Top 5 Twists on Tailgate Classics

Rutgers homecoming was last weekend. A lot has changed in the 5 years (gasp) since I've been at my alma mater's campus, mainly a lot more neon and house music. One thing though, has stayed the same: The Almighty Tailgate.

It's not a secret that Rutgers students and alum know how to party...and they certainly know how to eat. Seriously, we invented the fat sandwich for God's sake; that takes a special kind of person. We've even gone so far as to introduce the sandwich into our tailgates; go to nearly any tent and you can find platters of them spread out like veggie trays (I may or may not have pulled the old fashioned chat and cut to grab one from a tent on my way to the bathroom -- I've totally been meaning to catch up with that kid I sat behind in stats class freshman year anyway). The creativity shown by my fellow alum before the Rutgers games got me thinking -- classic tailgate food has really evolved in the past few years. It's not just plain burgers and dogs anymore.

I put together a list of the best twists on tailgate classics that I've seen in my days of pre-gaming for the big game. If I remember correctly after the 5 games of beer pong, 4 shotguns, 3 beer funnels, and 2 turtle doves, they are all insanely good.

5. The Buffalo Wing - Any and every kind of hot wing. Remember just regular buffalo chicken wings? Dip 'em in blue cheese or ranch and call it a day. Me neither. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE buffalo wings, but there is just too much going on in the wing world these days not to bring a new kick to your tailgates. We recently made a bangin' soy honey ginger wing sauce for my sister's birthday/Sunday football. With an added kick of Sriracha, it came to a point where a friend of mine ended up in a ball in the corner; he got a little too excited and inhaled an entire tray of them. Luckily, a couple of Tums later he was able to get right back to them. You can take a cue from places like Bdubz and make endless combinations of mouthwatering homemade sauces. If you ask me, it ain't a tailgate without beer all over your shirt and wing sauce all over your face.

4. The Burger - Sliders Gone are the days of the plain old cheeseburger; sliders are in town and they're here to stay. Now, instead of eating one big burger, you can eat three or four mini burgers and feel falsely good about yourself. The best part? You can try a bunch of different variations. My friend Mike grinds the meat himself and adds on the flavors from there, making about five different awesome sliders every time we grill. We've had jalapeno cheddar, Korean barbecue, lamb w/ fresh mint, blue cheese stuffed, Southwest style turkey -- you name it, he's made it. We serve them up with King's Hawaiian Mini Rolls and an extensive toppings bar (think coleslaw, pickles, grilled onions, 'shrooms, guacamole, homemade bbq sauce, chipotle mayo, etc.). Touchdown! Two-point conversion! Field goal and some other football terms!

3. The Veggie Dip - Buffalo Chicken Dip We all always go for the carrots and celery dipped in generic ranch sauce while we're waiting in line for the grill. But it gets a bit boring, doesn't it? My cousin Chris makes a killer Buffalo Chicken Dip with sour cream, blue cheese, hot sauce, shredded chicken, and cheddar cheese. He throws it all together then heats it up in the oven or on the grill until the cheese is browned and bubbly. It's like a buffalo wing that you can dip a carrot into. I mean, really, that should be illegal. He serves the dip with veggies, tortilla chips, and chunks of fresh bread, but is it bad that I would even eat this as a soup?

2. The Pulled Pork Sandwich - Pulled Pork Nachos Pulled pork sandwiches are good. Pulled pork nachos? Better. The sandwich is all about the pork, so you if you've perfected this, you already have an awesome base. Just think of what can happen when combining that little bit of heaven with some fiery, loaded nachos. Skip the bland bun, take a mountain of salty, crisp corn chips and pile on pulled pork, garlicky homemade guac, gooey shredded cheddar and jack, hearty black beans, spicy tomato salsa, and bits of sweet corn. Bring the heat with sliced jalapenos and top it all off with a few dollops of sour cream and you've got perfection on a chip.

1. Grilled Shrimp Skewers - Grilled Shrimp Pizza You may not think to include pizza in your tailgate, but throwing a homemade pie on the grill and slicing it up makes for the perfect appetizer. If you ask me, you can put anything on a pizza and it automatically becomes ten times better; shrimp skewers definitely included. Recently, we pre-rolled out fresh homemade pizza dough, wrapped it in plastic, threw it in the cooler and brought it to the (pre)game. All we had to do was brush the dough with olive oil, grill it 'til crisp on both sides and then top it with our marinated grilled shrimp and red onion skewers (skewers removed of course), mozzarella and Monterey jack cheese, and homemade basil pesto. After a few more minutes on the grill, the cheese melted and got all bubbly. My God that shit was crazy good, like, I just ate a five course dinner but I would eat this for dessert even though its pizza good. As I write this it's only 8 a.m. but I want some now. Somebody get me to some football and beer, stat!

What are some of your favorite takes on tailgate classics?

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