At the Table

Southern Chefs’ Top Tailgating Recipes

By: Hannah Lee Leidy

Fall weekends mean a few things in the South: football, fanfare, and tailgating. While classic hot dogs and hamburgers are nothing to scoff at, challenge yourself to up your game with an elevated spread this weekend. Even fine-dining chefs crave tacos and ribs to celebrate a big win, with an epicurean twist. We’ve employed culinary pros from around the South to share their next-level, game-day recipes (and a few memories) for a tailgating menu to impress.

Tailgate Chef-Style

 Queso Fundido with Charred Green Onions

Justin and Jonathan Fox, Fox Bros. BBQ, Atlanta

“Even on game day we can’t get away from cooking, our good friends demand it! So to make it easy on us, this is a quick way to satisfy a good amount of folks, and it involves melty cheese. You take the cheese and add it to a corn or flour tortilla, add some salsa, and you get a filling snack that fits in one hand so you can hold that drink in another hand. That is what it is all about! That is a great tailgate dish to me.”

—Jonathan Fox

Baked Green Hill Cheese, Caramelized Onions, and Toasted Sourdough

Rob McDaniel, Helen, Birmingham, Alabama

“Like many dishes that find their way onto the Helen menu, I tried this at home first. It’s everything you love about warm cheese—soft and gooey. The onions are cooked down to a point that reminds me more of a savory caramel instead of onion. When the two dance together on a piece of grilled sourdough, the real magic happens, and you have a funky, sweet, crunchy happiness.” —Rob McDaniel

Pork Carnitas

Hugo Ortega, Hugo’s, Houston

“Tailgating is not something I knew about or did growing up, but I think it’s great. Mexican culture is all about gathering with friends and family and enjoying great food and drink and time together, and that is what tailgating is all about, with a little hometown pride thrown in. Carnitas are a great dish to make for a group gathering, and who doesn’t love tacos? If you’re lucky, you’ll have some leftovers for breakfast the next day, but they are so delicious, you can’t guarantee it.” —Hugo Ortega

Jerk Spice Broccoli with Papaya Chutney

Kenny Gilbert, Silkie’s Chicken and Champagne Bar, Jacksonville, Florida

“I always love to shake things up on game day. Fresh simple ingredients and bold flavors. My jerk spice-roasted broccoli with papaya chutney certainly delivers.” —Kenny Gilbert

BBQ 7 Layer Dip

Pat Martin, Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint, Nashville 

“I’m a lifelong football fan, and a Titans season ticket holder since game one, season one in 1999. My favorite game-day memories are centered around family and friends. Whether tailgating at Nissan Stadium, cheering the team on alongside all the other die-hard Titans fans, or settling in to watch the game and barbecue in our backyard, football season holds a special place in my family’s heart. Go Titans!” —Pat Martin

Maple Glazed Bourbon Ribs

Owen McGlynn, Asheville Proper, Asheville, North Carolina

“I’m originally from Ohio, so cheering on the Browns and Buckeyes was a family affair when I was growing up. We’d gather for a potluck feast of grilled wings, ribs, and sausages as well as the classic game-day items like beanie weenies or swedish meatballs. My mom makes the best buffalo chicken dip and, of course, we always had to have the chocolate-covered peanut butter bites, (Buckeyes)!” —Owen McGlynn

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