There is so much more to football than just watching the game. Don’t believe us? Just ask Joe Cahn, the Official Commissioner of Tailgating. Cahn travels the country throwing and attending pre-game parties that celebrate not only the team, but the fans. A click around Cahn’s site will show proof that tailgating at MetLife is something special. From the food to the fans, there are parties so cool during football season that some show up just for the tailgate.
Yup, some fans never even enter the stadium —because back in the parking lot, you can snack on gourmet food, sip signature cocktails and watch every angle of the game on flat-screen TVs while still embracing the energy and thrill of being at the game.
What started as an out-of-the-trunk burger and dog party has been elevated into an all-day affair of food, drinks, entertainment and, if you’re lucky, private bathrooms! Some fans have taken their tailgating so seriously, they’ve built businesses around it. The Smoke Exchange is the brainchild of Anthony Valois and Kevin Chen, two Wall Street veterans whose intense love of food drove them to drop everything and create the finest barbecue catering service in the Tri-State Area. Their Lot B parties are legendary — as are their slow-cooked brisket and whole roasted pig. Dan Marney — a Giants season ticket holder — started Game Time Catering as a way for team-loving fans to get together and party. Over the years, his open tailgate grew so big that he became the go-to for private events. Now, Dan and his crew mostly do private tailgates for football games and concerts at MetLife.
Since the stadium prohibits guest from charging fees in the parking lots, entry to most tailgates are by a “suggested donation” made before game time. Usually an e-ticket or confirmation is involved so you can get into the party easily.
If you’re at a Jets or Giants game, a walk around the stadium will reveal countless banquet-style celebrations with more food on offer than Sunday at Nonna’s house. Here are a few of our favorites.
Top Shelf Tailgate
Location: Lot E-24 – right in the same lot where Uber drops you off and where the train stops.
Details: The Port Monmouth-based party company comes fully ready to go, boasting two trailers equipped with sofas, restrooms, TVs and sexy servers in football jerseys. Top Shelf is so popular it gets booked out before the season even starts. (Business bigwigs like to rent the entire party so they can entertain clients and friends at the game.) Individual passes for tailgates are available via their website and each pass allows guests access to everything they offer. So, you could find yourself in a makeshift football lounge watching a pig roast before kickoff.
Standout dish: You won’t starve here. They’ve got it all from pulled pork, whole roasted pigs, chicken, kielbasa with kraut, sliders, double burgers and more. But the standout served here is the filet mignon cheesesteak.
More info: Topshelftailgate.com
Location: Lot L-17 Lot 21 – back curb by the race track.
Details: Game Time is a private tailgating situation, so you’ll need to coordinate and book with them in advance. They will cater for as small as 10 people and as many as 500. They supply tent covered areas, satellite TVs, chairs, games, heaters (when needed), servers and even bring along private restrooms. This could be the best bachelor party ever.
Standout dish: All the regular ‘cue food like burgers, ribs and dogs. They also offer some fun party food like Mexican lasagna and fried ravioli. But their signature dish is the candy kielbasa – a caramelized version of the sausage you won’t be able to resist. Game Time is BYOB so be sure to ask for a cooler and ice set-up.
More info: Gametimecatering.com
Big Blue BBQ
Location: This is a Giants tailgate party, so you’ll find them at Big Blue’s home games. Their massive trailer – fully equipped with a giant 70-inch flat screen TV – is at Parking lot J, section 19. Trust us, you can’t miss them.
Details: John Vingara, Joe Irovando and Greg Scharfstein have been growing this party for more than 10 years now, mostly through word of mouth and, more recently, social media. You can find around 200 people hanging out at their trailer enjoying the live DJ, heated tents, a private bathroom and that giant satellite TV. Log onto their website and select which Giants game you want to attend. Suggested donation is $35 via PayPal – a great deal for a full menu of football food made to order.
Standout dish: Get on their mailing list for a weekly menu but if the Pepper Jack mac and cheese and sausage and peppers are on offer, fill up your plate.
More info: Bigbluebbq.com
The Smoke Exchange
Location: Lot B
Details: The brainchild of Anthony Valois, The Smoke Exchange is an on-the-go BBQ catering company that focuses on MetLife Stadium tailgating during football season. Their award winning “NY Style” BBQ draws in hundreds of fans and they were recently asked to assist celebrated BBQ Pitmaster Robbie Richter at a 2016 US Navy Fleet Week event.
Standout Dish: BBQ master Valois has been winning at ‘cue competitions for more than a decade, so all their food is stellar. He has taken top-five finishes home in all major categories. Think ribs, brisket, pulled pork, and chicken. So expect all the classic ‘cue dishes here, but with one twist. Valois calls his cooking distinctly “NY Style” barbecue and all cooked low and slow with indirect heat (as opposed to over a flame), so expect a LOT of flavor and even more swagger. Think burgers made with dry-aged beef, bacon onion jam and aged cheeses, 11 cheese mac and cheese, pork belly pit beans, sweet potato pecan casserole and more. Plus, Valois is a true foodie. So all the meat comes from specialty butchers (no frozen pre-formed pucks hitting this grill), produce from premier vendors and even the wood in the smoker is hand cut by Valois himself. In addition to food, expect beer, top shelf liquor, Jell-O shots and “Go Jets” green velvet cupcakes and banana peanut butter candied bacon cupcakes for dessert.
More info: partyinlotb.com
Location: Green Lot E-10. On the side shared by Yellow Lot D.
Details: The best bet here is to get a TGJ Season Tailgate Pass. For $250 you get a pass to all eight Jets game tailgate parties.
Standout Dish: We would never say no to the Funky GodFather Burger: a Pat LaFrieda chuck/brisket/short rib blend with grilled fennel, balsamic mayo, and Sottocenere Italian black truffle cheese. What’s cool here is that you can upgrade your experience to include a keg, your own private tent, an oyster bar, server service and more. Why do you need a server? To skip the lines, natch. Yes, at Joe’s parties, so many people show up that the hot sausage line could run longer than the bathroom line at halftime.
More info: TailgateJoe.com
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