Whether your heart belongs to the Houston Texans or the Dallas Cowboys, the Texas Longhorns or A&M’s Aggies, one thing unites us all – a great tailgate party!
Years ago, pre-game celebrations consisted of a few friends meeting up at a bar or beer garden for a quick “cheers!” before walking to the stadium. Today, the party has moved to the stadium parking lot – often hours before kickoff – and the menu includes everything from hot dogs to homemade tamales or more likely – this is Texas after all – BBQ! Side dishes can include chips and dips, beans and slaw, jalapeno hummus or a host of other culinary creations.
What better way to wash it all down than with an ice-cold Texas beer? Bud Light, the Official Beer of the NFL, is brewed right here in Houston, Texas. For the 2017 season, the company introduced new team-themed cans and aluminum bottles – 28 designs that feature the official logo and rallying cry for each NFL franchise – that allow true fans to keep it 100% for their favorite team.
A Word About “Team-Themed” Merchandise…
The number and types of items now available for fans to show their true colors has increased dramatically to support the popularity of tailgating. There’s even a National Tailgating Day (it was September 2 this year) and an entire trade show – The Sports Licensing and Tailgate Show — where companies can promote the newest, most innovative tailgate-focused products.
At NFLshop.com, there is a Tailgating drop-down that lists more than 14,000 fun and functional items for your tailgate party, including tableware, travel mugs, coolers, bean-bag-toss sets, beverage coolers, picnic caddies, canopies, chairs, pop-up tables, flags, fidget spinners, jewelry, Bluetooth headphones, BBQ sets, portable ice makers, coasters – even salt & pepper shakers – all emblazoned with your team’s logo.
FOOD: The True Test of a Great Tailgate
While you certainly can have a tailgate party with a bucket of chicken and an ice chest full of beverages, nowadays most people go a bit – or a lot – further.
Not a cook? Luckily for you there are numerous Texas eateries that have tailgate-party-ready meals to go that can serve from 5 to 50 or more.
For BBQ – a traditional favorite – you can get a variety of meats plus sides and dessert, all packed up and ready for pick up from some of the state’s best pitmasters.
In Dallas, there’s “The Trough” at Pecan Lodge. For $75 you get one beef rib (which can weigh a couple of pounds all by itself), one pound of pork ribs, one pound of brisket, 1/2 pound of pulled pork and three sausage links — enough to serve 4-5 people.
Of the many BBQ choices in Houston, The Pit Room has a variety of “Feasts” – for 5, 10, 15, 25 or 50 people –that include your choice of meats and sides.
In Austin, if you can get up early enough to get a good place in line, you can go to Anthony Bourdain’s favorite, Franklin BBQ. Or right there in the same neighborhood is Terry Black’s – yes, the BBQ-famous Blacks from Lockhart — offering meat-and-sides Family Packs that feed 6 to 8 or 12 to 18.
Beer to Drink and Beer-Flavored Foods to Eat.
As mentioned before, cold beer is one of the best and most traditional accompaniments for the tailgate buffet of delights. But why not include a tasty brew in the preparation of your other offerings?
Steam your brats in beer. Mix beer into your chili. Dip your chips in Beer Dip. Try beer-braised ribs. Serve beer-cheese appetizers. Or come up with your own beer-inspired delicacy. And don’t worry about getting folks drunk on your food – the alcohol evaporates during the cooking process, leaving only the delicious nutty beer flavor behind.
Beyond Beer: A Bevy of Tailgate-Ready Beverages
So, you’ve secured a couple of cases of Bud Light team-themed cans and aluminum bottles. Check. But what else would be good to sip and savor during the festivities?
Depending on the age and preferences of your revelers, you should probably include a few non-alcoholic choices. Soft drinks, sure, but stir up a big cooler of lemonade for warmer temps, or a large thermos of spice-infused hot cider for those colder days.
If it’s a mid-day game, start off with mimosas made with prosecco (Italian sparkling wine), or sangria made with a fruity Spanish Rioja. And since wine bottles could be dangerous in a concrete parking lot, you might want to check out Wine2Go’s Foldable Wine Bottles.
Tailgating in (Somewhat Pricey) Style!
Camp chairs and card tables are standards for tailgate parties – and certainly get the job done – but some aficionados go the extra mile, or 10, to crank up the comfort and convenience.
In place of fold-outs and pop-ups, check out Hammaka’s hitch-mounted hammock chairs. If you just like the tailgating but don’t have actual tickets to the game, Helios has a flat screen television that mounts to your trailer hitch.
And if you’re a Longhorn fan, you really don’t have to mess with any planning at all. With the Club Package from Austin’s Tailgate Guys, you can order up a fully decked out party for about 60 of your closest friends. Included in the package are a reserved location close to the stadium, a 20’x20’ tent, full media package, two tent fans when needed, 20 tailgate chairs, three 6’ linen-covered tables and three cocktail tables. The Guys will even cater your event, or if you want to bring your own BBQ and Bud Light, they’ll provide four 120-quart coolers with 40 pounds of ice in each plus paper plates, cups, utensils and koozies. They’ll even throw in a personalized sign to show your team spirit.
Now that’s how to “football” in Texas, y’all!