The 10 Best Tailgating Foods
Tradition and Tailgating!
Football is all about traditions — getting the friends and family together, coordinating outfits to match team colors, and making the tastiest game day snacks for the tailgate. Tailgate parties are half the fun of game day, complete with games, music, drinks, and best of all, food. While all football lovers bring delicious bites for tailgating, some teams’ fans have one-of-a-kind game-day menus.
On a tour of American tailgates, you’ll find everything from cheesy hamburgers to buffalo wings, crab cakes, deer jerky, and even grilled alligator. Fans mix tradition and creativity to make the tastiest, most unique tailgate snacks as they cheer on their beloved players.
Check out the top 10 football tailgating foods for some of the country’s most popular college and national teams.
1. Louisiana State University & Barbecued Alligator
Louisiana is famous for its Creole-style cuisine, which blends French, Spanish, Native American and West African cooking traditions into a unique and flavorful palate. Throughout the state, you’ll find restaurants serving dishes like gumbo, jambalaya and étouffée. With that said, football fans have gotten even more creative with their game-day meals.
At LSU, fans have found a clever way to send a message to their opponents. When the University of Florida came to visit in 2015, LSU fans started grilling up whole alligators for their tailgates. In a gruesome display of team loyalty, you could find LSU fans chowing down on fresh alligator meat. And for all of you LSU fans reading this, you can get alligator meat from Feeser’s.
The Real-Life Tiger
Also in preparation for the game against Florida, the Twitter account for the LSU team mascot posted a picture of their real-life tiger, Mike, enjoying a meaty snack in the shape of an alligator. LSU fans have made a habit of feeding their tiger mascot meat in the shape of other teams’ logos. It sends a pretty clear message about what the visiting team should expect.
Mike might be the most threatening mascot of any college team. He’s a Bengal tiger who lives between LSU’s Tiger Stadium and Pete Maravich Assembly Center in a spacious habitat that you can watch on live cam via YouTube. He was a 2017 donation from a sanctuary in Florida. While grilled alligator may not be a popular tailgate dish every season, it definitely showed opponents who they should never mess with. Geaux Tigers!
2. Penn State & Berkey Creamery Ice Cream
Tailgaters at Penn State University (PSU) enjoy a sweeter tailgate food before each big game — creamy, cold, fresh ice cream straight from PSU’s own herd. You’ll have to stop by the official Berkey Creamery for the game-day snack. Berkey Creamery has been a local legend for over 150 years and concocts new ice cream flavors every season. They also sell savory cheese spreads and team-themed gifts like mugs, tumblers and cutting boards, so fans can show off their team pride. Every PSU fan makes a stop at Berkey Creamery from time to time.
Plenty of Flavors to Try
When ordering at Berkey Creamery, you can choose from classic and inventive flavors, such as “Death by Chocolate,” “Birthday Bash,” “Coconut Chip,” “Peanut Butter Cup” and “Raspberry Fudge.” One of the most popular choices is the “Alumni Swirl,” with vanilla ice cream, mocha chips and blueberry swirls. You could also indulge in a “Happy Happy Joy Joy” in the Happy Valley, which features coconut ice cream, roasted almonds and chocolate chips.
In total, the creamery boasts over 120 flavors with at least 20 in rotation at any given time. You can even request your ice cream flavors in a tasty fresh-baked cookie sandwich. Some options come as frozen yogurt for a lighter, lower-fat treat. No matter what your preference is, be sure to make a selection quick, or you’ll hold up tons of other tailgaters. And if you aren’t parked in Happy Valley, you can pick up a sweet treat in the Harrisburg area.
One of Berkey Creamery’s best sellers is not ice cream at all, but a famous grilled sticky — a sweet grilled sticky bun from what was once the town’s Ye Old College Diner. Grilled stickies are popular all over Pennsylvania, sold during school fundraising campaigns and bake-sale events. You can enjoy one on the go thanks to its convenient packaging from Berkey Creamery. With your ice cream cone in one hand and a grilled sticky in the other, you’re bound to have a delicious tailgate in Happy Valley on a blue sky Saturday in Autumn.
