It’s one of the most wonderful times of the year for themed food — football season! While this season won’t be the same because of the pandemic having an impact on how much we go out, why not make the most of it by having fun with takeout tailgating dishes you can enjoy at home?
It’s a twofer. During these tough times, restaurants can use all the support they can get. And, it gets you out of cooking.
So if you’re craving some tailgating fare for watching the game, consider takeout. To get you started, here are a dozen or so tailgate takeout ideas in the east metro. Or, if you want to dine in, check with individual restaurants on whether their dining rooms are open amid the pandemic and if they’ll have the game on.
Football season isn’t complete without a few rounds of wings in between games here and there, or weekly for that matter. We’re lucky that here in the Twin Cities, there’s no lack of places to get great wings. Aside from longtime favorites, let’s talk about some new places to get great wings that can be added to the list.
The best wings I’ve tried all year are at the new Taste of Rondo Bar & Grill, which serves up whole wings, the way I prefer, with the drumette, wingnette and tip still all in one piece lending itself to a juicy, piping hot wing. The wings here (available in 6, 8 or 10-piece) were perfectly cooked — juicy middle and crisp coating — and a house blend seasoning was right on . We’re also smitten with the wings — that also come with the whole wing intact the way we like it — at the relocated Handsome Hog on Cathedral Hill. If you want an alternative to fried chicken wings, try the ones here, that come out a nice blackened chicken ($12, 3-piece) with a great smokey flavor.
If you want to try something new, how about some twice fried chicken, or in other words, Korean Fried Chicken? The new Bap and Chicken specializes in just that. Choose between the six- or 12-piece ($12, $23) Korean fried chicken drummies on the menu. Or, while not wings, you can order a half or whole chicken ($17, $29) cut into pieces and, of course, twice fried, that we also find to be delicious.
Bap and Chicken: 1328 Grand Ave., St. Paul; 651-333-0929; bapandchicken.com
Handsome Hog: 173 Western Ave., St. Paul; 651-219-4012; handsomehog.com
Taste of Rondo Bar & Grill: 976 Concordia Ave., St. Paul; 651-348-2615; tasteofrondostp.com
BUFFALO CHICKEN PIZZA
As an alternative to Buffalo chicken wings, Buffalo chicken dip, how about pizza with Buffalo Chicken on it? The combining of two quintessential tailgate dishes — Buffalo chicken and pizza — marry to create a perfect union. My favorite Buffalo Chicken pizza in the metro is at Red’s Savoy (starting at $14, 10-inch), which is the boldest in wings sauce and brings on the heat — doing justice to the spirit of Buffalo wings in this rendition — and comes with a side bleu cheese. And the pizza is served Minnesota style cut up into squares, as it should be. QC Pizza is also serving up a fun Buffalo Chicken pizza ($22, 12-inch; $27, 16-inch) that’s worth checking out. This one is on the milder side and is served in fun, Quad City-style pizza like fashion (long, rectangular slices). The pizza comes with house garlic Buffalo sauce and your choice of bleu cheese or ranch dressing to further amp up the flavor. For a thin crust version and something on the mild side, there’s a Buffalo Chicken Pizza on the menu at The Italian Pie Shoppe that can be ordered in various sizes (10-inch, $13; 14-inch, $16; 17-inch, $21). Note that the Buffalo Chicken Pizza is only available in thin crust. So if you’re craving the restaurant’s deep dish, consider adding another pizza to your order.
