From fight songs to rituals to good old fashioned rivalries, South Carolina is rich in college football traditions. Those traditions take on delicious expression each fall as legions of loyal fans unpack their coolers and fill folding tables with some of the state's tastiest tailgating treats.
While Southern cooks know how to lay a savory spread, staying out of the kitchen to reserve your energies for the big game is a perfectly acceptable strategy. You can pick up amazing eats from local restaurants and still wow your friends and family. Here are a few suggestions, ranging from the tried-and-true to the try-something-new. Just remember to give plenty of advance notice to ensure you get exactly what you want in the amounts you need.
The Citadel, Charleston
Colors: Blue and white
Tailgating tips: Location, location, location - it's what gives Citadel tailgating a little extra oomph. Being smack dab in the center of one of the nation's most vibrant food hubs means more choices when it comes to game day eats. Here, coastal delights fresh from local waters routinely grace game day tables.
Order up a catch of Frogmore stew, shrimp platters and crab dip from any Crab Shack location. Or take advantage of the recent explosion of top-notch barbecue joints, where pitmasters elevate ordinary tailgating to extraordinary status. Bulldog fans can order up phenomenal smoked meats by the pound from Swig & Swine, Fiery Ron's Home Team BBQ, Lewis Barbecue and others.
For more refined tailgate dining, Caviar & Bananas will help you create an impressive spread from a comprehensive lineup that includes egg casseroles, bagel platters, shrimp and grits, pastas, grilled meats, roasted vegetables and salads, gourmet sandwiches, cheese and charcuterie boards, creative canapes and, yes, caviar, for truly distinctive tailgating.
Clemson University, Clemson
Colors: Orange and purple
Tailgating tips: When tailgating in Tiger country, the pigs have it. Both The Smoking' Pig in Pendleton and Pompous Pig in Anderson offer tailgate packages that include heaping portions of your favorite smoked meats and sides. Or tackle a mega "Touchdown Custom Package" from Big Dave's All-American BBQ, located in the heart of Death Valley. Choose from wings, hot dogs, Lowcountry boil, hickory-smoked pork and ribs, and more. Just follow the mouthwatering aromas.
Want to create a tailgating spectacle? With enough notice, you might be able to snag a mammoth 6-foot sub sandwich from the Pot Belly Deli. It's guaranteed to quiet those rumbling Tiger tummies.
Coastal Carolina University, Conway
Conference: Big South
Colors: Black and teal
Tailgating tips: Two-fisted sandwiches fuel the fandom of Coastal Carolina, home of the mighty Chanticleers. Tailgate tables are often appointed with crowd-pleasers from The Trestle, a Main Street charmer serving up some of the tastiest salads and sandwiches around. House-made chicken salad, tuna salad, pasta salad, potato salad, and shrimp salad can be ordered by the pound. Or choose a meat and cheese platter for customized sandwich making. The Trestle is a bakery, too, and that means fresh sweet treats like lemon squares, fudgy brownies, all kinds of cookies or go big with a giant chocolate chip cookie cake. Another winning purveyor of game day eats is Cheesesteak U. If you spot Chanticleer tailgaters chowing down on football-size subs, chances are they have been to this institution of higher noshing. Despite their Southern inclinations, the CCU crowd knows a winning Philly cheesesteak when they taste one.
South Carolina State University, Orangeburg
Conference: Mid-eastern Athletic
Colors: Garnet and blue
Tailgating tips: These Bulldog fans lay a tailgating table that's brimming with Southern flavors from bold to refined. The deli at Chestnut Grill Food and Spirits can pull together a game day feast of house-made pimento cheese, Charleston-style blue crab dip and the restaurant's award-winning chicken salad studded with crunchy toasted almonds. Anchor these offerings with barbecue and fried chicken from Dukes Bar-B-Que on Whitman Street, an Orangeburg mainstay that's been quieting growling bellies for decades.
University of South Carolina, Columbia
Colors: Garnet and black
Tailgating tips: Gamecock loyals hold little store by the notorious chicken curse, though the start of the football season usually spells plenty of doom for many a feathered clucker. USC tailgating protocols demand the consumption of mass quantities of chicken, and some of the best in the land can be found in the Midlands. In keeping with the time-honored tradition, Bernie's, Zesto and Rosewood Dairy Bar have been frying up boxes and tubs of juicy, crispy chicken to satisfy the pre-game hankerings of hoards of hungry fans for decades.