3. Ohio State & Buckeyes
The Ohio State football team food has a bit of backstory to it. Ohio State has an unusual mascot named Brutus Buckeye, who’s rooted in old local legend. A “buckeye” has been a nickname for someone from Ohio for over two hundred years. As the story goes, a 1788 colonel named Ebenezer Sproat was a tall, large man who the natives dubbed “buckeye” after the buckeye tree. He wore his nickname as a badge of honor, and it soon became a term for his fellow Ohio settlers. The buckeye tree, with its shiny, dark brown nuts, is also the state’s official tree.
Buckeyes have become a symbol of Ohioan resilience and self-reliance. During President William Henry Harrison’s 1840 campaign, his supporters called him the “log cabin candidate” and used a cabin made of buckeye wood with buckeye decorations as his personal symbol.
The slogan and symbol showed Harrison to be a man of the people, which was different than his opponent, Martin Van Buren. After Harrison took office, America came to know Ohio as “the buckeye state.” The symbol of the buckeye has since been synonymous with Ohio — and now, it’s even one of the most famous football team foods.
Fans of Ohio State have found a unique way to represent their buckeye mascot in their game-day snacks. You’ll find buckeye treats at fan tailgates. Buckeyes in this sense are small brown chocolate peanut butter balls resembling the state tree’s nuts. They’re quite easy to make. All you have to do is combine sugar, peanut butter and butter into bite-sized balls, dip them in melted chocolate and let them cool. Buckeyes make delicious, quick, bite-size snacks — the perfect college tailgate food.
4. North Dakota State & Venison
Since North Dakota is without its own National Football League (NFL) team, some football fans will choose a neighboring state’s team to adopt. Others spend the season rooting for the North Dakota State University team, instead. When they do, they bring with them a special menu perfect for meat-lovers.
North Dakota’s rich and vast natural landscape is one of its main points of interest. As a result, hunting is popular, along with fishing, camping and other outdoor activities. The state’s outdoor tradition runs deep, with many schools offering a holiday for the first day of hunting season.
Some avid fishers even haul “fishing houses” onto frozen lakes so they can continue ice fishing all season. Meanwhile, those who prefer hunting over fishing set up camp out in the state’s woods. Some of the most popular game animals are whitetail and mule deer. With so many avid hunters catching game, there’s plenty of venison to go around. You’re likely to find venison at North Dakota State tailgating parties, rather than bratwurst or beef.
Popular Venison Dishes
There’s more than one way to enjoy deer meat, and you’re bound to come across variety as you wander the tailgate section. North Dakota’s favorite game-day recipes include venison pot roast, deer meat gyros and venison jerky. You might also find moose meatballs and elk steak, making use of other Northern game animals.
Venison pot roast is one of the easier recipes to make, requiring only deer meat, diced vegetables, beef bullion, kitchen bouquet and seasonings. After sautéing the vegetables, you combine everything in a pressure cooker for about 45 minutes. You could bring along the whole pressure cooker to your tailgate for everyone to share.
North Dakota families have a great time hunting, preparing and cooking their own game-day meals during football season. However, you don’t need to be an avid hunter to enjoy these popular deer-based dishes. Even if you buy the venison rather than hunting it yourself, it’s bound to taste delicious.
5. University of Iowa & Turkey Legs
The University of Iowa is the oldest school in the state and the host of the Hawkeyes. Should you visit during football season, you’ll find the school’s stadium full of fans donning black, yellow and white to support their team. You might also find a famous vendor in the tailgating crowd, ready to serve you a delicious pre-game snack.
