Sixteen Iowa restaurants are now in the brackets for a full-on competition to find Iowa's best pulled pork sandwich. The month-long contest sponsored by the Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA) mimics the March Madness college basketball tournament craze and will follow the same narrowing process that gets restaurants to the "Elite 8" and "Final Four."
However, in this case, it will be fans who determine the winner as Iowans vote on the restaurant in the competition which they think serves the best pulled pork sandwich. The play-offs will be fast and furious, with voting deadlines of March 18, March 21, March 25 and March 28. The winner will be announced March 29.
Restaurants in the Sweet 16 by district are:
1 Iowa BBQ Co, Le Mars
1 Smokin' Hereford BBQ, Storm Lake
2 Vinny's BBQ, Dakota City
2 Edgewater BBQ, Emmetsburg
3 Blue Barn BBQ, Cedar Falls
3 Starbeck's, Cedar Falls
4 Backwood's BBQ, McGregor
4 Dotzy's Restaurant & Saloon, Elgin
5 Twisted Tail Steakhouse & Saloon, Beebeetown
5 The Full Nelson, Halbur
6 Bett & Bev's BBQ, Jefferson
6 Short E's BBQ, Johnston
7 Warehouse Barbecue Co + Brewhouse, Ottumwa
7 Lynnville's Smokin' J's BBQ, Lynnville
8 Smilee's, DeWitt
8 Sweet 'N Saucy, Fairfield
IPPA Consumer Outreach Director Kelsey Byrnes initially invited the org's Facebook followers during the first week of March to nominate the Iowa restaurant they feel has the best pulled pork sandwich and 1,150 people responded. Pork fans nominated 80 restaurants and Byrnes then selected the top two vote-getters in each of IPPA's eight districts to fill out the "Sweet 16" bracket.
Fans will be able to vote on both IPPA's website, iowapork.org, and by following the org's Facebook page.
"We hold this social media contest to attract new pork fans and remind people that there are restaurants in all parts of Iowa that offer really great barbecue pork," Byrnes said.
Along with bragging rights, the winning restaurant will receive $250 and a "Pulled Pork Madness" plaque.