Are you ready for some football? Paint your belly, grab your foam finger and head to the stadium. It's tailgating time, and you know what they say, go big or go home. So we huddled up with Luke Lincoln from The American Tailgater Company who was kind enough to coach us to a winning season.
You must see a lot of tailgates. Can you describe the most over the top pre-game setup you've ever seen?
The most "over the top" Tailgate I've ever seen was at a San Francisco 49rs game where one group of tailgaters had brought out their fine china and silverware and were serving King Crab legs and Beef Tenderloin. They had a long table with a linen tablecloth and even a candelabra on the table. This was back when we first started our catalog in the late 90's, and I haven't seen anything quite so over the top since then. They were all dressed up, and the guys were in ties. I think the glassware was crystal as the host got really nervous when we started throwing the football around right next to their setup.
Preparation is the key to success. Is there a playbook or plan for setting up smoothly on game day? And about how many hours before the coin toss should you plan on showing up at the stadium?
Our simple guidelines are "get there early and stay late." Early arrival ensures a good spot (though after awhile in many parking lots, tailgaters settle into a regular spot that kind of becomes theirs.) We typically get there about 4-5 hours early (we prepare egg & cheese sandwiches on a griddle), but plan to arrive at least 3-4 hours early and stay for an hour or two after the game. We are big fans of the post-game tailgate as it allows for the traffic to subside. Arriving early also allows ample time to set up and relax and not rush AND if you happen to forget something, you can lob a call to one of your guests with an emergency request. At a Bears game in 2005, we had a lot more people than planned and we ran out of beer ( a cardinal sin!). A buddy of mine's dad happened to call, and I mentioned our dire situation, and he quickly jumped on the chance to bail us out. He owned a Vintage BMW motorcycle with a sidecar, and I'll never forget the heroic image of him rolling into the old Burnham Harbor Parking Lot by Soldier Field with a sidecar full of beers AND ice! Which gets the most important items in any tailgate playbook:
1) Always make a checklist a couple of days before - it's key, especially when you find yourself a little foggy heading out the door at dawn.
2) Fly a Flag! It not only helps you show who is #1 on game-day, but you can also fly a special or unique flag that is key when helping fellow tailgaters find your spot.
3) Make sure you have plenty of paper towels and a garbage can - try this one of ours that can serve as a cooler too.
4) Bring a crate for dirty cookware and utensils.
5) Never run out of beer.
What tips can you give a rookie tailgater for grilling in a parking lot? And what are your all time favorite tailgate foods?
If you are a rookie, stick with a basic portable grill (and maybe leave the charcoal grill at home) Don't try to do too much at first - start with burger patties and brats and then try other things later. It helps to make the burger patties in advance and make them thin. You can even freeze them with wax paper in between them, as thin frozen patties will cook fine on game day. But try to keep it simple and then expand. Also, try chili or gumbo as a lot of the prep can be done at home, and it just requires one pot, a ladle, paper bowls, and cheese - done!
As your tailgating skills develop, you'll find there is no limit to what you can cook in the lot. It's more work, but one of my all-time favorites is deep frying a turkey (usually for a Thanksgiving game but we've also done it for Monday night football.)
Another favorite tailgate food (and this goes in the "over the top" category) is Grilled Rib Cap - it's the best part of the rib eye and features the tenderness of a filet and all the flavor of a Rib eye steak. This cut of beef is hard to get and pricey, so only for special occasions, but people will remember this meal! Here is a picture of the Rib Cap Cut.
Nobody likes the cheap seats. Do you have a lucky chair for tailgating?
Yes! In all the years that we've been tailgating, we have seen the quality and strength of the tailgate chairs declined precipitously as the big box stores demanded folding "tailgate" chairs at a price point below $10. Here is our favorite in the super sturdy category:
The Folding Director's Chair with side table takes up a little bit more room than the basic flimsy portable chairs that fit into a bag, but this chair folds up very nicely and is sturdy enough to hold a heftier tailgater. Bring a TV for Pre and Post-Game shows, and you can park this beauty right in front of it.
It's not a tailgate without some adult beverages. Which coolers are American Tailgater's best sellers?
We love our rolling coolers - they are sturdy, and we also like to bring a lot of food and beverage, so it's nice to have the wheels - plus you can get them with your favorite team logo.
Our Portable Tub Cooler is always popular because it can hold a lot of beverages (72 cans) and sits up a perfect "reaching" height - makes it easy to have "one more."
Besides tossing the old pig skin around what are your favorite tailgate games?
We love to play Tailgate Toss before the game - its the perfect game for the space adjacent to a tailgate.We also enjoy playing a new game when we find ourselves in grass field tailgate lots: It is called Rollors, and it basically combines Bocce Ball and Horseshoes.
Do you have any gift ideas that would score points with a seasoned tailgating pro?
The New RovR Cooler -We have never seen such a well thought out tailgate cooler. This rock-solid 80-quart beast acts like a rolling kitchen island and comes standard with a cup holder, storage bags, cutting board and a powerful Bluetooth Speaker. The optional bicycle attachment allows you to tow the cooler behind your bike even on off-road paths. Ice lasts over 200 hours and, for our tailgaters and campers in the more extreme parts of the country, it's bear proof!
We've had a lot of fun with our Football Shaped Beer Tube Beverage Dispenser - A great gift for the Tailgater you think has everything!