The Ultimate 2020 Yale Dining Dinner Bracket

Bracket with image cutouts on top

There is a world where all foods live happily together in harmony—where clam chowder and buffalo chicken pizza shake hands, where sweet potato quesadillas and bowls of ramen sing kumbaya, where every dish gets a trophy.

That is not this world. Two weeks ago, my suite and I decided to spend one evening mapping out our 16 favorite dinners that Yale Dining had prepared this semester and to face them against each other in the ultimate competition, a feud as bloody and old as a medium-rare, 14-day-dry-aged steak. This is the 2020 Yale Dining Dinner Bracket.

Meet the Judges:

Major: Economics
Likes: Fozzy Dance Choreography and Beavis and Butthead
Hometown: Westport, Connecticut

girl in front of cows
Major: Computer Science
Likes: Trivia and Ketchup
Hometown: Centerport, Long Island

boy in sofa outside
Major: History
Likes: Hiking and Puzzles
Hometown: Fairbanks, Alaska

boy in christmas sweater with glasses
Major: Economics
Likes: Creative writing and Arnold Schwarzenegger
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois

Alec (yours truly)
boy sitting in purple blow-up chair
Major: Humanities
Likes: Disneyland and static electricity hair
Hometown: Los Angeles, California

A Note About the Competition

Emily, our super-star economist seeded and structured the bracket. We then voted on our favorite dishes. With five judges, a dish only needed a vote of three to move on. In this single-elimination bracket, winners faced off against each other until we were left with one, our champion. Please enjoy my very biased, post-game recap of this thrilling competition!

Round 1: The Sexy Sixteen

best dinners 16-seed bracket

Lamb Burger vs San Francisco Style Korean Fried Chicken
Sorry, SF. This one is a no-brainer. In my not-so-humble opinion, the Lamb Burger is one of the single best dishes that Yale Dining offers. I have a feeling this is going to be a heavy contender. A perfectly seasoned patty with a delicious spread of house-made sauce wrapped between a wonderfully warmed pita. Peace out, chicken!
Winner: Lamb Burger

Grilled Cheese vs Beef Bulgogi 
At this point, our guest judge, Katherine, swooped in with some pretty strong words in favor of Grilled Cheese. She reminded us that it’s an American Classic! It’s melty, it’s gooey, it’s prepared with a side of Dijon mustard and the sweetest little pickles you’ve ever munched on. And it’s sending Beef Bulgogi home crying.
Winner: Grilled Cheese

Buffalo and BBQ Chicken Wings vs BBQ Chicken Breast
A very close competition, but Kobe did point out the sauce-to-meat ratio was a bit more spot-on with the chicken breast, so it barely edged the wings out.
Winner: BBQ Chicken Breast

BBQ Ribs vs Thanksgiving Dinner
These ribs—they are something else, let me tell you. After they blessed my mouth that random Wednesday evening, I told my suitemates again and again that it was the best darn meal that Yale Dining offers. This dish—no, this EXPERIENCE—is my pick. This is my hero. This is my happy place. I will fight and fight to get these saucy, juicy mouthfuls with a side of sweet cornbread and baked beans into the final round. Nate in a fit of vengeance tried to eliminate them, but luckily, they still made it through.
Winner: BBQ Ribs

Charred Turkey Burger vs Chicken Marsala
What came first, the chicken or the egg? Who cares. The real question is what came first the chicken or the turkey? And that well-seasoned, well-charred patty beats the sauced-up chicken breast to the finish line any day of the week.
Winner: Charred Turkey Burger

Grilled Salmon vs Cheeseburger
Yes, it’s a burger. And, yes, it does come with a side of salted steak fries, but we had to give this one to the Alpha and the Omega (3) of fish dishes.
Winner: Grilled Salmon

Lo Mein and Dumplings vs Pork Loin
No competition. Noodles AND dumplings?! I mean, come on! Get the pork outta here.
Winner: Lo Mein and Dumplings

Chicken Tikka Masala vs Breakfast for Dinner
Okay, it’s true that Yale consistently knocks their Indian food out of the park. BUT in the case of BFD (Breakfast For Dinner), we’re talking pancakes. We’re talking whipped cream and blueberry compote. We’re talking egg, cheese, and bacon breakfast sandwiches. AT NIGHT. Another heavy contender and all-time fan favorite. We expect big things out of this dish.
Winner: Breakfast for Dinner

Round 2: The Elite Eight

16-seed dinner bracket

Lamb Burger vs Barbeque Chicken Breast
Another handsome victory for the one-and-only Lamb Burger! This burger is too good to fail! Semis here we go!
Winner: Lamb Burger

Grilled Cheese vs Ribs
There are some moments in life where time just stands still. Everything around you fades to black. Sound dissolves, and at the same time you are acutely aware of everything and nothing. For some it happens amidst catastrophe. For others in near-death experiences. For me, it happened when Ribs got beaten out by Grilled Cheese. I hang my head in shame. I hang my head in shame.
Winner: (it pains me to say) Grilled Cheese

Charred Turkey Burger vs Chicken Lo Mein and Dumplings
In all honesty, I’m still pretty torn up about the Ribs. urkey Burger won this round, which it should have, but still—Grilled Cheese is good and all. It really is, but the RIBS. I thought about those ribs for three days straight after that competition. I can make grilled cheese on my own at 3am in 5 min flat. But a good rack of ribs? Those can take you all day. Not to @ anybody, but I have no clue how Emily, Nate, and Greta could have been so shortsighted, here. This is probably—no, easily—this is easily the angriest I’ve ever been at them.
Winner: Charred Turkey Burger

Grilled Salmon vs Breakfast for Dinner
And Breakfast for Dinner destroys its competition, once again! It seems that this dish cannot lose.
Winner: Breakfast for Dinner

Round 3: Semifinals

Lamb Burger vs Charred Turkey Burger
Okay, I pivoted hard. All of my cards are in the Lamb Burger basket. If Lamb Burger doesn’t make it all the way, then Ribs lost for nothing. The lamb is just so delicious. Oh, and did I mention that sometimes it comes with a side of sweet potato fries? Championships here we go!
Winner: Lamb Burger

Grilled Cheese vs Breakfast for Dinner
Time to avenge my ribs! Let’s get Grilled Cheese out of here. It’s gone too far for too long. You want melty cheese? The breakfast sandwich’s got that plus a perfectly runny egg yolk, plus bacon.
Winner: Breakfast for Dinner

Round 4: The Final Bite

final yale dinner bracket

Lamb Burger vs Breakfast for Dinner
Emily and I fought and fought to keep Lamb Burger in the running. “Just think of the, the meat, the toasted pita, the creamy sauce!” But neither Kobe, Nate, nor Greta could be persuaded. We tried to tell them they were overvaluing the novelty of pancakes after sunset and undervaluing the seasoning of that lamb patty, but they shut their ears and looked away. And like that, Breakfast for Dinner swept the competition and won the highly prestigious honor of Best Dinner at Yale Dining.
Winner: Breakfast for Dinner

Concluding Remarks

This may have been one of the most fun, most intense dinner activities of my life. We laughed; we yelled; we sulked over Ribs’ shocking defeat (okay, that last one was just me). As I’ve mentioned in a few past articles, we Yale students really value our meals. Eating is a communal activity, one that brings us together, makes us closer. And, apparently, it also encourages highly contested, cut-throat bracket competitions. So thank you, Yale Dining!