Hungry Mother has three-peated as Munch Madness champion. In a matchup of Cambridge heavyweights, the Southern-style favorite held off Oleana, which specializes in North African and Mediterranean cuisine, by 311 votes to claim its third consecutive title in our annual tournament of 64 local restaurants modeled after the NCAA March Madness basketball bracket.
It was the fourth straight trip to the final round for chef Barry Maiden’s Hungry Mother, which has only lost once — in 2010 to East Coast Grill. In one of the biggest surprises of this year’s competition, that former champion was knocked off in the opening round by the Kenmore Square mainstay Eastern Standard. However, Hungry Mother and the only other previous finalist, Craigie on Main, were paired against each other in the Final Four. In that rematch of last year’s finalists, Hungry Mother edged chef Tony Maws’s restaurant by a little more than 300 votes to advance.
On the opposite side of the bracket, Oleana made its first championship appearance. To get there, chef Ana Sortun’s Mediterranean spot had to sneak by the French-inspired Gaslight, defeating the South End brasserie by a slender margin of 211 votes. The right side of the bracket was guaranteed to provide a fresh finalist, since all previous visitors to the championship round were placed on the left this year.
Boston.com readers cast more than 176,000 total votes in this year’s competition. In crowning Hungry Mother yet again, they merely cemented the Cambridge restaurant’s status as a local food titan.