Iowans love to tailgate!
Being outside on cool, fall Saturday mornings to support their Hawkeyes, Cyclones, Panthers, Bulldogs, or another favorite school is an always enjoyable activity plenty of us have taken part in.
While there are numerous parts of a tailgate from playing bags or catch with a football to seeing who can shotgun a beer the quickest—the last one has never been my specialty—the only part that truly matters is the food.
If you invite me to your tailgate, you better tell me the menu because this will be the ultimate deciding factor in whether or not I attend and bring my discernible palate with me.
Speaking of said palate, here are my power rankings for the best tailgate foods:
I love burgers, and recently ate and reviewed Iowa’s best burger. Unfortunately, eating a burger at a tailgate is too much work. First, I must get buns. Second, I must put said burger on a bun. Third, I must decide what condiments and how much of them to put on it. This already took too much time. Also, no shade to you grillmasters out there who make a mean burger, but I get annoyed if I have to sit down and eat the burger with two hands. This is not what I like at a tailgate. I want to be always on the go, a drink in one hand and food in the other. Sadly, burgers do not present this opportunity.
6. Cheese and crackers
Did you say charcuterie? Get out of here. It is cheese and crackers at a tailgate. This simplistic grab-and-go food is efficient. The downside is most cheese and cracker pairings don’t offer much in the way of flavor. The upside is combining multiple kinds of cheese with multiple crackers to build the biggest cheese and cracker sandwich. This is a good challenge but no matter how tasty a cheese is, it will never outshine grilled meat. No cheese flavor will blow me away. Like the Iowa Hawkeyes’ offense, I know what is going to happen each time.
Whether the wings are hot, mild, or honey barbecue flavor, it does not matter. All wing choices are delectable. Due to their smaller stature, multiple wings can be placed on your plate and eaten one at a time while you also enjoy other tailgate food. While a hefty burger results in me sitting in my favorite tailgating chair for hours, no appetizing wing will ever create this problem. One wing issue is that most sauces make it a messy eat. If I am devouring mouthwatering messy bone-in wings and my buds ask me to play a game of two-hand touch, they need to give me 15 minutes and 200 napkins to wipe off my hands and face before I can play.
It is Iowa. After tailgating, the next best activity Iowans do is make scotcheroos. These crisp rice and melted chocolate delights provide the best grab-and-go ability and you can eat a number of them within minutes of each other without realizing it. Combine these sweet treats with the tailgate’s savory meats for a perfect tailgate concoction.
3. Chips and dip
Constantly snacking on chips is perfect when hanging out at a tailgate. Throw in salsa, queso, or guacamole, and the chips game is taken to a whole other level. Being able to grab a quick bite on the way to toss the football around is a necessity. At the end of the day, the chip-to-topping ratio is crucial. If you add too much salsa, the chip gets too wet. If you try to add too much queso, the chip breaks apart. As with hitting the over or under for the game, picking the right dip ratio will make my day better.
Brats are great, but they are just the hot dogs’ beefed-up cousins. From the casing to the thickness, they are the perfect tailgate food but are way too similar to hot dogs and they fall in their cousin’s shadow. Sometimes, simplicity is better, and in this instance, hot dogs win out.
1. Hot Dogs
Hot dogs are the best tailgate food. They are portable and tasty, especially when grilled. What is inside a hot dog? Who cares! They are the perfect grab-and-go food. No need for a plate when chowing down on a delicious dog. The other hand can still hold my beverage or catch an errant football pass. Hot dogs are easily consumable; without effort, I can polish off four of them during a tailgate.
If you combine the ability to eat a lot of hot dogs alongside their portability factor, they are indeed worthy of the No. 1 spot.
While I will contend my list is final, I am positive someone claims their Aunt Cindy makes the best fruit pizza or their best friend, Chad, makes the best smokies. For this reason, I would love to hear about all the different tailgate foods I missed. Please invite me to your tailgate and let me try these different foods to properly rank them. Food is great, but tailgate food is even better.
by Sean Dengler
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