NCAA Final Four: Which Team Wins for Best Food Town?


Photograph by Dad Gansie of Endless Simmer

The NCAA tournament's Final Four games are on tonight, so naturally we decided to predict the winners based on the deliciousness of their college towns.

So that would make it: Richmond vs. Indianapolis (VCU vs. Butler) and Lexington, KY vs. Storrs, CT (University of Kentucky vs UConn... though we'll stretch the border to Manchester, how does that sound?). Here are our thoughts on each team's food town. Sports fans or not, join the debate! What places did we leave out?

We also want to tip our hats to the gals behind this Edible Bracket, who prepared 64 iconic foods and drinks to represent each of the teams in the tourney. Would you rather chow on a VCU lamb burger or Butler hot dog? A slice of UConn election cake or a cold University of Kentucky mint julep?

Richmond vs. Indianapolis (VCU vs. Butler)

Deviled eggs at Black Sheep. [Flickr: Your Secret Admiral]

Richmond, VA: Nearby the VCU campus there's Black Sheep for button-popping breakfasts like sausage gravy and biscuits, roast duck hash, yellow cheese grits, and homemade applesauce. Sally Bell's kitchen has been making box lunches with macaroni salad, cheese wafers, and cupcakes since the 1950s. It's not the most life-changing lunch you'll ever have, but you gotta love a place that still neatly packs lunches into cardboard boxes lined with wax paper. And did we say pimento sandwiches? For a more white tablecloth experience, there's Acacia, with its talented head chef Dale Reitzer, one of Food and Wine's Best New Chef back in 1999. And we always have room for a scoop of Bev's homemade ice cream on Cary Street!


Smashed burger at Workingman's Friend Tavern. [Photograph: Daniel Zemans]

Indianapolis, IN: Indy's got plenty of delicious stops. For the old-school deli experience, there's Shapiro's, which has been on South Meridian since 1905. Then you have the smashed burgers at Workingman's Friend Tavern, where the hand-formed patties are made from fresh ground chuck. As for skillet-fried chicken (best enjoyed with the post-Sunday-church crew), there's Hollyhock Hill. It's really all about the chicken here, but the bowls of mashed potatoes, corn niblets, and warm breads with apple butter sure don't hurt.

Winner: Though Richmond has a budding food scene, we can't get the fried chicken from Hollyhock out of our minds. Indianapolis's victory!

Lexington vs. Storrs (UK vs. UConn)


[Flickr: pingpongdeath]

Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky might automatically win for the glazed yeast doughnuts at Spalding's Bakery. These were in our National Doughnut Honor Roll. If we must expand beyond doughnuts, there's also Ramsey's Diner for "meat and threes," where you get a choice of 13 country-style entrees combined with three out of 20 veggie sides. Smashing Tomato is the only VPN-certified pizzeria in Kentucky. The "smashed" 'zas have thin but tender crust with a spicy Arrabiata sauce, as reported in our United States of Pizza: Kentucky.


[Flickr: ciac]

Storrs, CT: Right on UConn's campus, you can get some amazing ice cream at the Dairy Bar, run by the school's department of animal science. Flavors range from banana chocolate chip to maple walnut. Hmm.. beyond that, we're going to hop in the car to travel a bit off-campus. Rein's Deli is in Vernor, Connecticut, but hey that's just 16 miles away! Then you have Manchester, just a few miles beyond that, with its outpost of Frank Pepe's. UConn can claim points for clam pie, right? There's alsothe tasty farmhouse cheeses coming out of Cato Corner Farm in Colchester.

Winner: If we're allowed to get away with "the greater Storrs area" (so basically central and northeastern Connecticut) then we'd actually give it to UConn! Though the Spalding's doughnuts could at least carry Lexington to overtime..