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Chicago Sandwich Bracket a Tasty Version of March Madness

By Janet Rausa Fuller | February 3, 2014 8:02am
 The Chicago Sandwich Bracket, an online "tournament" created by Lincoln Park resident Jeff Feyerer, pits sandwiches from restaurants around the city in matchups.
Chicago Sandwich Bracket
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LINCOLN PARK — The edible version of March Madness is sweeping Chicago.

The Chicago Sandwich Bracket is an online "tournament" of bread and blog posts, spearheaded by 30-year-old Jeff Feyerer of Lincoln Park: 64 sandwiches, six rounds, only one champion.

The draw, available to those who agree to eat and photograph the competitors, consists of sandwiches of all types from all over the city, from the pork chop sandwich at the no-frills Maxwell Street Depot in Bridgeport to the wild boar sloppy Joe at hipster haven Longman & Eagle in Logan Square, from the classic (Manny's corned beef) to the new-fangled (baby octopus gyro at the Peasantry).

Does the shawarma at Dawali Mediterranean Kitchen stand a chance against the pastrami on rye at Fumare Smoked Meats? Is the shrimp po' boy at Phil's Last Stand truly worthy of its No. 1 ranking?

The action takes place via a shared Google document. Tasters have so far been limited to about 40 of Feyerer's friends, and friends of friends, but Feyerer said he isn't opposed to newcomers who want in.

He and seven of his buddies had talked for more than a year about creating some sort of friendly food competition, played out like the NCAA championships.

"Typical guy banter. We like trying new restaurants. We're all big sports fans, too," he said.

On a Saturday in November, with the television set to college football and laptops on laps, Feyerer convened the "selection committee" at his home to hammer out the details — in seven hours.

Why sandwiches?

"That's the running gag in our group, that we like sandwiches. ... Who doesn't?" said Feyerer, who works for a Skokie school district. "Most of the discussion was whether to include burgers or burritos in the bracket."

Neither burgers nor burritos made the cut, but the group made sure the competing sandwiches, culled from articles, reviews and their own research, were diverse. Each restaurant gets only one sandwich entry.

They used a point system to determine seeding, and divided the bracket into four regions: Sandwich, Sammich, Sangwich and Sammie.

Taste-testers request access to the bracket via email and sign up for specific matchups. Each matchup needs three tasters, who eat both sandwiches, post photos and any comments, and pick a winner.

"I didn't ask for the bread dipped, but the beef still soaked the bread with flavor. By the end I was forced to hand-pick pieces of bread and beef after the sandwich disintegrated. It was glorious," wrote a taster named Tom, who favored Johnnie's Beef Italian beef over the BLT from Old Oak Tap.

Feyerer initially hoped to have the sandwich finals coincide with the NCAA championship game on April 7, but tastings have slowed down a bit since the holidays. Feyerer said his New Year's resolution is to finish it by year's end.

He is betting on the already-famous Four Courser, a monstrosity involving pulled pork, a mac 'n' cheese waffle and bechamel, at the Ukrainian Village bar the Fifty/50.

"It's one people are raving about. Apparently it was on the Adam Richman show. Both people said it was delicious, but they couldn't move for like four hours afterward," Feyerer said.

"It'll be in the Final Four, I think."