WVU Game Day: The Delicious Art of Tailgating
by Charles Young
MORGANTOWN — Of the many traditions surrounding West Virginia University football games, none are taken more seriously than tailgating.
Before Saturday’s homecoming game against Texas Tech University, thousands of diehard Mountaineer fans staked out their spots in the stadium parking lot, fired up their grills and served up heaping helpings of everything delicious.
While many tailgating setups were modest — simple spreads of appetizers and finger foods — others went all out, with elaborate meals like seafood dishes and filet mignon steaks.
Randy Carder, a WVU alum who was tailgating with his wife and family, said that as far as he’s concerned, there are only two rules when it comes to tailgate food.
“It’s got to go with beer, and you’ve got to be able to hold it in your hands,” Carder said. “It’s better to keep it simple.”
Carder’s tailgate featured the classics: Hot dogs, hamburgers and a variety of potatoes chips — all served on paper plates.
Brandon Burchfield, a chef and owner of Tropics Restaurant and Bar, said his restaurant is hired by several local businesses to serve up their game-day meals.
“Every home game, we do a tailgate for John Howard Motors, Parotta Paving and Rice Rentals,” Burchfield said.
On Saturday he was serving prime rib sliders, barbecue burger sliders, chicken wings, pepperoni rolls and an assortment of desserts.
Burchfield said his game-day cuisine is a mixture of the foods found on Tropics’ menu and his own experimentation.
“It’s half-and-half,” he said. “We cook about half the stuff here, and we prepare the other half at the restaurant.”
Chris Hipp, a WVU alum, was seen Saturday cooking up a classic Southern, one-pot dish: Chicken bog.
“It’s a South Carolina recipe — I lived in South Carolina for a while,” Hipp said. “It’s sausage and chicken that you cook down, then bring up with rice.”
Hipp said he loves cooking on game days and tries to keep his menus diverse.
“We change it up a little bit,” he said. “We do steaks, we do different things. It just depends on how many people we having coming that day.”
Jeff Burns, a graduate of WVU’s dental school, said he considers meat to be the essential part of any good tailgating meal.
“We’ve done lamb chops, we’ve done steak, and now I’m doing chicken with an Italian marinade,” he said.
Burns, who cooks meals for every home game, said he likes to prepare everything by hand, using only fresh ingredients.
“We’ll usually do some kind of protein, and then we’ll do homemade guacamole, homemade salsa,” he said. “One of the games, we’ll do wings.”
Jeff Mlakar, a WVU alum, said that for early games, he likes to start off with the most important meal of the day.
“If it’s a noon game, we always do breakfast,” Mlakar said. “If it’s a 3:30 game, we’ll switch it up — we go for steaks or seafood or something fun.”
Using two massive grills and an electric griddle Saturday, Mlakar served up bacon, sausage, potatoes, hash browns, pancakes and french toast.
“Everybody likes the breakfast,” he said. “It’s just a thing we do.”