score]
Sonia Chopra 29
Greg Morabito 29
Vince Dixon 26
Amanda Kludt 24*
Jarret Meskin 4
* Tapped out at dinner.
Hillary Dixler 13
Devra Ferst 10
Helen Rosner 6
Kat Odell 5