Don't Cook for the Super Bowl

Why get all hot and bothered?

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I don’t live in a world where I can avoid the Super Bowl. I just don’t. And as a food editor, I’ve gotten at least a dozen emails filled with football-day food specials, local and national, plus lots and lots of recipes.

I’m not going to lie to you — I love wings, nachos and chili. Although I have zero interest in football, the food, I find, grabs my attention for at least three hours of the four-hour event.

I’m not particularly thrilled about making the first two dishes. By definition — in my opinion — wings and nachos are things that only restaurant kitchens can make properly, and I don’t feel like eating the amateur versions. And although I make the best chili around, we just had it when it snowed. So that’s not happening.

This leads me to one conclusion: Let’s all agree not to cook for the Super Bowl, OK?

It’ll only work if we’re all in on this together. I’m going to suggest that everyone gets take-out, throw it on a plate and we’ll all pretend it’s homemade. You’ll know, I’ll know, but Kevin over there won’t — he only brings chips and salsa anyway.

I’ve even assembled this handy, idiosyncratic guide to some of the places that you might want to order the thing you decide to take to the Super Bowl party potluck. Think of it as a jumping off point to create your own list. And check back here tomorrow — I’ll have a few beer suggestions for the big day.

Nachos:

Pro tip: Nachos must be ordered at the closest decent restaurant to your location in person and then rushed to the party, or they’ll get cold and everyone will hate them no matter how amazing they were when you picked them up. Wings and chili can take of themselves.

Greek nachos at Kitchen 64. Loaded with feta and black olives, these are the weirdest-seeming nachos that will become your new favorite.

Nachos totopos at En Su Boca. I recommend topping them with the Yucatan pork pibil for a heavy, meal-worthy batch of nachos that are particularly notable for the teeny, tiny Key limes En Su Boca uses as a garnish.

Nachos at Chicken Fiesta. These are your basic, all-purpose nachos. No surprises, always worth a bite, and several locations are dotted around town. Plus you can pick up some fried plantains to eat in the car.

Wings:

Buffalo wings at Sidewalk Café. There’s no breading on these crispy, deep-fried wings, just hot sauce, plus the usual sides. This is the standard-bearing wing to which all others should be compared.

Szechuan pepper wings at Fat Dragon. These are Peter Chang-inspired fried wings sprinkled with numbing Szechuan peppers, cilantro and chopped green onion. Bring it on.

Q Barbeque wings. There’s a deal on these smoky, lacquered wings I’d be remiss not to tell you about: You can get 24 wings for $19, 36 for $29 or 48 for $39. They’re also excellent in smaller quantities.

Chili:

Chili at Station 2. C’mon, it’s made at a former firehouse! You know it’s good. You can also pick up some deviled eggs while you’re there and that kind of twofer makes the trip downtown absolutely worthwhile.

The Texas-Wisconsin Border Café chili at Caliente: My own chili recipe is based on an approximation of this legendary spice bomb that laced my college days. Caliente will close after the Super Bowl and reopen with a new concept, so who knows? This may be your last chance to try it.

Chili at Dot’s Back Inn. Your last chance for Border chili? Just kidding — Dot’s makes its own version and it, too, is excellent.

And lastly, don’t forget chips, chips and chips. You know you can't trust Kevin.

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