Twelve houses, 12 names, and 12 dif­ferent dishes. But only one winner.

This Sat­urday I attended the Student Activ­ities Board Taste of Manning event, and I came ready to eat. 

First up on the block was Paul House, which isn’t even located on Manning Street, but SAB invited them to compete all the same.

“I didn’t know it was a com­pe­tition,” said junior Vic­toria Nuñez, the Paul House head res­ident assistant. “But it’s nice because everyone here is basi­cally our neighbor and we’re friends with all of them.”

Paul House’s station was home to a big crockpot of chili with every pos­sible chili topping. On the chili scale, designed by yours truly, it may have scored even better than my mom’s own chili (just don’t tell her).

Next up was Graceland, whose name and peanut butter banana cre­ations honored the one and only Elvis Presley. They had three stacks of three dif­ferent types of toasted peanut butter and banana sand­wiches: peanut butter and banana; peanut butter, banana, and bacon; and peanut butter, grape jelly, banana, and bacon.

“I didn’t even want to try and make it at first,” said senior Eliz­abeth Bachmann. “But it was so good.”

After this taste-test, all I can say is that if you’ve never had a toasted peanut butter sandwich, you’ll be in the Heart­break Hotel and should add it to the top of your foodie list.

Farther down the block were Burt House and Waffle House. Burt House had three pans of Texas sheet cake: two chocolate, and one white. If this is actually what the cake tastes like in Texas, then I may or may not be sub­mitting a transfer application.

Senior Madison Van­de­grift, a Burt House res­ident, was excited to make the sheet cake because it’s her mom’s go-to recipe.

“One of the reasons I wanted to live on Manning was because my freshman year they did a similar event to this,” Van­de­grift said. “I just loved being able to walk down here and see all the houses. Also, I’m a dessert girl, so I was very excited to make this cake.”

Waffle House, like Graceland, also stayed true to their namesake. They served up two types of waffles: black­berry with lemon curd, and straw­berries and cream.

After Waffle House came Fratican, which had one of the more per­plexing dishes. They had three plates of dif­ferent types of stuffed mush­rooms, but even after my second lap around the block, the plates were empty. Either the mush­rooms were out of this world, or they simply didn’t serve any food at all. The men of Fratican declined to comment, so I’ll leave it up to your imagination.

The last house on the east side of the street was Riverside. They also served bite-sized por­tions in little Dixie cups, but this time it was homemade carnitas.

“I had never expe­ri­enced the Taste of Manning; the last people that had are the current seniors,” said junior and SAB Big Event Leader Luciya Katcher. “I loved how enthu­si­astic all of the houses were about par­tic­i­pating in the event. Everyone was super excited to show off their culinary skills, which is some­thing that a lot of stu­dents don’t have the oppor­tunity to do.”

All morning a live band per­formed at the end of the block, and by the time I made it to the end, they were switching out per­formers. The band Vis­iting Hours and had a “vis­iting guest,” senior Michaela Stiles. SAB’s own student activ­ities director Zane Mabry ‘20 even per­formed with the group.

“That was actually a sur­prise I didn’t know that he was doing,” Katcher said. “He had a blast and absolutely enjoyed the event. He loves all the events and loves his job, and it’s really great to have a director that’s enthu­si­astic about throwing himself into the atmos­phere of the event.”

After pausing to enjoy the music, and to let my food digest momen­tarily, it was time to move on and con­tinue my short-term career as a food critic.

The first house on the west side was Stables, which had massive pans and crockpots full of breaded chicken and mashed potatoes. Stables wasn’t afraid to go the comfort route, and served massive scoops of potato and chicken. To put it bluntly, I wouldn’t be upset if Stables took over the Comfort section of Bon Appetit.

Next up was Lodge. While all the Lodge men played cornhole on the front lawn, I went to try their corn­bread and chili. They were also out of food, though they had an empty stained crockpot to prove it.

After­wards came Duplex and Skyfall, who both served tor­tilla chips and gua­camole. I’m not sure if they served the same guac, but regardless, I could’ve eaten the entire bowl.

“It was really nice to see even alumni or people that worked at the college come to the event,” Katcher said. “They all seemed to have a really great time, and it brought back some of the mem­ories of having that event because it’s been so long since we had it, so that makes it very fun for people of all ages.”

West Egg, sim­i­larly to Paul House, was also invited to compete, and had its own booth set up in the middle of the road. They served up beer cheese and tor­tilla chips and gave out massive portions. 

Along this road I asked mul­tiple stu­dents what their favorite parts about Taste of Manning were, since most of them had attended the event for the first time in their college careers.

“There’s good food, good bands, and there’s a lot of diversity in the tastes of each house,” said sophomore Isaac Wilhelm. “It’s not just a bunch of candy, or, you know, all cake. You got your chili, and your guac, but also waffles.”

If given the chance in the future, Wilhelm would absolutely compete in Taste of Manning, he said.

“If I was in Taste of Manning, I’d make those scones that you get in Saga because those are really yummy,” Wilhelm said. “But I’d probably just take them from Saga and give them out.”

The final house on Manning Street was Jungle, which served homemade sausage. If you were able to make your way around the whole street, you’d be set until dinner. Between the chili, potatoes, and cake, Manning Street gave a 12-course lunch, com­plete with coffee and water from SAB.

But as everyone knows, there can only be one winner.

This year, the 2021 winner of Taste of Manning was Waffle House. They stayed true to their roots, and won the com­pe­tition with their golden waffles and cre­ative toppings. 

Although Waffle House won, there was a dif­ferent winner in my book.

The toasted bacon and peanut butter per­plexed me, but was also the best food com­bi­nation I think I’ve ever expe­ri­enced. Like most, I couldn’t help falling in the love with these sand­wiches, and I think the Elvis cutout on the porch would agree.

Graceland, you had my vote.