Next Saturday, the parking lots around Commonwealth Stadium will be buzzing with the sounds of the season: cornhole bags hitting the boards, cans and bottles popping, the KSR Pregame Show, and, of course, grills sizzling with various cuts of meat. If you’re going to the game, odds are you’re either hosting or attending a tailgate, and because there are few things in this world I love more than tailgating, I spent my day doing what true, hard-hitting college football writers do: pitting tailgate foods against each other in KSR’s TAILGATE FOOD BRACKET.
I split the contenders into four categories/regions: Grilled, Dips, Entrees, and Side Dishes. From there, I used a generator to randomly decide the placement in each group. This is my bracket, so I’m weighing in with my picks, but ultimately, you, the fans, will decide which foods move on to the second round.
Voting on the first round ends TOMORROW AT 9 AM, so let’s get to it.
THE GRILL REGION
Pulled Pork vs. Hot Dogs
Even a simpleton can cook a hot dog, so I’m going with the labor-intensive pulled pork on this one. If you’re going to a tailgate with pulled pork on the menu, you know the host cares enough to put in several hours at the smoker, and even if it’s dry, you can douse it in a variety of sauces (Carolina vinegar style is my favorite).
Ribs vs. Sliders
I love both of these, but the novelty and convenience of the slider gives it my vote.
Brisket vs. Brats
Because brisket is so hard to cook, not many people do it well, whereas brats are very easy to cook and always have a ton of flavor. Brats all the way.
Wings vs. BBQ Chicken
A properly seasoned and sauced hot wing is my nirvana during football season, so this is a no-brainer.
THE DIP REGION
Buffalo Dip vs. Onion Dip
I’m pretty sure my view on party food changed the first time I tried buffalo chicken cheese dip. Add in the fact that onion dip makes your breath smell and this is the equivalent of the 2014-2015 Wildcats taking on Hampton in the first round.
Hummus vs. Queso
I like hummus (particularly Sabra’s Red Roasted Pepper version), but if it’s sitting next to queso, I’m never going to eat it. #Fatty
Guacamole vs. Seven-Layer Dip
Since guacamole is in most seven-layer dips, this is kind of an unfair matchup. I’m going with seven-layer, as long as I can avoid the olives and tomato chunks.
Spinach Dip vs. Salsa
I love salsa, but as a tailgate food, it kind of sucks. If you’re a polite party guest, you have to spoon it on to your paper plate, where it inevitably runs into other foods or soaks through. Or, you can be an impolite party guest and just dip into the jar the whole time. Regardless, spinach dip holds up well and usually tastes mostly of cheese. Spinach dip FTW.
THE ENTREE REGION
Fried Chicken vs. Subs
This is a tough matchup. Good fried chicken is a staple of the best tailgates, but what’s more fun than a Subway 6-foot sub? This is almost a toss-up for me, but I’ll go with fried chicken.
Pizza vs. Tacos
We all have that friend who shows up to a party with either a Little Caesar’s Hot-N-Ready or a 12-pack of Taco Bell. That’s because both are perfect options for the quasi-lazy party guest: no cooking involved, but generally a pleasing offering. I enjoy both, but at a tailgate, I would probably go for pizza.
Jambalaya vs. Nachos
Some may consider nachos a side, but with the proper construction, they can be a main course; that being said, jambalaya is delicious, especially on a chilly November day at Commonwealth.
Chicken Fingers vs. Chili
Chicken Fingers got a raw deal here (or, should I say…a SALMONELLA deal! Ha!). Chili is the overwhelming favorite in this region, and in my opinion, the eventual champion.
THE SIDE DISH REGION
Pigs in a Blanket vs. Deviled Eggs
I’m not a big deviled egg fan, so this is an easy decision for me. (Here comes the deviled egg hate…)
Potato Salad vs. Veggie Tray
Some may consider this an upset, but I’m going with veggie tray. This is probably a topic for another post, but here are my Veggie Tray Power Rankings:
3) Baby carrots
4) Cherry Tomatoes
Sausage Balls vs. Pasta Salad
This is an interesting matchup because I associate each item with a different season: sausage balls with fall, pasta salad with summer. A good pasta salad is refreshing on a hot day, but the combination of sausage, cheese, and biscuit is hard to beat.
Snack Mix vs. Chips
This is dependent on the chip (not once have I craved a classic Lay’s), but generally, I gravitate towards snack mix…unless there are Doritos involved (HOT TAKE: Nacho > Cool Ranch).
Remember, voting on Round One ends tomorrow at 9 a.m.