I am a self-proclaimed sports non-enthusiast. I simply don’t care very much for the games or the teams or the points. But what I can get behind, and what I do enjoy is a good game day gathering. Show me a reason to throw a party, and I will show you where I shine.
Over the years, we have hosted a lot of game-watching parties in our home. From college football games to basketball finals to the Super Bowl, we have invited friends to gather around the glow of the television, cheer for whatever team we love most, and enjoy a spread of delicious game day nibbles.
I have developed a litmus test for what makes a good game day menu. The basic parameters? Lots of dips, some sort of main dish sandwich, minimal desserts, and ideally no fork required.
Also vitally important? The food needs to require no fussing from me once it is set out. Hanging out with friends (and I suppose watching the game) is where I want to focus all of my attention. Today I am sharing some of my favorite game day foods in the hopes that these guidelines will serve you well as you watch the sport of your choosing with friends.
THE MAIN EVENT.
While I personally can make a meal of snacks and dips, I find it helpful to choose one heavier item to be an anchor food and provide a bit of heft to the plate. My favorite option, for a number of reasons, is some sort of sandwich.
Roast Beef Sliders win the day when it comes to fall game day food. The tender beef, sweet buns, and Dijon mustard create a flavor combo that is universally loved and pairs well with other items. I know burgers or wings are more traditional football food, but I find them too fussy, requiring last minute attention as well as being difficult to keep warm until halftime, which is when most people decide to grab a plate. The beauty of Roast Beef Sliders is three-fold: you make the meat the day before, it simmers on the stove for serving (or in your crock pot), and it does not require a lot of condiments or layers for it to be delicious.
Let’s be honest. Game day is all about the dips. I love Ina’s Onion Dip. A classic Blue Cheese Dip is one of our family favorites. Artichoke Dip has made an appearance at several game day gatherings. “Homemade Ranch” (i.e., the ranch dip packet mixed with sour cream) is simple, but good. I also love guacamole (paired with store-bought salsa), Hot Corn Dip, and if you’re really looking to go all-in, the Bob Armstrong Dip is outstanding.
In addition to the dips and spreads and sandwiches, I like including fun snacks that can be eaten out of hand and set out in various locations. Chipotle Parmesan Popcorn, Maple Chipotle Snack Mix, high quality pretzels, salted peanuts, or bowls of candy are nibbles I enjoy setting out.
Trust me when I say, game day doesn’t need as much dessert as you think. Choose one sweet option, make it in moderation, and then let it go. People are more inclined to get more queso or perhaps another beverage before they are inclined to eat a cookie or bar. Certainly include something sweet (Chocolate Chip Cookies or Brownies are my go-to) but no need to go overboard.
There are a short list of foods that I would categorically not include in a game day menu because I think they miss the ethos of the event. They include salad, fruit, and any fare that requires a fork.
Game Day is not designed to be the poster child for healthy eating, so lean into that and let it be a collection of decadent offerings. No one wants salad at game day, so skip it. Fresh fruit is just going to sit there and go uneaten. And knife and fork fare creates logistical challenges given that table and chairs are usually limited. Make it easy for your guests to stand with a plate in one hand and eat their food with the other, no utensils required.
I hope these tips help you plan your next delicious game day gathering!