Sports

How to Plan the Perfect Tailgate in Charlotte

Make the most of football season in Charlotte with a picture-perfect tailgate setup. From ordering the best tailgate packages in town to finding the top spots to pregame or grab gear to show your pride for the hometown teams, we’ve got your guide for tailgating like royalty in the Queen City.

Photography by Eric Gaddy

For football fans, the arrival of fall doesn’t just mean a break in the humidity, the return of seasonal beers and the chance to bundle up in cozy flannels again; it also means it’s time again to spend your weekends cheering on your favorite professional and collegiate football teams. While the plays and the final score are everything, planning the perfect tailgate to enjoy it all is essential.

The Food

No matter what your crew is craving, Charlotte’s diverse culinary scene serves up all the tailgate classics like barbecue, hot dogs and fried chicken as well as other popular local favorites like pizza and Latin American street food.

Midwood Smokehouse in Montford - Photography by Kate Magee

Midwood Smokehouse

Neighborhood: Plaza Midwood, Ballantyne, Montford and Huntersville

Midwood Smokehouse makes it ultra-convenient to pick up your tailgate sustenance. Their party packs feature two meats and two sides and feed anywhere from four to 24 people. While the larger party packs must be picked up at the restaurant, orders for 10 people or less are available for delivery via DoorDash. If wings are a must, choose from the crispy or smoked variety. Don’t forget to grab dessert, too, like pecan cobbler or banana pudding. Fun fact: The restaurant caters a number of Carolina Panthers events, so you could be chowing down on the same menu that your favorite players enjoy!

Green's Lunch

Neighborhood: Uptown

Charlotte’s longest-running restaurant was founded in 1926 by the late Robert Green, who served up one famous dish: hot dogs. Ownership changed over the years and the menu and restaurant expanded, but hot dogs have always been the star of the show, especially the “all the way” dog topped with a secret homemade chili. Keep it simple with a platter of hot dogs and toppings for your tailgate. To add a special touch, you can even request the Green’s hot dog car be set up on-site.

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Benny Pennello's

Neighborhood: NoDa

For the hungry crowd, Benny Pennello’s in NoDa is the right pick. The pizza slices are nothing short of massive. Even linebacker-like appetites are no match.

Bojangles Famous Chicken 'n Biscuits

Neighborhood: Citywide

Bojangles is a Southern classic for any tailgate. In 1977 the first Bojangles restaurant opened in Charlotte and has been serving up its seasoned chicken and mouthwatering biscuits ever since. For less than $50, the 20-piece chicken meal option feeds your pack of hungry fans easily and features chicken, biscuits, sweet tea and four fixin's (sides). Smaller parties can choose the eight- or 12-piece options.

Sabor Latin Street Grill - Photography by Kate Magee

Sabor Latin Street Grill

Neighborhood: Throughout the Charlotte region

The popular local restaurant, with locations everywhere from NoDa to Indian Trail, dishes up authentic Latin American street food. You’ll find catering packages that work for parties of any size. The family meal box is another ultra-affordable way to feed a group. For $35, you’ll get enough tortillas, proteins, rice, beans and dips for between four and six people.

The Batchmaker

Neighborhood: Wesley Heights

If you’re looking for homemade treats to satisfy a bunch of football-loving sweet teeth, The Batchmaker (Cristina Rojas) has you covered. Rojas whips up decadent treats, like caramel apple cake, S’mores cheesecake, plus more. Pick up your treat at the West Charlotte location or pay a small fee for local delivery.

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Rhino Market

Neighborhood: Uptown, Wesley Heights, NoDa, South End and Airport

For a casual and quick option, grab one of Rhino Market’s sandwiches, which are equal parts tasty and convenient for feeding a group. Order a sandwich platter for just about $6 per person, with choices like roast beef, turkey, ham or chicken salad. Don’t forget to snag potato salad and slaw, too.

The Drinks

To keep your crew hydrated, make it a point to have plenty of drink options, both boozy and not, ready to go.

Salud Beer Shop - Photography by Kyo H. Nam

Salud Beer Shop

Neighborhood: NoDa

When you’re looking for off-the-beaten-path picks, stop at Salud Beer Shop in NoDa. They’ve got your hard-to-find favorites, sure to impress even the pickiest tailgaters.

Brawley's Beverage

Neighborhood: Montford

When you’re the one tasked with bringing beer to the party, Park Road staple Brawley’s Beverage will help you show up with something to please every beer snob in the group. They’ve got a huge selection and can point novices in the right direction.

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Lenny Boy Brewing Co.

