Saturday’s preseason win over the San Francisco 49ers was, by my count, the 161st home game in Texans history. It was also the 161st opportunity for Texans’ tailgaters, some of the most ardent in sports, to cook something more inventive than brisket or burgers.
There’s nothing wrong with drawing up these classics, especially if they’re perfectly executed, like Deshaun Watson’s first-quarter touchdown drive Saturday night. But it might be fun to add a flea flicker or even a Hail Mary to your cookout playbook. Here are three alternative options for your fast-approaching tailgate parties. And if you're worried about making these items, there are places here in Houston where you can find them:
Spam musubi would be an excellent replacement off the bench for the weary jalapeño popper or dog-tired boudin ball. Wildly popular in Hawaii, it’s concocted of just a few simple ingredients: furikake-sprinkled sushi rice; sugary, soy sauce-glazed Spam; and nori, which ties the little sandwich together. It’ll pair well with whichever brew you normally choose for grilled sausage. There’s a neat variation on musubi at Conservatory, where Moku Bar serves a Hot Cheetos-dusted version of the 50th state’s favorite snack item.
German Cuisine in October
This year, the Texans play nearly half their regular season home games in October, including two primetime battles. Since we hope to win all three, especially the one against the dreaded Cowboys, it’s a perfect opportunity to do your “wurst” and keep Oktoberfest going with German food. Last season, we brought schweinshaxe (German pork knuckle, lathered in garlic and slow roasted ‘til the skin is crispy) to our tailgate festivities. Leave the brats behind and step things up with kartoffelpuffer, light and crispy fried potato dumplings that make for easy eating. If you think these tastes can only be delivered in a biergarten, try the on-the-go offerings of Berlin Food Factory and think again. The German food truck offers everything from schnitzel to spaetzle.
The humble banh mi is a Houston favorite. Head to next month’s fifth annual Banh Mi Cookoff to see for yourself, or ask any Houston foodie and he or she will enthusiastically tell you why his or her favorite is from Les Givral’s. Or, is it Bellaire’s Don Café? No, it’s Cali Sandwich! Or, maybe Café TH? With so much banh mi passion, it’s hard to understand why we haven’t seen more in the hands of Texans tailgaters. Whichever you proclaim best, we’d like to see you try to emulate it at your next tailgate.
Bonus: Pair with Local Spirits
Tailgaters support Houston craft breweries by filling gameday coolers with the good local stuff. It’s a wonderful trend which should extend to Houston’s growing craft distillery industry. Leave the major labels on the shelves and try something from the neighborhood: Yellow Rose Distilling has whiskey down, and 8th Wonder recently branched into aged spirits with vodka and hopped gin. I recommend rum from Grateful Dane Distilling, Houston’s first rum distillery. The distillery sells carry-out bottles of its silver, gold and spiced rums onsite, just minutes from NRG Stadium.