March Madness tips off this week with college basketball teams battling for the No. 1 spot in the nation. But you don't have to live and breathe hoops to cheer on restaurants vying for Iowa's best pulled pork sandwich.
Pulled Pork Madness has returned for a sixth year. The Iowa Pork Producers Association competition follows a bracket-style narrowing process similar to the NCAA Tournament. The "Sweet 16" matchups were posted late Monday.
The bracket is based on fan nominations submitted earlier this month. So even if your NCAA bracket is busted early, you can still get a taste of victory by helping to crown some legendary pulled pork. Pork lovers have until 10 a.m. Friday, March 17 to determine who moves on to the next round. Other voting deadlines are March 22 to decide the "Final Four" and March 27 to choose the championship bracket. The title round ends March 30, with the winner announced March 31.
The public can cast their votes through IPPA's Facebook page or on the Pulled Pork Madness webpage during each round. Also, keep up with the contest on social media using the #PulledPorkMadness hashtag.
IPPA received 158 nominations for 63 Iowa restaurants in the contest. The "Sweet 16" bracket was seeded based on the two restaurants with the most votes in each of IPPA's eight districts.
"This contest is great at highlighting delicious pork on menus across the state," said Hannah Spurr, IPPA's consumer outreach director. "Iowans know a mouthwatering pulled pork sandwich when they bite into one. We're asking them to lead us to the showstoppers."
Restaurants in the "Sweet 16" are:
• District 1: Buffalo Joe's Roadhouse, Smithland, vs. The Roadhouse, Orange City
• District 2: Birdies, Burgers & Brews, Graettinger, vs. Smoke N Firehouse No. 20, Ringsted
• District 3: Flip's, Waterloo, vs. The Pub at the Pinicon, New Hampton
• District 4: Backwoods Bar and Grill, McGregor, vs. Moski's BBQ, Cascade
• District 5: Boxer Barbeque, Council Bluffs, vs. The Buck Snort Restaurant, Neola
• District 6: The Lucky Pig Pub & Grill, Ogden, vs. ShortE's BBQ, Johnston
• District 7: Bubba-Q's, Ottumwa, vs. The Flying Elbow, Marshalltown
• District 8: Pop's BBQ, Iowa City, vs. Sugarfire Smoke House, Cedar Rapids
The top vote-getter will receive $250 and a "Pulled Pork Madness" plaque.
Previous winners include Starbeck's Smokehouse in Cedar Falls (2022); Smokin' Butt Barbeque in Davenport (2021); Whatcha Smokin? BBQ + Brew in Luther (2020); Warehouse Barbecue Co. + Brewhouse in Ottumwa (2019); and Moo's BBQ in Newton (2018).