Men around the USA have wept for joy as football season thundered all around us. Many women are probably weeping too, perhaps some of them for joy as well? And now we get to see our favorite players make mincemeat of each other in the Pro Bowl. Could life get any better?

Whatever your feelings toward football, tailgate parties are a legitimate phenomenon of this time of year. These parties involve donning a favorite team’s jersey, painting one’s body and/or face, trashtalking the opposing team, obstructing traffic, and eating and drinking.

Let’s talk about these last two items: eating and drinking. What are some of the best foods for tailgating, and even at-home parties, and even better, what are the best low-mess foods for this uniquely American activity? And what drinks are best?


There’s no doubt that the most common beverage of choice at tailgate parties is beer. A cold brewskie with wings, or a bratwurst, is surely one of the iconic sights at these events. But do you really want to be drunk or even buzzed for your favorite team’s triumph over the enemy team?

Surely not.

So let’s stick to drinks like lemonade and soda. A good caffeinated soda like Mountain Dew will not only boost your energy, it will also refresh you. You could go with a fruit juice, or lemonade or even a cola soda, but these are often too sweet to really refresh. So if you’re going to go that route, plan on having some water around too.

But that’s just not enough, sorry. Try mixing up your own fun drinks. Here’s a fan favorite: Mix fruit punch with any lemon/lime soda, then add some actual lime chunks. Refreshing and tasty! (I’ve heard vodka goes well with this, but I don’t drink, so I can’t add my two cents there.)

If you decide to go with just lemonade, definitely choose Simply Lemonade or Limeade. These are the best lemonades available today.


Enough about the drinks. Let’s talk non-messy grub.

Wings, while absolutely the best food for tailgates, are not non-messy. So let’s take them out of the picture, unless you don’t mind staining that pristine new team jersey. Of course, if you want wings, you are in all the way and maybe you can hire someone to clean up for you?

The first non-messy food to have ready at your tailgate parties is a nice variety of bratwursts, along with good hot dog buns (which means they are not generic and now Wonder brand). You will need some sauerkraut to go with those brats, so get some into a tupperware and chill it for a couple of hours before heading out. And don’t forget a fork to serve up the sauerkraut, too. Also, for your brats, you will want ketchup and mustard. This is a great handheld food that always goes down well.

Another option for non-messy food for your tailgate party is hamburgers. If you really want to reduce the mess, have these cooked before you head out. Be sure to grab bags of chips to go along with the burgers. You already have ketchup and mustard, so you are in good shape.

Now, outside the box.

Grab your deep-fat fryer, some peanut oil and a propane tank. Then deep-fry some frozen corn dogs. Low-mess food, anyone? Just be sure to get your fryer to about 360 F and cook for about 3-5 minutes. Pull them out when they’re heated all the way through and are golden brown.

Shish-kebabs are another nice non-messy food. You will want to prepare the skewers before you head out, but then you can quickly grill them on your tailgate-mounted George Foreman grill. Just be sure to keep them nicely chilled until the time you cook.

This last one is a little odd, but is worth a try. Grab a bag of pita bread, prepare some chicken or tri-tip in a marinade, and bring along some fixings like lettuce tomatoes and dijon mustard. Keep that meat chilled, until cooking time! Then grill your meat, stuff your pitas, and you are eating in style.