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Tailgating, UCLA Style: What’s on the Menu?

Planning out what you’re eating is almost as important as the game itself.

Joe Piechowski

Besides being an amazing tradition, tailgating offers a great opportunity to show off your culinary skills. While you might think you’re limited due to the fact that you’re on the road, a little creativity and planning is all that’s required to make your tailgate meal a masterpiece.

The first thing you’ll need to take into account is game time. If the game is at noon or 1:00, you’ll could plan for breakfast or lunch. Evening games are usually at 4:00 or later, so you’ll want some type of lunch/dinner fare.

Depending on your group size, you’ll need to figure out if you want to go with a potluck-style meal or not. The bigger the group gets, the harder this can be, so you can have people just bring their own food, or even pitch in money if you’re willing to do all the cooking. Whatever you do, bring as much as you can already prepared. It’s easy to forget things that we take for granted at home (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked for a can opener), so the less work you have to do at the Rose Bowl, the better.

Below are some ideas for breakfast and the ingredients can easily be divided up amongst a group of people:

  • Breakfast burritos are a popular way to go. Assign eggs, tortillas, beans, cheese, salsa, bacon, sausage, potatoes and the like to the folks in your group. Just don’t forget munchies like chips and dip. It doesn’t seem to matter what time the game is—at some point, people want that kind of a snack closer to game time.
  • Waffle or pancake bar—bring your batter premade (or buy convenient ”add water and shake” containers) and just add elements like butter, syrup, and powdered sugar. Side dishes like bacon, eggs, and hashbrowns are easy too (if you like hashbrowns from scratch, DO NOT peel and shread them at home. They turn color quick and end up NASTY). If you have a griddle pan, you can heat that up on a camping stove or BBQ. Just keep the heat low so nothing burns.
  • Egg sandwiches—Points if you can plug in a toaster for this one! Scramble the eggs on a griddle pan and add cheese, bacon, or anything else you like. I happen to like potatoes with mine, so the frozen hashbrowns or home fries are a good way to go when you’re cooking outdoors.

Now if we’re talking lunch or dinner (which is my personal preference), here are some of my favorite tried and true pregame meals:

  • The good old fashioned taco bar—I wish I had a dollar for every tailgate I’ve seen cooking carne asada. It just seems to fit. Tortillas, rice, beans, cilantro, onion (salsa if you prefer) and some good quality chips are the absolute best. This kind of menu is really easy to divide among a small crowd.
  • Take it one step further and make it a burrito bar. Don’t forget the cheese.
  • Smoked or marinated meats (although I’m a vegetarian) always seem to make other tailgaters jealous. A nice big tri-tip, steaks, or even chicken wings smell great while they’re cooking, and the side dishes are endless. Potato salad, pasta salad, baked beans, or even macaroni and cheese will make your tailgate restaurant quality. You can have your guests bring the side dishes if you don’t mind forking over the cash for the main meal, or even split it with someone. Either way, you’ll have your neighbors salivating in their potato chips.
  • Of course, the good ol’ hot dog and hamburger BBQ is always a good one. Get fancy and add chili (again, don’t forget the can opener!!!), grilled onions, fried jalapenos, or anything else that fits on a bun. I’ve even fried french fries out there with a wok-style pan on our camping stove.

Whatever you choose, your tailgate is sure to be a hit. You’ll walk in to the Rose Bowl so full you won’t need to get up at halftime for a hot dog.

31 days until kickoff.

Go Bruins!