How to Throw the Ultimate Football Tailgate
By Ioli Baltas
The upcoming cool weather marks a change in seasons and the return of our most beloved season—Football Season. Across the country, stadiums fill with enthusiastic, spirited fans ready to cheer their team onto victory. But before the players even arrive and before the game ever begins, those fans are in parking lots, communing over food, drink and their shared love for the team.
Here at Hungry Fan, we’ve compiled our top tips for throwing the most successful football tailgate for you and your friends.
First things first, let’s talk about the most important part of the tailgating experience—that is, after our “Three F’s”: Friends, Family and Football, of course. We’re talking talking about game day food and drink. Keeping everyone happily chewing away—and just happy altogether—is a key part of being a great tailgate host.
Tailgating Hall of Famer and diehard Bears fan, Tim Shanley, has some great ideas when it comes to tailgating prep—especially when it comes to game day food. His top advice: Think quick and convenient; finger food all the way. Your guests should be able to stand and eat, hold their drink and socialize at the same time.
We concur. But there is absolutely something to be said for our tailgating food go-to’s, which include grilled anything including wings, hot dogs, burgers, and sausages—all served with tasty sides and a variety of dips. May we suggest some crowd favorites? Try our Bacon Guacamole, BBQ Sauce atop your favorite protein, our Tailgate Supreme Burger or our Bacon Cheddar Jalapeño Cornbread. (You may have noticed 2/4 recommendations include bacon. You can never go wrong with bacon).
And because even non-athletes need to carb-load on game day (listen, cheering is exercise, ok?), don’t forget a side of Pasta Salad.
Last but not least, never forget to show off your team spirit in the sweet and delectable form of cupcakes, brownies and other crowd-pleasing desserts. On game day, the bottom line is you’ve got be serving up anything and everything to keep your guest salivating! The key to their happiness is through their stomachs.
Game Day Gear for Cooking
While some may wish it did, let’s just be clear that tailgate food doesn’t cook itself. It’s therefore necessary for any tailgate host to be very well prepared because, after all, a parking lot is not an ideal location to get stuck without supplies. A portable grill and grilling tools are the centerpieces of any tailgating tool kit. You’ll always need them for making the meal—whether it’s burgers, wings, hot dogs, sausages and the like.
For any ready-made food, you’ll need a thermos and a cooler. Be sure to have a separate cooler for your alcoholic beverages and your raw meats! Don’t be foolish: Remember utensils, plates, cups and at least one bottle opener—the unsung hero in the tailgating community.
Whether it’s for sitting and eating or for creating a football food buffet, you and your friends will surely need a table. Foldable tables and chairs make the tailgating experience a breeze because of how easily they can be packed and transported.
To top it all off—literally—get yourself a tent because though we are entering the fall season, the sun can still feel unbearable and can burn you. And, for spirit’s sake, you can easily pick one up in your team’s colors. (Additional suggestion: apply and reapply sunscreen whenever you tailgate! Even in the fall and winter)!
No tailgate is complete without some entertaining and games. Popular tailgate games include ladder ball, catch, cornhole and beer pong. Don’t forget to set aside some of your solo cups for that game of classic beer pong. And also remember to bring a bluetooth speaker to play music or local sports news.
Something changed or didn’t go as planned, don’t panic! Be ready. Anything can happen on the day of the game and it’s best to be as prepared as you can with all the right supplies.
It can rain. So have ponchos and umbrellas. As aforementioned, the sun can get quite hot—so be sure to pack sunscreen. Or the opposite can happen and temperatures can drop and it can get very cold so think about bringing extra layers, gloves or even bringing along a space heater. (Note: do not use a space heater outside if there is any precipitation whatsoever). You’re better bet is to bring along a bunch of the hand and toe heaters people use for skiing and strategically place them where you’re cold.
And the worst fear of all: Someone can get hurt at your tailgate so never ever forget a first aid kit.
Most importantly, on game day your number one priority should be to have fun and show off your team spirit. Think about painting your car, your face, your food, and even your kids! (Just be sure to read our blog about safe paints to use before you go all Monet on yourself and others).