This post is sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 2011.
This is the latest entry in SB Nation's preseason series on our history and traditions. However, this is one that doesn't exactly fit Nebraska football as well as some of the other topics. At a lot of places, tailgating is an essential part of the tradition of game days...and while pre- and post-game activities are definitely part of the atmosphere on Husker game days, those activities don't always take place in a parking lot.
Many football stadiums sit away from the business district, surrounded by parking lots. Sometimes they were built on the edge of town. Not so much at Nebraska, where the stadium was build in the mid-20's near downtown Lincoln, then expanded about 50 years later to be nearly double the size, and the stadium is part of the campus. Remember, the Computer Science department has offices in the south side of Memorial Stadium!
So for many people, heading to a game in Lincoln doesn't mean packing a cooler and a grill...but rather, your wallet, ID, and credit cards. Two of the best locations to hit are Barry's and the Sidetrack. Barry's is more of a drinking and meeting place, while the Sidetrack Band keeps you entertained with their bawdy lyrics. It's been a few years since I've been to the Sidetrack, but the place is always packed with a line to get in. You have to figure the place is pretty cool when the house band can get away with playing "There Is No Place Like Nebraska", the national anthem, and the "Barney" song...and still keep people coming back.
My old favorite haunt, P.O. Pears, closed a couple of years back. Nowadays, most of the traffic seems to be down in the Haymarket. Matt's is now Jack's Bar & Grill. Lazlo's has been serving up fine food and their own brews for nearly 20 years now.
Just because there are plenty of places to eat and drink doesn't mean that nobody tailgates at Nebraska. Some people put on some killer tailgates, especially just west of the stadium underneath Interstate 180 by the post office. These people know how to tailgate, and have things down to a science. How precise are they? Simple...they've contracted with the owners of the parking lot to have satellite dishes and electrical outlets installed on all of the light poles in the lot. They show up on game day, run their electrical lines, and set up their plasma and LCD televisions next to their grills and what-not. Some of these parties look almost like outdoor beer gardens or dance clubs, not parking lot tailgates.
East of the stadium you'll find more "corporate" tailgates, where businesses set up their tents with official blessing from the university. Again, some fine food can be found there, but not the excesses you'll find towards the west.
Needless to say, my traditions pale in comparison to all of this revelry. My focus on game days isn't the tailgating, it's the game. Sometimes, we're running late, so pre-game meals sometimes consist of grabbing Runza or DaVinci cheesesteaks before the game, and eating in the car. If we've got a good sized group and the weather is holding, my personal favorite is to set up the grill and pick up some Rotella's hamburger buns and bratburgers from Fareway. Fareway is an Iowa based chain of small-town groceries that specialize in meat. No styrofoam shrink-wrapped meat there; they have a staff of butchers on hand at all times. The "bratburger" is simply a bratwurst minus the casing; you form it into patties and grill it just like a hamburger. Less grease, and it's oh so tasty. They recently opened two locations in Omaha, so we periodically head there and stock up. Just threw three pounds of bratwurst patties into the freezer tonight, so I'm set for a few more weeks.
Of course, when television dictates an 11:30 am kickoff, grilling out isn't going to cut it. I like bratwurst just fine, but I'm not in the mood for a brat before 10 am. For these morning kickoffs, I prefer to whip up a "Crouton Egg Casserole" the night before. This is a simple recipe that is great for a morning tailgate. You assemble all of the ingredients the night before, then bake it for an hour in the morning. That's enough time to hit the shower, check the morning paper, and get the car packed. I use a Pyrex Portable to not only bake it, but then transport it to the game. The hot pack keeps it piping hot for the drive to Lincoln. I've even used it on road trips to Lawrence and Manhatten, and it stays hot for several hours.
Here's the recipe:
Crouton Egg Casserole
1 package croutons
1 lb. diced ham or sausage
1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar or colby/jack cheese
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
Grease 9 x 13 pan. Beat eggs, milk, dry mustard, and salt. Layer croutons on the bottom of the pan. Top with meat, then cheese. Pour egg mixture over the croutons and eggs. Cover the pan and let it stand in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, bake covered in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour. When removing from the oven, place it in an insulated tote bag with a hot pack and head to the game. The hot pack should keep it piping hot for a couple of hours.
So what's your pre-game tradition? Is it tailgating or is it a local business around the game? Do you have a recipe that works for you?