Oh yes, it's that time of year again. Many of us are completely absorbed by the NFL playoffs. It's easy to find sports sites and portals to discuss the football aspects of the match-ups—but when you pit these cities against each other, which have the superior food scenes? We're serious eaters, so we need a forum to discuss the merits of each city as a food lover's destination. Here we go.
AFC Championship: New York Jets vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
New York Jets
New York wins the battle of the pizza ovens. Totonno's in Coney Island, Motorino, Paulie Gee's , DiFara, and an entire rich pizza culture behind it. Burgers are a closer contest, but New York has the Shake Shack, Minetta Tavern, Fairway Cafe, and many more. Hot dogs? Same story (Papaya King, Rutt's Hut, Jimmy Buff's)... and finally, you can't forget NY's iconic sandwiches, from pastrami at Katz's to roast beef at Defonte's to newcomers like the Torrisi guys.
Pittsburgh is a better pizza town than you might expect (Il Pizzaiolo for Neapolitan, Mineo's for thin-crust, and more), but still: no contest. They've got great burgers too, at Tessaro's, and they're in better chain burger territory with Steak 'n Shake, but we'd still count NYC the winner. Sandwiches? Pittsburgh has Primanti's, the iconic French-fry-in-sandwich spot—but can that stack up to Katz's and Defonte's? Not quite.
Final Score: Jets 28 (each food win is a touchdown and an extra point), Steelers 12 (four field goals)
NFC Championship: Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears
Green Bay Packers
To even the playing field (ha, ha), we're going to add in Green Bay's neighbors near and far—Milwaukee, Racine, Madison. Milwaukee has fine pizza at Maria's and Transfer Pizzeria Café; there are excellent burgers at The Old Fashioned and Graze in Madison; corned beef from Jake's in Milwaukee is astoundingly good. As for hot dogs: consider Usinger's and, in Sheboygan, brats. Of course, as iconic food goes, frozen custard all over Wisconsin totally rocks the house (Leon's, Kopp's, North Point, Michael's). Racine has the Kringle as their leading baked good, and Madison has the farmer's market contest won hands down—in fact, it beats just about any farmers' market we know.
Oh, Chicago. Great Lake Pizza and Burt's are both awesome, and as good as Maria's might be, Chicago pizza just takes it. Burgers? Top Notch and Primehouse edge out Wisconsin. And there's no hot dog culture like Chicago, from the awesome old-school Gene and Jude's to places like Superdawg to Hot Doug's. Though Chicago has the Italian Beef sandwich, Wisconsin wins the sandwich round in a shocker. A truly iconic dessert is Chicago's weakness—Hoosier Mama's pies are awesome, but Indiana is not Chicago. Scooter's Custard is good but totally derivative.
Final Score: Chicago wins 34-33 in a squeaker, food-wise. (But that's with Green Bay's handicap.)
I'm going with the Jets and the Packers. I think Rex Ryan is a totally idiosyncratic and interesting coach, and the Jets have great receivers and a fired-up, super-fast defense. (Jets 17, Pittsburgh 14.) The Packers just seem like the team of destiny this year, I love the fact that the people really do own the Pack, and I think Aaron Rodgers in incredibly cool, Packers 27, Bears 24.
What say you, serious eaters?