THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

East Coast Grill tops Munch bunch

By Devra First
Globe Staff / April 7, 2010

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Over the last month, we’ve seen agony and ecstasy, victory and defeat. I’m talking about Munch Madness, of course, our tournament of restaurants. Mirroring the NCAA’s March Madness, but tastier than basketball, it pitted 64 establishments against one another to determine the fan favorite. The championship round closed on Monday. A total of 167,000 votes were cast.

And the winner is . . . East Coast Grill. The Cambridge restaurant celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, and this victory shows why it’s been so long lived. People love the place.

It beat competitor Hungry Mother by 182 votes out of 1,432. The final contest wasn’t pretty. On Saturday, someone sent a dead fish, a six-pack of Miller High Life, and a threatening note to East Coast Grill. The note read: “To ECG: Drop out of the contest now or you will really know what Hell Night is!’’

If it was Hungry Mother, co-owner Rachel Miller Munzer isn’t fessing up. She e-mailed to say: “Around 5:30 today someone sent [a note] to the East Coast Grill, with a box of beer and a fish skeleton. Then, by 6:15, as retaliation (they must have thought it was us — how dare they!?!), the East Coast Grill delivered us the prize pictured in the attached photo with a bottle of Fernet.’’ Said “prize’’ was . . . a pig’s head.

We assume the two Cambridge restaurants will be able to move forward in peace.

Over the course of the tournament, top seeds Toro and Craigie on Main fell earlier than expected. Barbecue joint Redbones almost took down Barbara Lynch’s No. 9 Park. And again and again, restaurants that offer fun and value triumphed over the hallowed halls of fine dining.

Thanks to everyone for playing, and congratulations to East Coast Grill. You’ll be receiving a lovely trophy in the coming weeks.