Proving itself to be the real deal, Marquette’s own Real Chili was named second in the Cooking Channel’s Best College Eats Bracket Competition last Friday. The contest pitted 32 campus eatery dishes in an NCAA basketball-style tournament, with online polling used to advance entries to the next round.
Real Chili’s entry to the contest was “The Marquette,” described by the Cooking Channel as a “bowl of spaghetti topped with beef chili, chopped onions and heaping portions of cheddar and sour cream.” To be considered a “college staple,” the competing restaurants had to be physically close to their respective campuses and offer prices considered reasonable for students.
Vitek’s BBQ, a restaurant at Baylor University, came in first with its “Gut Pak,” a “plate of corn chips, beans, cheddar and two kinds of meat smoked on site”, beating Real Chili by 990 votes. The final tally was 15,025 votes for Vitek’s BBQ and 14,035 for Real Chili.
Phil Salvucci, the manager for Real Chili’s Marquette location, said the company did not know it was in the competition until a Marquette employee told him on March 16th.
“We were so excited to be in the bracket and reach second place because of our great customers,” Salvucci said.
Real Chili managed to win over restaurants representing the University of Kansas, the University of Kentucky, Baylor University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, to name a few.
“Our first competition was against the University of Wisconsin-Madison and their restaurant Babcock Ice Cream,” he said. “It was great to have that first win.”
Ben Petr, senior in the College of Business Administration and Real Chili customer, said he continues to eat at Real Chili because it offers something different.
“Being from Nebraska, it’s nice to see something familiar,” Petr said. “I like that taste, and the chili tastes a little different from back home.”
Petr said he recommends Real Chili to anyone who likes a different spin on a classic dish.
“The taste is real, just like the name,” he said. “It has to be good, or I wouldn’t keep coming back.”
While the Cooking Channel described Real Chili as a Marquette “campus staple,” that sentiment is not shared by all students. Eliza Buffington, a senior in the College of Education, has only gone to Real Chili once.
“All I got was a bowl of chili,” she said. “Many of my friends say it’s like fast food, but not as cheap.”
Salvucci said he hopes to integrate new events for customers in the weeks to come to thank them for the support they showed the restaurant during its tournament run.
“Our supporters have been so great, and although we were disappointed about not coming in first, we still have a lot to be proud of,” he said.