Staff picks: Best game day food and drink you need at your college football tailgate


We all miss football, including us here at CBS Sports. Provided it can return safely — there’s a separate debate on whether that can be fully achieved — we can’t wait for it to start back up. There certainly is a “normalcy” that, in uncertain times, sports provides. That same normalcy or safety can also be found in food, and part of the game-day atmosphere for college football is undoubtedly the fare. 

For Staff Picks this week, our team shared their favorite game-day foods — or, in one special case, beverages (read on). These are the things that bind us, after all, and while none of us may make it to as many tailgates these days as we would normally, our spirits are there nonetheless. 

Chip Patterson: Slow-cooked pork

I fear that my tailgating food of choice is going to be under fire when the new normal of tailgating kicks takes a few more cautious steps in the name of health and safety. In the old world, my favorite tailgating food was to hang out with whomever was in charge of cooking the pig. You provide banter and companionship in the early stages, willing hands to chop and/or pull when the meat is ready and are rewarded with the opportunity to pick. Picking at a pig one finger-full at a time is likely gone for awhile, but it’ll always be my ideal way to socialize outside the stadium. 

Barrett Sallee: Burgers

Look, as much as I love to smoke a pork shoulder, brisket or wings on my Big Green Egg, efficiency has to be factored in when discussing tailgating food. Because of that, I’m going to go with old reliable: the burger. No, not the frozen patties that you buy at the store. The creative versions you can make by mixing up ground beef and other ingredients in a bowl before heading to campus. It allows you to please people with various tastes while not spending too much time worrying about the grill. Once on campus, it’s easy. A small charcoal or portable propane grill is all that you need to provide the perfect food for pregame fun. Let’s be real … there’s no reason to out-think the room. Or, in this case, the campus.

David Cobb: Bacon

Games that start 11 a.m. or noon ET are often bashed because they cut into tailgating time. But unless it’s unreasonably cold, these early kickoffs carry a couple of overlooked advantages. One of them is that you can be back to your house or hotel in time to see the second half of the afternoon games and all of the evening games.The other is bacon. Sure, you can eat bacon at an afternoon tailgate if you really want. But bacon is scientifically proven to be best in the morning. Plus, it’s cheap, easy to produce in mass quantities and smells great. Bacon can also be consumed as a standalone entree or placed on a breakfast sandwich — its versatility is vast. A hearty tailgate breakfast headlined by good, greasy bacon can sustain a college football fan until at least halftime.

Ben Kercheval: Cauliflower wings

As CBS Sports.com’s resident non-meat eater, I’m going to be that guy and go with a perfectly fine vegan option. Let it be known I am completely insufferable in our slack room about this, and I fear no shame for my choices. I do, however, shame my colleagues for their meat-based picks that enable the ravaging of our beloved Mother Earth. But, I digress … the one meaty food I truly do miss are chicken wings. Loved ’em. They would have been my last meal if I had a choice. Cauliflower wings give me the buffalo taste I crave and, if they’re done right, the right amount of crispy texture. Throw some dairy-free dressing in there for dipping — yes, it exists — and you have the closest thing to real chicken wings available today. They’re portable, poppable, spicy and savory. And just remember: if cauliflower can be a buffalo wing, you can be anything. 

Tom Fornelli: Beer

This is a highly controversial choice, I know. Ben Kercheval hasn’t spoken to me in days because of it. I’m not sure he ever will again, honestly, but there’s more to being a hero than just wearing a cape, ladies and gentlemen. Sometimes you have to carry the weight of those who have left you behind.

Beer is the best tailgate food. It’s not just that it’s delicious, refreshing and comes in enough different varieties that every person who wants to can find a kind they like. It doesn’t matter which brand or style you prefer, but there’s a specific kind that I hold near and dear to my heart. A kind that, if it’s not at a tailgate, ruins my experience a bit. You see, when I’m at a tailgate, I’m not there because of a favorite food to eat. I’m not going from spot to spot hoping to find a burger or some chicken or anything in particular. My goal at the tailgate is to explore the seemingly endless bounty of options available to me. I want to try new things and meet new people.

And I want to do all of it with a beer in hand. The one true tailgate companion. After all, the beer wouldn’t stop talking to me because I chose Ben. 





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