Best Tailgate Appetizers
In a previous blog post, we caused quite a stir with a scorching hot take about how buffalo chicken dip is extremely overrated. So obviously some of you may discredit this list immediately. But something to note - while we did call-out BCD as over-rated, we still think it is viable tailgate appetizer. We will not let pure fact taint its right to be considered as a decent choice to make the list. It may not be as high as all you want or believe it should be. But it made the list. It may have just made the list. So just be happy it is there...
10. Buffalo Chicken Dip
It's kinda like having to invite your extended family to a wedding. There are better options of guests who can and should take their place, but at the end of they day they have to be there. They have to make the list. Aunt Ruth and Uncle Bob with cousin Kyle from Poughkeepsie whom you haven't talked to in over a year. They are just taking up space for a more deserving app... I mean guest.
9. Sliders (of any variety)
This could go either way. Sliders can be considered a main or an app. Really depends on the tailgate and the guy manning the grill. In our book, if it can be eaten in two bites - it makes this list. Meatball, Burger, Pulled Pork. All delightful options. Maybe get a little exotic with lamb and throw some tzatziki on there and baby we got a party. Or if you got some plant eaters, perhaps a black bean burger with spicy chipotle aoil? Ooo spicy. Talk about giving the people what they want.
Overall sliders are fun. They are safe. And always a crowd pleaser. But for one thing - they are also a HUGE pain in the ass to prepare and cook. Individually having to roll and portion all those bad boys out. Then get them grilled only to have half of them break and fall in between the grates. But the people love them. And if they don't - just let them in on the dip from #10. Sure there will be plenty to go around.
8. Seven Layer Dip
Like it's overrated cousin from above, this is one of those staples that needs to make the list. Overall, whether it is store bought or homemade, within two minutes of that dish being out it turns in to 7 layer soup and all you really taste and experience is the sodium and it beginning to come out of your pores. Still, it makes the list because for a few first bites it taste's just delectable. But after that - you are starting to circle the grill like a bunch of seagulls waiting for the main attraction to be done cooking.
Look us straight through this blog post and say you disagree. No shot you can go an entire tailgate without sticking your hand in that magical orange/red bag of goodness. Doritos are a necessity, loved by all and the ultimate filler/grazing snack. The multi-use factor out of them is second to none. They fill that awkward time period when guests first get to the tailgate and the real food is not ready out/yet. They help break the ice with all those shy people maybe too embarrassed to start eating first but are like, "oh hey, chips - those are cool to start digging into". They're great add on's to any main dish. And of course they become the go-to snack of those who may have one too many libations later on in the day. If you are not playing corn-hole 30 minutes before kickoff after having a few beers beers and NOT holding the family size bag that just has the crumbs at the bottom... then you are not living.
6. Protein On A Skewer
This is a GOAT app. There is nothing better than a meatball on a toothpick either simmered in some sweet and spicy sauce or a chicken tender grilled after being marinated in teriyaki. It checks so many boxes. It is classy yet easy to handle from a preparation standpoint. It is going to taste delicious. It will be a hit with anyone trying to "watch their weight" as well as if there are any ladies in attendance #carbsarebad. And they keep extremely well whether you serve hot, cold or room temp.
5. Mini Crab Cake
Some may argue this should have fallen under the slider category. Oh no no no. Don't you dare try to put this between two crappy pieces of potato roll with wilted lettuce and translucent tomato. These need to be their own star and uninterrupted from other factors. So should you so happen to be able to stumble upon a fancy tailgate; usually somewhere in the DMV, where the host probably owns a house on water in Annapolis with a Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Max, and drives Volvo station wagon with a faded Georgetown Alumni sticker... you may not get this experience. But should you be so lucky, get ready to undo a couple of notches in that belt because they can be devoured like m&m's.
"Wait a minute – you guys talk so much crap about buffalo chicken dip where it is literally the easier eating version and cheaper option of the buffalo chicken world and you have this on the list as #4?"
Well here is the thing – wings are the real deal. If you are going to eat them – really eat them. It is similar to all the fake or supplemental items out there now. You going to eat butter – eat real better. Get that “ I cannot believe it not butter” crap out of here. If you are going to eat ice cream, actually eat ice cream. Leave that 50% sugar free, non-gmo, made with organic ingredients and half the trans fat garbage for someone else.
If you are going to eat buffalo chicken, eat the damn wings. Alas, if you have wings at the tailgate – you will be hard press to find anyone not into eating them. Wings are one of those things that bring the wow factor because it is not a common item. Sure you get them at a restaurant once and while. But getting 8 wings for 11.95 does not really move the needed. But on the other hand, you open up your spread with a tray of 50 with unlimited celery and blue cheese/ranch - then you got people feeling like they are a kid in the candy store.
What is better than some meat and cheese with some carbs. Maybe be a little fancy and get some picked veg? Perhaps throw in some grapes and a nice fig spread. Talk about flavor-town. Charcutière platters serve the masses, appeal to most and can be made from literally anything. You can go from a poor mans platter with some kraft singles and Oscar Mayer bologna to the lavish with an aged cheddar and merlot infused sheep’s milk w/ a nice boar salami and hot supprasota, all paired with some vinegar marinaded red onion and jalapeno, a fig jam, hearts of palm with a flax seed cracker. Yummy in everyone’s tummy. These things are so versatile, easy to make, loved by all and make you look like the most sophisticated (or interesting) host in the work. And while they will help you upgrade your class game, Charcutière is also one of the best make-ahead and set-it and forget food items for a tailgate. Since there is no cooking involved, you can pre-package everything the night ahead and once you get to the tailgate – unpack the good-good and let the masses dig in and serve themselves. Wins all around.
2. Steamed, Grilled or Chilled Shrimp
First things first. This is not shrimp cocktail. So do not come at us with one of those bulk party trays from BJs or Costco where the shrimp looks more like a prop than actual food. We are talking about grilled shrimp. Steamed shrimp. Fresh shrimp. It can be with the tails on or peeled and deveined. But there is not much more that beats a nice warm shrimp with the twang and spice of old bay filling the air. Go to the seafood section of the store, get a pound or two of whatever looks good and won't put your guests in a port-a-potty. Now we know there are people who do not like seafood. Some may be allergic. Some may just not feel the need to have shrimp at a tailgate. To each their own. But from another ease and impress standpoint, shrimp is one of those items where it is relatively cheep, easy for you the host to manage, and should you have seafood lovers in your group – make you the talk of the tailgate. Just make sure you have plenty of old bay and good cocktail sauce (and plenty of lemon).
HOT TAKE. WE REPEAT. HOT TAKE INCOMING.
Yes, you have read this correctly. Vegetables. Number one. Over BCD. Over Sliders. Over Wings. Yes, Yes, Yes. Give us all the celery. All the carrots. Broccoli florets, cherry tomatoes. And the ranch dip. You can put that on a shoe, dirt, piece of plywood and we would eat it. One can argue that is not even ranch. It makes even the best ranch from a Ruby Tuesday's salad bar look pathetic. Sure, one tablespoon of that stuff probably has as many calories as a beer, but it is delicious. And here is the thing. Since it is going on vegetables, the calories do not count. Oh I am eating broccoli? Psh, this bowl of dip that is thicker than concrete is healthy too. Doesn’t mater that those pulled pork sliders may technically have less fat and calories than the two cups of dip I just doused my carrots in. I am eating carrots so I can do whatever I want. Therefore, you can eat however much you want and not feel guilty. Plus as a host, it's cheap, can be easily made or bought and as far as serving your guests, it is "set it and forget it".