Famous Turkey Leg Vendor
The tailgate section at the University of Iowa is full of vendors selling snacks, but one stands out among the rest. A life-long Hawkeye fan and professional chef named Chuck Ford sells what he calls “Big A** Turkey Legs!!” served with his signature “bobacue” sauce. Chuck is known as a fan favorite and local celebrity.
Chuck became part of the school’s tailgate culture when he started heckling crowd members through his microphone. Fans came for the savory turkey and stayed for the entertainment. He proved his personality to be as big as his turkey legs, and tailgaters loved him. Fans would make a special effort to seek him out, and he grew to be a big part of game day culture.
Where’s Chuck Today?
Although Chuck has since retired to spend more time with his wife, he’s handed off his turkey leg stand to his friends. You can still fulfill your appetite with a juicy turkey leg before the game. Chuck continues to stop by for a visit from time to time, as he remains a big Hawkeyes fan. If you ever go tailgating at the University of Iowa, you might run into a local legend named Chuck.
6. Philadelphia Eagles & Philly Cheesesteak
Football season in Philly can get – ahem – rowdy. Fans from Philly are famous for how passionate they can be — and they’re just as passionate about their tailgating traditions as they are about their teams. If you’re going to tailgate for the Philadelphia Eagles, there’s one way to do it right.
Making a Philly Cheesesteak
This one might be obvious, but Philadelphia Eagles fans will often enjoy a classic cheesesteak before a game. A Philly cheesesteak is not as tough to make as you may think, though Philly residents might argue over what makes one authentic. All it takes is some thinly sliced round or ribeye steak, a few slices of provolone, some onions and peppers, and a soft hoagie roll to hold it all. We recommend a Philly favorite like our friends at Amoroso’s rolls. The key is to shave the meat extra thin for the classic Philly cheesesteak texture.
Of course, you can mix it up with different types of cheese, including cheese-whiz or American cheese. But make sure you order it “With” or “Without” Whiz or they will know you are an out-of-towner. Either way, no tailgate for the Eagles is complete without a Philly cheesesteak. It’ll give you the fuel you need to keep up with Philly fans.
7. Minnesota Vikings & Juicy Lucy or “Jucy” Lucy
Based in Minneapolis, the Minnesota Vikings have been a longtime fan favorite with their classic purple and gold color scheme. While Minnesotans might be known for their hospitality, that doesn’t mean the team will hold back against its opponents. The classic dish at the Vikings’ tailgates is a Juicy Lucy, or “Jucy” Lucy, depending on who you ask. It’s one of the best game day recipes around.
What Makes a Juicy Lucy?
The recipe is pretty simple — it’s a classic American hamburger with cheese inside the meat. It’s made by putting cheese inside two meat patties and sealing them together before cooking, so the cheese is right there in the center when you bite into it. The resulting texture is unique since the cheese does not touch the bun. Fans top their burgers with their favorite veggies and condiments.
Where Did It Originate?
You can order a Juicy Lucy at several bars and restaurants near the team’s home stadium. Two local bars have developed a rivalry, as both claim to have invented the burger. One spells it “Jucy Lucy,” with an intentional misspelling of the word “juicy.” Meanwhile, the other uses the word’s traditional spelling.
Waitstaff in the second bar wear t-shirts that say “If it’s spelled right, it’s done right!” Signs posted at the other bar claim correct spelling is the mark of a ripoff. No one can seem to agree where the tasty burger originates. No matter who came up with the idea, it’s had quite an impact. Time has named it one of the most influential burgers of all time. Make sure you find time to enjoy one if you visit the Minneapolis stadium — or stop for two, and decide for yourself who does it better.
8. Buffalo Bills — Buffalo Wings
The Buffalo Bills, based in the Buffalo and Niagara Falls area, play their home games in Highmark Stadium of Orchard Park. As you might suspect, fans from Buffalo love their famous buffalo wings during their tailgates. Buffalo wings make easy, bite-sized snacks, perfect for sharing with fellow tailgaters. The tasty treat has even become ingrained in the team’s culture — you might come across fans wearing buffalo wing hats in the stadium. The players have also sent buffalo wings as a thank-you gift to fellow NFL teams. The Buffalo fans are die-hards and the best of the bunch is the Bill’s Mafia. These hardcore fans drink out of bowling balls, spray ketchup on each other, bake pizzas in a filing cabinet, and make the famous Buffalo wings in Army helmets.
