Tailgating Like a Pro in the Palmetto State


Various photos of kids getting ready for football gamesI grew up in Minnesota on ice fishing and tater-tot hot dish. I didn’t see the sacredness of college football until my mid-thirties when I met my husband. He was raised on super sweet tea, boiled (pronounced bawled) peanuts, and Clemson Tiger football. I married into the fun of celebrating the end of summer because it marks the commencement of football season and the excitement and fanfare of going up and down I-26 on Saturdays with hundreds of other vehicles all bearing our teams’ mascots. I now even know what the acronyms ACC, SEC, and SoCon stand for and can speak somewhat intelligently about the latest CFP rankings.

Tailgating, with its traditions, sense of community, and seriously good food, has me head-over-heels for college football. Below are some of the finds this hockey convert discovered which may enhance your tailgating experience whether you’re a Tiger, Carolina Gamecock, or a Citadel Bulldog.

Tailgating Gear

Every serious tailgater, or anyone spending time on asphalt in the South Carolina September sun, will tell you to invest in a good tent. This makes the experience not only more comfortable but allows families to create a festive, welcoming space. Centerpieces and tablecloths aren’t out of the question in the South, friends. Just ask our neighbors at the Grove in Ol’ Miss. Tailgates extend the same degree of hospitality as front porches do.

Left: a woman and girl dressed in Clemson orange play cornhole. Right: a woman and two kids dressed in Gamecock colors pose with lawn chairs behind them, tailgating with a table of food.My kids would argue that the best tailgates have corn hole or some other yard game.

Southern Living recently compiled a list of all the best essential tailgate items – from portable grills to chairs and trash bag holders, all of your bases are covered.

Tailgating Food

If football is king in the South, then food is the Empress. This link provides some tried and true recipes for tailgates, but I’ve also highlighted some of my family’s favorites for to-go items for Carolina, Clemson, and Citadel games. In addition to the local places we love, Chik-fil-A, Bojangles, and Publix are also very solid choices for tailgates. And no tailgate is complete without those “bawled” peanuts with the best ones typically found at roadside stands, if you’re not cooking them up yourself. Eating is an event in itself on football Saturdays!Various photos of tailgating and enjoying community before a football game

Charleston Area Favorites:

Serving whole hog BBQ with scratch-made sides and with a robust catering menu, this is our family’s go-to for good BBQ on James Island.

Brisket is King at this Central Texas-style joint brought to South Carolina by Austin pitmaster John Lewis. Lewis Barbecue’s downtown location offers tailgating packages and they’ll even ship!

The oldest locally owned and operated catering company in Charleston, this is the spot to get bulk orders of ham biscuits, tea sandwiches, deviled eggs, and mini tomato pies.

These are some Northeasterners that Charlestonians are glad to have as transplants. Check out their mammoth-sized and scrumptious selection of hoagies.

Though a somewhat non-traditional spot for tailgating fare, Verde offers an extensive catering menu of fresh salads, wraps, and small bites that would enhance any tailgating spread.

Columbia Area Favorites:

This local favorite has been serving wings since 1988. Their menu also features salads and sandwiches, but you’d be remiss to pass on their wings served with one of three original, scratch-made sauces.

This take-out only BBQ joint serves up slow-smoked options based on old family recipes.

This no-frills spot arguably serves some of the best broasted chicken in all of South Carolina.

This family-owned restaurant has been a Columbia staple for over 40 years, serving generously portioned, delicious subs.

With multiple locations in Columbia, this establishment has been filling the Red Solo cups of tailgaters since 1937.

Clemson Area Favorites:

This long-time Anderson staple is the ultimate in country cookin’. Give me a plate of their house-breaded chicken tenders and homemade sauces or lose me forever. The sides are always rocking.

Serving the best BBQ in the Upstate, this spot offers a variety of tailgating packages for game day. If you aren’t able to bring this fare to your tailgate, make sure you stop by after the game for some corn hole and get a drink from their new container bar. Kids and adults will both be happy, whether the Tigers win or lose.

This landmark Clemson bar and iconic meat and three offers catering services delivered to your tailgating site on a first-come-first-serve basis. How great is that?!

What tailgating traditions has your family adopted? I’d love to hear your tips and recommendations!