Rae Lynn was so busy making the most of the dog days of summer that she almost missed the start of the college football season. I said almost. Yes, I missed sitting in the stands, but I saw several games on TV. And watching LSU and TCU battle it out in the Cowboy Classic—while eating shrimp à New Orleans’ Pasquale Manale’s—inspired some fresh ideas about tailgate food.
Tailgating food often revolves around the predictable: burgers, brats, chips, dips and a choice of beer, beer or beer to drink. But that’s for tailgaters who want to warm the bench. If you want your tailgate party to score big and win fans, you need to step up your game.
One way to make your football tailgate food a standout is to take your cue from the local food movement sweeping the country. What cuisine reflects your region and your team’s traditions?
Choose a delicious main dish native to your area—burritos in Arizona, bison burgers in Montana—then add a full menu of complementary dishes.
For example, Wisconsin Badgers grill up bratburgers. (Yes, those are burgers made entirely of brats.) And Nebraska Cornhuskers always serve corn on the cob.
Swizzle Trick: In addition to thinking locally, choose foods that fit your school colors too. That may require some extra creativity for blue food, but remember: You’re doing it for the team!
Given that Rae Lynn hails from Nashville, I’m going to focus on the South to show you how it’s done. Here are some mouth-watering tailgating recipes and ideas that will give you bragging rights for weeks to come.
Florida Gators: Go Gators!
The Orange and Blue play in The Swamp, which is often hot and sticky and always
presided over by Albert the Alligator. ‘nuff said.
Outside The Swamp, tailgaters—or is that tailgators?—arrive hours if not days ahead of time to stake out the perfect spot.
And once they’re in place, they can rev up their celebrations with seafood and Cuban dishes.
Soup: Chilled avocado soup or warm jambalaya
Side salad: Avocado and orange salad
Dessert: Key lime squares
Drink: Screwdrivers or mimosas or anything with orange juice or—what else?—Gatorade
Georgia Bulldogs football: Go Dawgs!
When Georgia is on your mind, so are peaches, peanuts and pecans. Yum! Makes Rae Lynn want to head right down to Sanford Stadium to cheer for the Red and Black. And my pups can help me prep for the kickoff chant: “Goooooo … Dawgs! Sic ‘Em! Woof! Woof! Woof!”
Dessert: Peanut brittle, pecan pie or peach cobbler
Drinks: Coca-Cola (which ought to be the Georgia state drink), peach mojitos, bourbon and peach sweet tea and peach bellinis
Special touch: Vidalia onion rings
Alabama Crimson Tide football: Roll Tide!
Bama continues a football legacy and Nick Saban intends to keep it that way. But the 1930 team set the bar high: Its “Red Elephant” linemen allowed only 13 points all season. Of course, Saban can claim the 2009, 2011 and 2012 BCS and AP National Championships—and he’s not done yet. So what makes for a winning spread for a red-and-white checked tablecloth?
Side salad: Cole slaw or fried green tomatoes
Dessert: Fried peach or apple pie
Drink: Bloody Marys (think Crimson!), Alabama slammers or Mountain Dew
Special touch: Grits with butter and cream
Louisiana State Tigers: Geaux Tigers!
Baton Rouge lies between the foodie mecca of New Orleans and the Cajun capital of Lafayette. So Tigers’ fans can boast some of the most tempting tailgating food anywhere.
Don’t worry: You won’t have to share with Mike, the Bengal-Siberian tiger mix who earns his living as the team’s mascot.
Gumbo of any kind—seafood
, chicken and sausage or okra and filé
Dessert: Bread pudding squares, beignets or pralines
Tennessee Vols football: Go Vols!
Only two schools in the country can boast tailgaters in boats and Tennessee is one of them. (Comment below if you know the other!) Celebrate with a tailgate that honors Knoxville’s river tradition and the foods the state grows in abundance, include every kind of squash.
Dessert: Pumpkin cupcakes in stunning Orange and White
Drinks: Sweet tea, Tennessee Tea or anything with Tennessee Whiskey
Special touch: Hoe cakes (aka fried cornmeal flatbread) with a mess o’ greens
OK, Rae Lynn has covered a few schools in the South, but what about the rest? What’s your favorite tailgate food for football games at the best school in the country—yours? Drop us a line and let us know how you fuel up for big games!