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By Rebecca Fiedler
Could Vitek’s BBQ be the best college dive in the nation? The Cooking Channel wants visitors to their website to make that decision, as Vitek’s has been included in cookingchanneltv.com’s Bracket Battle for best college eats.
The Gut Pak, a signature meal from Vitek’s, will go head-to-head in the online polls against dishes from college towns all across the United States. The competition features meals such as the Phat Lady of restaurant Hoagie Haven in the Princeton University area, and the Ho Burger with Cheddar Tots – a dish from the University of Kentucky students’ local dive, Tolly-Ho. Visitors to the Cooking Channel’s website can vote from multiple devices, once per device per day, in the battling brackets for the restaurant dish they think is the best.
Vitek’s has seen media attention before, said Vitek’s general manager Ryan Summers. It was featured in the September 2011 issue of Texas Monthly magazine for the article “20 Reasons to Love College Football.” Summers said he now hopes to rally support for this online face-off. Vitek’s served Gut Paks at a recent Baylor men’s basketball game and threw numerous flyers around.
“We’re really trying to get Baylor and the local community and all of Waco behind us so that we can try and pull this off,” Summers said. “Because it’s good for us, but it’s also good for Waco and it’s good for Baylor.”
Vitek’s was rated highly on a blog post on BuzzFeed about favorite college restaurants. It’s attention and ratings like this that got Vitek’s into the current competition. Alison Sickelka, site manager for cookingchanneltv.com, said she took part in the selection process of which foods would be competitors in the Bracket Battle. She said she and her colleagues did a lot of research before choosing Vitek’s. Sickelka saw Vitek’s recommended on a blog post and then cross-referenced it. She and her colleagues looked up reviews on websites such as Yelp.com, and many people said Vitek’s was a must-have for Baylor students.
The Bracket Battle was born out of Cooking Channel’s desire to do something for March Madness, Sickelka said. The winner of the contest will be announced in a blog post on the Cooking Channel website April 6, though there is no physical reward for winning the competition.
“There’s no prize other than pride,” Sickelka said.
Earlier in the battle, one restaurant representing the University of Memphis in the online competition had a dish that was a barbecue pizza, Sickelka said, but Vitek’s is the only barbecue restaurant still in the competition.
Summers said some people have been raised eating at Vitek’s. Other supporters of the restaurant include students who will graduate from Baylor and move elsewhere. She said these alumni will eat something somewhere else and reminisce, saying, “This is good, but it’s not as good as Vitek’s.”
“Every town’s going to have that local barbecue restaurant that everybody remembers,” Summers said. “For Baylor students, it was Vitek’s.”
When it comes to competition, Vitek’s is keeping its eye on teams with big support, Summers said. The University of Kentucky’s restaurant has many votes; 29,276 at the close of the Sweet Sixteen round of the battle, and Summers said he finds that daunting. Voting for the Elite 8 is open online, and the Gut Pak is still in the running and currently up against Papa Del’s Stuffed Pizza, which is representing patrons from the University of Illinois. To vote in the competition for a dish, visit http://blog.cookingchanneltv.com and scroll down to the March 27 entry.