In 2010, on a lark, we created Munch Madness, a tournament pitting 64 local restaurants against one another.
We did not foresee the high jinks that would ensue.
That year, Cambridge restaurants East Coast Grill and Hungry Mother met in the final round. (Play mimics that of the little-known NCAA competition March Madness.) The rivalry led to the exchange of threatening notes, fish skeletons and pig heads, the Champagne of beers and Italian digestivi. East Coast Grill emerged the victor. The following year the tables were turned. Hungry Mother beat East Coast Grill. The French-Southern restaurant repeated the victory in 2012 and 2013. Last year, both Hungry Mother and East Coast Grill were retired, opening up the field.
The result: a battle that pitted seafood restaurant against seafood restaurant, sibling against sibling. In the penultimate round, Row 34 beat Neptune Oyster to face sister restaurant Eastern Standard in the finals. (The latter trumped tapas favorite Toro.) The winner: Eastern Standard.
So here we are again. Cast your votes and follow the action at bostonglobe.com/munchmadness, and join in on Twitter with the hashtag #munchmadness. Here is this year’s voting schedule: Round 1, March 18-19. Round 2, March 20-22. Round 3, March 23-24. Round 4, March 25-26. Round 5, March 27-30. Round 6, March 31-April 3. The winner will be announced online April 6.
On the bracket for Munch Madness 2015, you will find new restaurants and old favorites, the experimental and the traditional, formal dining rooms and dive bars, and places serving food from every corner of the world. As you can see, the first round features plenty of drama. Restaurants with the same owners, concepts, and neighborhoods go up against each other. Former co-workers battle it out, and young chefs face their mentors.
Does Boston still love Eastern Standard more than Row 34, or have loyalties shifted since last year? Let’s just get that question out of the way with the very first vote we cast. Who has better seafood, Neptune Oyster or Island Creek Oyster Bar? For a modern take on Chinese cooking, could upstart Mei Mei pose a threat to Myers + Chang? Are our hearts with chef Tim Wiechmann’s elegant compositions at T.W. Food, or do we really just want to eat sausages and drink beer at Bronwyn?
Only one thing is clear in the fight to the finish. The restaurant that claims the glory this year is up to you.