Red’s Savoy: several Twin Cities locations including St. Paul, Vadnais Heights, Roseville, Woodbury, Eagan, Apple Valley, Burnsville and Blaine; savoypizza.com
QC Pizza: 3150 Century Ave. N., Mahtomedi; 651-777-1200; qc.pizza
Italian Pie Shoppe: locations in St. Paul, Eagan and New Hope; italianpieshoppe.com
Barbecue makes for great tailgating food. Things like ribs, chicken and brisket are easy to keep warm and juicy if there’s lag time after cooking before serving the masses. For takeout with the family, I’m a fan of places where you can order by the pound. It’s nice that you can order a la carte and get just the right amount of meat (figure about one-third to half-pound of meat per person depending on if you have big eaters) and sides. I tried takeout at Old Southern BBQ recently, and loved how easy it was to order online and schedule a pickup time. It was easy to keep the chicken and ribs warm in the oven, a side of beans and corn muffin tops warm in a crock pot and coleslaw chilled in the fridge before serving and everything still tasted delicious without missing a step. I can’t wait to head back to order a takeout run of brisket, pulled pork and Texas hot links, which are also among the by the pound offerings.
There’s also Revival Smoked Meats at Keg and Case West 7th Market, which lets you order by the half-pound or pound, and has a nice and varied selection of smoked meat offerings that includes pork shoulder, smoked pork belly, ribs, bbq chicken and wings.
I highly recommend FireBox, which has locations in St. Paul and Minneapolis, and has been my most regular takeout spot for ribs, brisket and sides that have an eclectic range from potato salad and fries to chicken wings and sticky rice. Not only is the food great, prices here are a steal.
FireBox: 1585 Marshall Ave., St. Paul; 651-414-9986 and 4707 Lyndale Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612-521-8206; fireboxdeli.com
Old Southern BBQ: locations in Arden Hills, Minneapolis and Hudson, Wis.; oldsouthernbbq.com
Revival Smoked Meats: Keg and Case West 7th Market, 928 West Seventh St., St. Paul; revivalrestaurants.com/revival-smoked-meats
Nachos are a tailgate staple, so why not take it a step further with tacos, specifically taco boxes, that are assembled and make for an easy to grab item? Long before Taco Bell made it a thing, local establishments were offering taco boxes. Our favorite is at Boca Chica in St. Paul, which makes deep fried shells for its tacos, a brilliant idea to make this vessel sturdy enough to hold up well no matter how many ingredients you pile on. To order this, however, it takes a little bit of planning. You’ll have to order at least 24 hours in advance and know where to look on the menu. You’ll find the taco kits in the Party Trays category of the menu in which 12 pre-assembled tacos with the deep fried shell are available (12 for $24, choice of beef or chicken).
Also worth checking out are the 10-pack Taco Boxes at Hamburguesas El Gordo, which serves up authentic Mexican tacos. Choose a meat such as steak, chicken, pork or chorizo. There’s also a vegan option with soy meat. Then, choose between corn or flour tortillas. Each taco kit comes with salsa, cut up limes, grilled onions and grilled peppers. The order also comes with a side of Charro Beans that I’m in love with. I mean, Pinto beans with chorizo, ham, bacon and even beef franks? Respect. (Taco Kit, 10 tacos $30 to $36 depending on variety).
Boca Chica: 11 Cesar Chavez St., St. Paul; 651-222-8499; bocachicarestaurant.com
Hamburguesas El Gordo: two metro locations, 1731 S Robert St., West St Paul; 651-340-1483 and 4157 Cedar Ave., Minneapolis; 612-722 -1087; gordoburgers.com
BLOODY MARY KITS
Last but not least, an afternoon game and a Bloody Mary go hand in hand. In the time of COVID, Several places have started offering take home Bloody Mary Kits, where most of the mix and sometimes garnishes are provided and all you have to do is add your own vodka. Inver Grove Brewing Co. not only offers beer crowlers to go, but a nice and spicy Bloody Mary mix in a 750 ml can ($8) for an easy mixer. A mix can also be found at Red Cow restaurants, featuring its House-Made Bloody Mary Mix, beef sticks, cubes of cheese, olives, house pickles and rimming salt ($22, makes 4 cocktails).
Inver Grove Brewing Co.: 9051 Buchanan Trail, Inver Grove Heights; 651-370-1565; igbrewing.com
Red Cow: several locations, including 393 Selby Ave., St. Paul; 651-789-0545; redcowmn.com
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