The Humble Sandwich. A Perfect Game Day Food.
Tailgating is something of an art form. The food you make has to be enjoyed by all. But at the same time, you’ve got to have a personal style and touch to set your game day celebration apart from everyone else’s. So as we head into bowl season and playoffs time, we thought we’d round up the 10 Best Sandwiches that embody the true essence of tailgating (and homegating) food and culture—and while we’re at it, we thought we’d throw in a few tricks to help you make these puppies quickly and easily. Heated, unheated, grilled, marinated, layered—the many iterations of the sandwich—and they’re always perfectly portable and enjoyable. It’s another spectacular sport just watching these sandwiches (below) disappear from your table.
Note: All of these Top 10s have been specially selected for the smart homegater. These are sandwiches that can be pre-prepped —leaving you with more time to enjoy your fellow fans, friends, and family.
There are many reasons why pulled pork makes our Top 10. First, you can bake, smoke, or braise your seasoned pork butt days in advance, so there isn’t a crazy, anxiety-inducing rush on game day morning. And it happens to reheat remarkably well. Did we mention how yummy pulled pork is? It’s sure to please.
We couldn’t help but notice the latest trend found at the best barbecue houses of North Carolina. They’re serving their pulled pork on Kings Hawaiian buns. We don’t mind that one bit. After all, those buns are soft, sweet, and they soak up just enough of the pulled pork juice to make them extra dangerous. Slap a little coleslaw on top and dig in. They’re literally insanely good.
Check out our recipe for a BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich here.
This is another highly respectable recipe we enjoy.
THE FRENCH DIP
Funny enough, this sandwich wasn’t born in France. Instead, it was born literally down the street from the old LA Colosseum. French Dips are a perfect tailgating food because just like their close cousins from Philadelphia, the shaved steak can be precooked and reheated at the game on sheet trays. Grab a bunch of Portugese Rolls and a thermos for pouring the hot jus. (We usually save just a bit of jus for drinking, especially on cold game days. Mmm!)
PRO TIP: Don’t forget that you can usually find the most evenly marbled shaved steak at your local Korean market.
Check out one of our favorite French Dip recipes here.
THE BREAKFAST BURRITO
If done right, it’s tough to say if there is a more delicious and easy-to-eat food than the breakfast burrito. OK, so it’s technically not a “sandwich” per se, but we feel it fits in with the category just fine. It’s eggs, sausage, grilled onions, avocado, and molten cheese all wrapped up in piping hot goodness. Our favorite tactic for game day breakfast burrito perfection is to fill a sheet pan of these the night before, individually wrapping each burrito in tin foil. You can then unpack and reheat them in a steam tray or directly on the grill on game day.
Final thought: the breakfast burrito is easily the best conduit for hot sauce since the Baja fish taco.
Here’s an easy-to-follow recipe for a breakfast burrito, complete with a video.
THE ITALIAN COMBO
Absolutely, hands-down—this is one of our faves. It’s got so much texture, is perfectly salty (but not overly salty, thanks to the tasty Italian meats), and is incredibly satisfying. What’s the secret ingredient that makes them so damn good? The best Italian combos of the Bronx, Brooklyn, Jersey, and Staten Island (the best places to get Italian combos in the US) use…wait for it…aged provolone cheese. You get that along with sliced hard salami, ham, capocola (also known as capicola or coppa), roasted red peppers, shredded lettuce, and Italian dressing (or sometimes oil and vinegar). That cheese marries everything together better than dentures and hockey. We like ours on a sesame seed crusted roll.
How to make one of these for your game day crowd? Look no further than here.
THE PHILLY CHEESESTEAK
Add the Philly Cheesesteak to the list of sandwiches that can be made earlier (or ahead) and reheated for the tailgate. Simply cover it in one layer of wax paper and then one layer of aluminum foil, and you’ll get the same effect as waiting for an hour in front of Pat’s. These sandwiches are best served on soft hoagie rolls with thinly sliced grilled steak, grilled, and chopped onions and mushrooms, and a combo of Cheese Whiz and thinly sliced provolone. (Hold the Cheese Whiz if you’re not into processed cheese). Don’t forget the pickled hot cherry peppers for an extra kick and a nod to the king. #ginosforever
Need a recipe for a good cheesesteak? We got you.
THE BRUNCH BURGER
Cooking and serving a brunch burger successfully is all about one thing: the nonstick pan. Why? Because with all you’ve got going on, a nonstick pan is the only way to execute this sandwich without wanting to cry. We love this burger any time of day, but there really is no better burger to have in the morning, nor a better companion for a beer cocktail such as a Michelada, than a large grilled beef burger with a healthy scoop of guacamole on top on it, which is then topped with a fried egg. Pass the Sriracha and we can get to the good part.
There’s many ways to make this burger and make it well. We like this recipe.
First, yes, we know that this is a stretch when you’re talking sandwiches. But you didn’t seem to have an issue with the breakfast burrito now did you? 😉Fajitas also get served on a tortilla, and so for this reason, we’re counting it. Secondly, yes, we also know that we’ve all been eating fajitas since our parents were bringing us to TGI Fridays for those sizzling skillets back in the day. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that fajitas are still a perfect BYO food for your game day tailgate or homegate. Our favorite add-on items are charred jalapeños, crunchy shredded lettuce, sour cream, chopped black olives and, of course, bacon (like how we like it on everything else, naturally).
Here’s a super easy and delicious game day-friendly recipe we love.
A New Orleans staple, the muffuletta is kind of a huge wedge/wheel almost Italian sandwich with a bunch of chopped olives, garlic, and oil that brings it all home. The bread we’ve been using for these in the North East is usually some kind of while boule, sliced through its equator. Layer the ingredients, then tightly wrap in tin foil for game-time snacking. Flip it every once in a while to reach olive flavor equilibrium prior to cutting like a pizza and serving.
We feature a crazy yummy Muffuletta sandwich recipe in our game day cookbook, and you can watch Daina make it here.
If Emeril is your go-to New Orleans cuisine guru, then click here for his recipe.
THE CUBAN SANDWICH
90 nautical miles (or 103 regular miles) away from Florida sits Cuba, a nation that has shared with us many a delectable dish. But none moreso than one of our favorites, the Cuban Sandwich—or the Cubano as we’ve seen it listed. This sandwich is so versatile, it can easily be made both ahead of game day or at the tailgate in real time. The key to this sandwich lies in its ingredients (chicken cutlet, cured ham, pickles, and mayo). Also critical is the final preparation: the sandwich should be finished on a griddle with a ton of butter. (You can purchase a griddle pan and place it on your grill at the tailgate). Done well, this sandwich can stand confidently by itself. That said, we love to serve it with a pickle.
PRO TIP: We like to use the heated bottom of a skillet to squish the top down like you see in the photo above for even melty goodness.
Here is a pretty good Cubano recipe.
THE TRI-TIP SANDWICH
The Tri-Tip sandwich was born to tailgate or homegate. It’s a non-fussy, condiment-free meat lover’s heaven. All you need is some marinated steak, a grill, and a few ciabatta buns. The marinade can be anything from Worchestershire sauce with honey to balsamic vinegar with olive oil. Just don’t forget to have your grill on full blast and those buns waiting open for that hot grilled meat.
PRO TIP: Serve the Tri-Tip topped with some grilled or marinated red onions. YUM.
Find one of our favorite recipes for this delicious sandwich here.