Chef Hughes samples the goodies of Pirates tailgaters


Left: A chef with the Innopalooza tailgaiting group poses for the camera.

When it comes to Pirates tailgating, everyone has a personal preference for what’s on the menu. Of course hot dogs rank as the number one choice amongst many and have that nostalgic connection to the golden age of baseball. But not everyone prefers to eat a dog on game day; in fact, many are venturing into the outfield in search of more interesting menu selections like ribs, brisket, pulled pork, steak, and even salmon.

There seems to be a certain hype when choosing the perfect menu for game day. It must be the euphoria of great food that keeps a positive mind when in the seventh inning stretch your team is scoreless and down by 24. This must be why Pirates fans are eating so well these days, as my son Morgan and I discovered at game against the Atlanta Braves on Saturday, May 22. He and I walked along the row of tailgaters getting a close up of their world.

The Long Pond Limo was a site to see, and it held some serious tailgaters. The “Limo” is actually a school bus that has been renovated and accommodated with plush bench seating and booths toward the front.

A grill is mounted on the outside of the bus with additional counter space for the perfect tailgating convenience. The outside of the bus is decorated with the names and references special to them, including “the missing link” which is meant to pay respect to the late Andy Linquist, who named the bus. This group of about 30 Pirates fans travels faithfully from Kane, Pa., and tailgates with Tonia Hartzell’s special recipe for Sloppy Joes.

Tonia’s Recipe:

5# Ground Venison, 2 cups Ketchup, 1TB chili powder, ½ cup vinegar, 2 TB Brown Sugar, 1tsp. Salt, ¼ teaspoon Allspice

I wasn’t familiar with Kane, Pa., and had to look it up on the map. Judging from its location, it would certainly explain the use of Venison in the Joe recipe. After tasting it myself, I highly recommend this recipe as a definite tailgate pleaser.

As I was walking along the row of tailgaters, I noticed some tall cylinder canisters that I know to be smokers, and knew this guy was up to something other than just hot dogs and hamburgers. Jeff Rhoades, of Verona, likes to smoke pork loin and chicken.

Jeff’s Recipe:

1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup salt, 1/4 cup chili powder, 1/4 cup paprika, 4 tsp. black pepper, 3 tsp. cayenne pepper, 2 TB granulated onion, 2 TB granulated garlic, 3 tsp. oregano

BBQ Sauce

3 cups ketchup, 1/2 cup chicken broth, 1/2 cup white vinegar, 1/4 cup light corn syrup, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 2 TB hot sauce, 2 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. BBQ seasoning, 1 tsp. black pepper, 1/4 cup horseradish

Add all except horseradish and bring to boil and then simmer for one hour.


Rub loins with rub then smoke with indirect heat (250 degrees) for 2 hours. You can use your favorite wood (used hickory on Saturday). After 2 hours wrap in foil and coat with honey and brown sugar. Keep on heat until pork reaches 160 degree internal temperature. Coat with BBQ sauce and slice.

Texas fare always comes to mind when I plan my tailgating menu. My number one choice is Texas Brisket. It is versatile enough to enjoy any way you like, on a kaiser roll, on a dog, over nachos, or simply eat it with your fingers.

Chef Steven Hughes’s Beef Brisket:

3 lbs. beef brisket, 1 lbs. brown sugar, 1TB garlic salt, 1 tsp. of black pepper, 1 tsp. of cumin, 1 tsp. of chili pepper, 1 cube beef bouillon , 1 cup of water, 1 bottle Sweet Baby Rays BBQ Sauce

Mix the sugar with seasonings and Pat into the beef. Cover with foil in a roaster oven at 350 degrees for 2 hours, then add water and bouillon, reduce heat to 200 degrees and continue cooking for an additional 8 to 10 hours until the brisket begins to fall apart, then shred the beef. Add 1 bottle of Sweet Baby Rays Barbeque Sauce and some additional water if needed to keep moist. Hold for service. Serve with Creamy Cole Slaw and Baked Beans. Brisket can also be made in a crock pot.

With my brisket, I serve my own simple recipe of baked beans.

Chef Steven Hughes’s Baked Beans:

1 large can of Bush’s Original Baked Beans, 1 regular can of Hunt’s diced tomatoes, 1 regular can of Bush’s Black Beans (rinsed), 1 medium onion, 1 TB of butter, 1 cup of ketchup, 1 pound of John Morrell bacon, 1 cup of dark brown sugar

Dice the onion and sauté in a tablespoon of butter till the onion begins to caramelize. Then add to the rest of the ingredients, except the bacon, mixing well in a bowl. Pour the bean mixture into a baking dish of appropriate size. Cut the bacon into strips about 2 inches in length and place on top of the beans. Bake at 300 degrees for about 3 to 4 hours, soak up the excess grease and sprinkle with additional brown sugar and bake another 10 minutes, serve.

After spending an hour wandering through the isles of tailgating Pirates fans, my son was noticeably downtrodden. Knowing well that baseball is not for everyone, and certainly following your dad around interviewing tailgaters might not seem like the dope thing to do for a 13 year old these days, I recommended some good things for him to consider that I would like to share with all of you.

Stepping outside your front doors and into the elements is the first step toward enjoying and experiencing life. You can sit at home and watch the game, but until you get out of the lazy boy and find that optimum spot for tailgating next to the stadium, you’ll never how what you’re missing. Good times.

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