Right now, Atlanta Falcons superfans are finishing up grocery runs, snatching up anything marketers will slap a Dirty Bird on, and preparing for this weekend’s friendly little game against the New England Patriots. Super Bowl tickets may be harder to come by than a barbecue in a blizzard, but that won’t stop some Atlantans from making the pigskin pilgrimage to Houston (it’s a two-hour flight or an 11-hour drive) just to be in proximity to NRG Stadium during the game.
This is where I come in. As one of Atlanta’s Texan expats, it’s my civic duty to make sure those of you traveling to Houston are aware of a few quintessential Texan staples that will make your tailgate game way better than anyone coming down from New England. Below, five Texan foods to spice up your Super Bowl experience:
Start your day off right with these popular breakfast pastries, based on Czech kolache (fruit-filled) and klobasniky (meat-filled). In Texas, we’d just call ‘em all kolache. The most popular variant, sweetbread stuffed with a sausage link, scrambled eggs, and cheese might resemble what you’d normally call a “pig in a blanket.” Main difference is that it’ll be bigger (this is Texas, after all)—some are the size of softballs.
Pick these up a few miles south of NRG Stadium at Buc-ee’s Convenience Store, a 60,000 square-foot gas station and local icon. 11151 Shadow Creek Parkway, Pearland, Texas
I know it’s a Falcons game, but you’re not going to be able to get a Fox Bros. take-out order in Houston. Even if you follow the almighty pig when it comes to low and slow-cooked meat, Texas is cattle country, so grab the bull by the brisket. First lesson: no matter where you go, order brisket sliced (as opposed to chopped), and ask for it moist. If the cashier (you are going to a place where you order meat at a counter, right?) is confused by this request, back away slowly toward the door.
Just a couple of miles east of Buc-ee’s is Killen’s Barbecue, widely regarded as one of the best barbecue spots in Houston. Get there early. You’re going to be standing in line for a while, but it’ll be worth it. 3613 East Broadway Street, Pearland, Texas
Great for breakfast or lunch, these tacos are typically stuffed with eggs, cheese, potatoes, bacon, chorizo, and/or peppers and onions. You can’t go wrong with a mixed box of these for your friends. The beauty of these Texas treasures is that you can dress them up or down. Just want some bacon and eggs? Done. Looking for something a little more fancy? Somewhere, you’ll be able to order one with migas, corn, salsa, and avocado.
Some of the best breakfast tacos (skewing towards the basic eggs and meat) in Houston can be found at Brothers Taco House, just south of downtown. 1604 Dowling Street, Houston, Texas
Burgers are a tailgate staple. If you want one quickly, look no further than Texas’s most celebrated fast-food burger chain, Whataburger. The restaurant’s standard burger, the Whataburger, is a classic, but don’t forget to ask for cheese on it. You also can’t go wrong with the “All-Time Favorites.” These special sandwiches include the timeless meat, cheese and oniony-goodness of the Patty Melt, the Monterey Melt with spicy southwestern flavors, and the Honey BBQ Chicken Strip Sandwich, which simply is three chicken strips (godly on their own) covered in honey BBQ sauce and Monterey Jack cheese on Texas toast. Whichever you go with, don’t forget to customize it. The restaurant boasts 36864 possible combinations. Personally, I go with double meat, double cheese, grilled onions and peppers, jalapeños, lettuce, tomato, mustard and bacon, on Texas toast, thank you very much.
All Whataburger locations are open 24 hours a day. Between 11:00 PM and 11:00 AM, you can also get breakfast—try the Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit. And there’s one less than two miles from NRG Stadium. 9955 Main Street, Houston, Texas
You’re going to want something to wash down all of that wonderful Texan food. And while you could lug a case of SweetWater or Monday Night all the way to Houston, when in Texas, do as the Texans do. Here, Shiner is king. While it’s good, it won’t be the best drink you’ve tasted, and those with more craft-oriented tastes may release an audible, “meh.” But in terms of cost, availability, and variety, you can do no better. Pick up the Shiner Family Reunion sampler six-pack for an excellent crash course into the brewery’s offerings.
You should be able to find Shiner anywhere booze is sold, but for the real experience, drive two hours west to Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas, where this wonderful stuff is made. Tours are available most weekdays. 603 East Brewery Street, Shiner, Texas