Munch Madness Round II: Let's give 'em something to taco 'bout

Over the last few days, thousands of amateur food critics voted with their hearts (and their stomachs) to determine which Guthrie County restaurants deserve to enter the second round of Munch Madness.

All 16 of the non-chain eateries entered in the competition raised their forks in battle and rang the dinner bell like their lives depended on it. Let’s just say things weren’t pretty. Menus were thrown like ninja stars and napkins were waved like white flags of surrender.

The eight restaurants that were chopped this week put up a truly brave fight, right to the end. But not all is fair in food and war. And half of our fine field of competitors had to say sayonara. To catch you up on all the Munch Madness action over the last few days, we are joined by our culinary smackdown cohost, and Editor of the Guthrie Center Times and Guthrie County Vedette, Ashley Schable.

Here are this week’s results.

Owl’s Nest vs. Zipp’s Pizzaria — Winner: Owl’s Nest

CW: You know, Ashley, this match up was something straight out of one of my worst nightmares. Having to pick between one of the best spots for dynamite bar food and the Mecca of homemade pizza was a new kind of twisted. I can only imagine the kind of emotional turmoil voters faced this week. It was pretty obvious during the beginning of the competition, when the two restaurants were deadlocked in a 50/50 split vote. At first, it seemed like there would never be a winner declared. It wasn’t until the final days of competition that Panora’s Owl’s Nest dug deep, and surged ahead for the win.

AS: Each team that makes it into this tournament has a chance, however remote, to win the championship. If this particular match up wasn’t close, it would have been an absolute shocker. It’s possible that with this win, the Owl’s Nest will cut down the nets. Good food paired with a small town atmosphere is always tough to beat.

Hilltop Cafe vs. PJ’s Drive In — Winner: Hilltop Cafe

AS: Hilltop Cafe in Guthrie Center proved a winner in the early round of Munch Madness as it dominated PJ’s Drive In in Panora. Arguably one of the most talented teams in the field, PJ’s — with its mouth-watering tenderloins and bounty of crispy golden brown french fries — didn’t have an answer for Hilltop Cafe. Philly Steak and Cheese C. Burrito were the key players, and pasta salad came off the bench to help seal the victory for the Guthrie Center locale.

CW: The opening round of competition is always the hardest. No one wants to be the first restaurant to fall on their spork. But when push came to shove, PJ’s head just wasn’t in the game, and the scoreboard reflected that.

Billy Vee’s vs. Cabbage Rose Restaurant — Winner: Billy Vee’s

CW: After this first round of competition, no one will be calling Billy Vee’s an impasta’ in the Guthrie County food scene any time soon. The Panora restaurant tiramsu-ed its way to the top to triumph over Cabbage Rose Restaurant in Guthrie Center. The match was scrappy from beginning to end, with both restaurants slinging their best home cooked cuisine. When all was said and done, only 50 votes, and a steaming plate of lasagna, stood in the way of Cabbage Rose Restaurant claiming victory. All in all, an Italian affair to remember.

AS: Talk about a top five match up. Voters were looking beyond the Final Four with Billy Vee’s in this one. Cabbage Rose Restaurant faced a monster in Bill Valentino and his wife Pam’s Italian inspired restaurant, and voters made sure their favorite dining spot didn’t end up on the wrong end of the Cinderella story.

Prime Time vs. Just Ethel’s Bar and Grill — Winner: Prime Time

AS: This was yet another tempting tournament. Prime Time in Guthrie Center and Just Ethel’s Bar and Grill in Yale are both strong clubs, and were on fire the entire contest straight to the very end. It was hard to say who was gonna take the cake. Prime Time started out with a huge lead, which shrunk as the nights wore on. Just Ethel’s Bar and Grill was strong, but it was Prime Time who survived and advanced.

CW: No other contest in this first round of competition had me on the edge of my seat quite like this one. Every time it looked like the outcome was clear, the playbook got shuffled. It wasn’t until the final hours of voting that it was certain Just Ethel’s was not going to be able to stage a comeback, and had to throw in the towel.

The Links Restaurant and Lounge vs. The Port — Winner: The Links Restaurant and Lounge

CW: Folks, after this dual, I think a new battle will have to be recorded in the history books. Joining the list of greats, such as the Alamo and Bull Run, is The Battle For Lake Panorama. Both The Links Restaurant and Lounge and The Port border the popular vacation destination. But the two went head-to-head in an all or nothing contest over who gets to represent it in Munch Madness.

AS: Chef Andrew Labath was talented enough to carry The Links Restaurant and Lounge out of the first round of the competition. The Port didn’t possess nearly enough firepower to pull off an upset.

Menlo Cafe vs. Pine Room — Winner: Menlo Cafe

AS: As long as Menlo Cafe doesn’t get caught looking ahead, they’ll be fine in this competition, as they kicked off their Munch Madness debut with a big win over Pine Room in Guthrie Center. But after such a fierce struggle, the small-town cafe — known for its simple, filling and delicious fare — might have to catch its second wind as it faces-off against some tough teams in the next round. Like the rest of the match-ups, it could get ugly.

CW: By the numbers, the Menlo Cafe has a chance to gain some ground in the next round of competition. And coming fresh off a win, it could spell disaster for their next opponent.

Los Altos vs. 44 Drive In — Winner: Los Altos

CW: In the classic play Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare once asked the infamous question, “What’s in a name?” Well, in this case, an awful lot. Stuart’s Los Altos set the bar for themselves pretty high with their true-to-their-roots name, which translates to “the tall ones.” It seems like the Mexican eatery might have a gift with premonitions, because they ended up towering over their Panora competitor, the 44 Drive In, with 73 percent of the vote.

AS: Los Altos scoring big numbers is a problem when you play in this game. Despite going one-and-done in this tournament, 44 Drive In is a strong team, but it couldn’t touch the south of the border style restaurant, with its ice cold cerveza, and selections of enchiladas, fajitas, burritos, tacos and shrimp. A Los Altos victory in Round I shouldn’t surprise anyone who goes there hungry. In fact, it’d be surprising if they lost.

La Villa vs. Incredibowl — Winner: La Villa

AS: Both of these Guthrie Center hot spots had a shot in this one. But for Incredibowl it was one-and-done. La Villa entered the Big Dance with sheer talent, and they did not disappoint. Will their fajitas stay hot coming off the opening run all the way to the title, or will they cool off with pitchers of flavored margaritas? Who will they need to play in the next round to score the votes and build a lead that is out of reach?

CW: If the first round is any indicator, then it looks like La Villa is preparing to make a run for gold. They already dropped a spice bomb right in the middle of Incredibowl’s game plan, who knows what they have up their sleeves for the next round.

The Next Course

With the appetizer round of Munch Madness out of the way, it’s time to get serious, and sit down for the entree. This week, Owl’s Nest will square off against the Hilltop Cafe, and Prime Time and La Villa will face each other on the field. Billy Vee’s and the Menlo Cafe are slated to duke it out, and The Links Restaurant and Lounge will battle for a place in Round III.

As always, voting to decide who makes it one step closer to victory will begin on Wednesday, and continue until Monday at 8 a.m. Voting can be done online, or at our office at 205 State St. in Guthrie Center. 

Editor’s note: The Munch Madness series, and the commentary in it, is completely fictitious, and is meant to be interpreted as such. The articles to come over the upcoming weeks, and the results, are not a reflection on any of the restaurants in Guthrie County. 

Vote here!

Contact Us

Guthrie Center Times
PO Box 217
205 State Street (Dropbox)
Guthrie Center, IA 50115

Guthrie County Vedette
PO Box 38
111 E. Main Street
Panora, IA 50216

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