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Backstreet repeats as chowder champ

Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune

Backstreet Bar and Grill’s Stacey Miller, center, triumphantly holds the Clam Chowder Cook-Off trophy after winning it for the second year in a row Saturday. From left are Sugar Pine Smokehouse’s Lisa Gill, The Waffle Spot’s Kim Praytor, Miller, Robs Bayside BBQ Rob Hyatt and Black Bear Diner’s Jerry Rodriguez.


More than 200 people came out to judge some of Madera’s best clam chowder and voted Backstreet Bar and Grill their favorite for the second straight year.

The Waffle Spot hosted six restaurants — The Waffle Spot, Backstreet, Sugar Pine Smokehouse, Vineyard, Black Bear Diner and Rob’s Barbecue — for the second annual Clam Chowder Cook-off on Saturday.

“I love this,” The Waffle Spot owner Kim Praytor said. “It went so much smoother than last year. Everyone is having a good time. It’s just an awesome time. I feel great about it. I can’t wait until the next one.”

At the end of the two one-hour sessions Saturday afternoon, the overwhelming favorite was Backstreet Bar and Grill.

“The competition is fierce in Madera,” Backstreet owner Stacy Miller said. “We love each other so much that if anyone of us wins, it’s good. I have the bragging rights two years in a row. It’s awesome.”

The event started after restaurant owners boasted their clam chowder was the best and decided to hold a contest to figure out who would receive bragging rights.

“I think it’s fantastic,” Steve Copland said. “The only problem is this is a tough decision because they were all so good. It was great. I would like to see the community do more things like this. I was here earlier and it was a great turnout. This is a great community event.”

Originally, clam chowder wasn’t on the Backstreet menu, but after back-to-back wins, clam chowder Fridays will be more of a permanent fixture.

“Luck is the key thing and a lot of butter, cream and clams,” Miller said. “That’s the key to good clam chowder.”

Overall, the atmosphere was relaxed and it’s a way for community members to interact with the restaurants.

“It’s really great. It’s fun that we’re able to be more out in the community where it’s not just us inside the restaurant,” said Sugar Pine general manager Lisa Gill. “The fun thing about today is the other part of our staff is out here. People are able to know them. They get to know the people who make what they are coming in to have. Most of the time, they see us in the front of the house. Now, it’s an opportunity to see the back of the house.”

Although ticket sales weren’t as high as the first year, Praytor is energized by what she saw and is looking for more opportunities to allow restaurants to shine.

“Next year, we will have a few more tables set up,” she said. “We learned from last year for this year. We will learn from this year for next year. Every year it will get better. By the time I get done with it in five years, it will be the Central Valley’s Clam Chowder Cook-Off. In the fall, I’m going to do a chile verde cook-off. I’m going to try to get the Mexican restaurants involved. My next one is in the fall when it’s not to cold. It’s a little warm out here today.”

“It’s very nice. Kim did a very nice job organizing this,” Gill said. “She did this on her own, which is very appreciative. She did all the legwork for it. It turned out to be a great event.”


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