Over the last 20 years, the Southeastern U.S. has produced some of the world's top restaurants and chefs. Another food phenomenon keeping pace occurs most fall Saturdays before and after college football games.
The new podcast series, Tailgating SEC Style, explores the tailgating scene at every SEC school, paying particular attention to food and drink.
Two attributes that set Southerners apart are food and style. Combined with the South's passion for college football, you'll discover some of the nation's best tailgating sites, including delectable food spreads.
Tailgating historians trace the first tailgate to an 1869 matchup between Princeton and Rutgers. The modern tailgating era began post-World War II as young servicemen returned to university campuses.
Fans would pile family and friends in a pickup or wood-paneled station wagon. Mom packed a picnic basket full of sandwiches, fried chicken, deviled eggs, and cokes (the generic Southern term for any carbonated beverage) to enjoy on their vehicle's tailgate under a shady spot outside the stadium.
Fast-forward to the early 1990s. In true Southern fashion fans brought grandmother's sterling silver to their tailgate. Julep cups added a sophisticated look to a 10x10 tent, establishing a new era in college football tailgating.
Four hours southeast of Nashville in Oxford, is the University of Mississippi. Not only can Ole Miss lay claim to the great novelist William Faulkner, but also the nation's top college football tailgate. A slogan seen on Ole Miss party cups proudly proclaims, "We may not win every game, but we have never lost a party."
"The Grove" sits on a 10-acre, tree-lined area on the Ole Miss campus. The Sporting News once referred to Ole Miss as the "Holy Grail of college football tailgating sites" and Tailgater Magazine recently named it the number one college tailgate in the U.S.
Jane and Lance Foster, along with faithful friends, tailgate along the Walk of Champions in The Grove at every home football game. Their infamous Zebra Tent has been featured in Southern Living and covered by every major sports network.
The Zebra Tent features a themed layout that most high-end caterers would envy. Everything, from food preparation to the setup and tear-down, is done by the group. There's even a flowing fountain of sparkling wine in the rear corner.
Not only does the Zebra Tent enjoy showing off their extravagant food tables, they eagerly invite visiting fans to come inside and grab a plate. When Alabama visited Ole Miss in 2018, both starting quarterbacks claimed Hawaii as their birthplace. Jane responded with a luau theme, complete with hand-painted melons surrounded by the favorite foods of both quarterbacks.
Ole Miss isn't the only festive SEC tailgating scene. In Knoxville is the Vol Navy. A couple of days before a Tennessee home football game, dozens of boats from yachts to fishing boats tie up on a dock below Neyland Stadium and behind Calhoun's. There you'll find an assortment of food and beverages on the bow and stern of most boats.
Closer to home in Vandyville, you'll find Marc Menke cooking alongside Michael Fenswick. At the same time, cohort Ken Rebman pours his Czann's brew under the "You Had Me at Bacon" tent outside Vanderbilt's stadium. Marc and his team prepare a bacon-theme fare around each visiting team.
Every SEC campus brings its own unique flavor to a college football game day. There's the Yellowtail Slammer punch near Alabama's bell tower. In Fayetteville, Arkansas, a John Daly cocktail awaits fans in the Tusk to Tailgate tent. There's pork barbecue cooking at a Georgia tailgate in Athens. The SEC is full of great college football tailgates. Oh, and there’s always a great football game too!
Listen to the Tailgating SEC Style podcast on Apple, Spotify, or other major podcast networks to learn more about southern tailgating, including recommendations of where to eat and drink in every SEC town.