Authentic Buffalo Wings
What are authentic buffalo wings? It turns out the answer depends on who you ask. Some bake their wings, some fry their wings, some put the sauce on before the wings are cooked and some do it after. Most Buffalo residents will tell you to enjoy your wings with blue cheese, but others prefer ranch. The Anchor Bar is said to be the birthplcae of the famous wings where they are deep fried and tossed in butter and Buffalo sauce. No matter how you like them, Buffalo wings are an essential component of a game day in Northern New York.
9. Baltimore Ravens & Maryland Crab Cakes
If you’ve ever visited Baltimore, you know how important crabs are in the local cuisine. With the town right on the Patapsco River harbor of the Chesapeake Bay, dishes including crab are fresh and delicious. Conveniently, Baltimore blue crabs are at their most abundant in the summer and early fall, perfect for football season.
Crab Cakes and Old Bay
You can find steamed crabs at a dozen restaurants near the M&T Stadium, but tailgating Ravens fans often bring along homemade crab cakes. A crab cake is a mixture of fresh jumbo lump crab meat, bread crumbs or Ritz Cracker crumbs, mayo, a touch of mustard, and Old Bay seasoning. The seasoning mix is special to the city. Its top-secret recipe was invented by a German-Jewish immigrant in Baltimore and bought by Baltimore’s own McCormick and Company. You’ll see Ravens fans putting Old Bay on almost anything, from french fries to pizza to popcorn.
Once you’ve created your crab cake mixture complete with Old Bay, you can cook it in a number of ways, including baking, broiling, sauteing, grilling, or deep frying. The result is so flavorpacked, it will taste as though it came straight from the bay. Locals often combine their crab cakes with corn on the cob and cold beer, but you can enjoy it however you see fit.
10. Green Bay Packers — Cheese, Cheese and More Cheese
Green Bay Packers fans are famous for wearing giant cheese hats during game day. Wisconsin, the Packers’ home state, dominates cheese production in the country. As a result, Chicago fans in the 1980s would taunt Packers fans by calling them “cheeseheads,” meaning stupid or dense. The Packers took ownership of the not-so-affectionate nickname by donning cheese-shaped foam hats.
Cheese You Can Eat
You’ll find cheese on both Packers fans’ heads and plates during a tailgate. Dishes range from spicy bacon cheese balls to platters with pretzels and bread. You’re also likely to come across cheese-slathered sliders and sausage links or cheese-themed desserts, like cheesehead yellow and green cupcakes. Everywhere you look during game day in Wisconsin, you’ll find cheese.
Contact Feeser’s Food Distributors
Football is a major part of American culture, and team pride runs deep. Part of what makes each team unique is the culture in and out of the stadium, including in the parking lots, where fans get excited about the game. Tailgating is one of the most fun parts of game day, made complete with the best tailgate foods. Different team fans bring their snacks to the table, with everything from ice cream to crab cakes to cheese-infused burgers. Whether you prefer sweet, savory or spicy, you can find a tailgate snack perfect for you.
Keeping a steady supply of all this food might seem impossible, but with Feeser’s Food Distributors, you can do just that. Based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, we’re a leading foodservice distributor stocking over 10,000 national and local brand products. We offer frozen, refrigerated and dry products so you can make the most of your budget and get exactly what you need.
At Feeser’s, we treat every customer with personal attention and care. We can help you get the food products, equipment and supplies you need to make every game day a success. If you live in the mid-Atlantic region, consider letting us be your food supplier by becoming a customer. Feel free to contact us with any questions, too!