Neighborhood: South End

Looking for a refreshing non-alcoholic option? Try Lenny Boy Brewing Co.'s kombucha, a fermented beverage packed with probiotics that comes in tasty flavors like Elite Beet and Lavenderade, plus popular seasonal picks like Sweet Potato Pie and Merry Cranberry. It’s available by the bottle or in growlers for easy transportation. Fun fact: kombucha growler fill-ups are only $10 every day of the week.

Lost Worlds Brewing

Neighborhood: Cornelius

Lost Worlds Brewing offers beer to-go so you can grab your favorites for the group. Their six year-round Basecamp Beers are available in four-packs or a 32-ounce crowler. Kegs are available upon request.

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Blue Blaze Brewing Co.

Neighborhood: Wesley Heights

Charlotte is home to a plethora of fantastic breweries, many of which offer kegs or growlers. Located close to Uptown, swing by Blue Blaze Brewing Co. and grab a keg (available in ½ barrel and ⅙ barrel sizes) of Blue Blaze Altbier Amber Ale. The smooth flagship beer is sure to be a fan favorite.

Armored Cow Brewing Co.

Neighborhood: University City

For those with dietary concerns, a growler of Armored Cow’s Miss Rosie gluten-free blonde ale or Serenity Now pale ale will do the trick.

The Gear

If wearing an oversized jersey emblazoned with your favorite player’s number on it isn’t really your thing, no problem. There are plenty of ways to show your team spirit, all while supporting local businesses.

704 Shop - Photography by Kate Magee

704 Shop

Neighborhood: South End

704 Shop provides the merch you need to rep your favorite area code and hometown teams at the same time, featuring apparel for men and women.

Paper Skyscraper

Neighborhood: Dilworth

When it comes to finishing touches for game day, Paper Skyscraper in Dilworth has you covered. From Charlotte-themed koozies and socks to handy accessories for barbequing, they’ve got unexpected yet useful items to complete your tailgate festivities.

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Glory Days Apparel

Neighborhood: South End

Glory Days Apparel has hot-off-the-presses football-themed tanks and tees that are so soft you’ll want to wear them even when it's not game day.

OMJ Clothing

Neighborhood: South End

If you’re looking to glam up your game day look, Ole Mason Jar or OMJ Clothing in South End has you covered. You can custom order an MTM (made to measure) shirt in your hometown team colors or a sports coat with a punchy, Panthers-themed lining. It’s an unexpected and sleek way to showcase your team spirit.

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Girl Tribe Co.

Neighborhood: South End

Girl Tribe carries a line of feminine, vintage-inspired game day merch that’s equal parts cute and comfy.

The Pregame Plan

Whether you’re looking for a spot to pregame before your tailgate, to grab post-game drinks or to serve as your home base during the game, these popular sports bars should be at the top of your list.

Graham Street Pub & Patio - Photography by Kate Magee

Graham Street Pub & Patio

Neighborhood: Uptown

This two-story sports pub features indoor and outdoor seating just steps from Bank of America stadium. Enjoy eclectic pub fare (the Appetizer Platter is a must), handcrafted cocktails, craft beer and wine with a stunning view of the Charlotte skyline.

Courtyard Hooligans

Neighborhood: Uptown

Hidden away in Brevard Court across the street from Romare Bearden Park, Courtyard Hooligans is a favorite spot for soccer fans but also a solid choice to grab a drink, hang with friends and watch the other kind of football too.

All American Pub

Neighborhood: South End

This lively South End sports bar features an expansive patio and indoor seating, big-screen TVs, and game day comfort food (think burgers, nachos, wings and more), craft cocktails and local beer.

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Duckworth’s Grill & Taphouse

Neighborhood: Uptown (temporarily closed), Ballantyne, Huntersville, Mooresville and South Charlotte

This local pub chain has a robust selection of local and regional beers on tap, TVs galore and all your favorite game day grub like wings (be sure to try Mommoo’s Wings), Carolina barbecue, pizza, burgers, Philly cheesesteaks (the sandwich that started it all) and more.

Sports One Bar & Lounge

Neighborhood: Uptown

For a more modern, upscale sports bar experience, head to Sports One in Uptown. Chic decor, fancy bar fare and creative craft cocktails are the name of the game at this concept from owner Peter Thomas of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” fame.

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Selwyn Avenue Pub

Neighborhood: Myers Park

Since 1990, Selwyn Pub has been a favorite game day spot for the Myers Park crowd as well as Charlotteans from across the city. Grab a spot on the outdoor patio and enjoy a low-key but lively experience. Not sure what to order? They’re known for their pizza, wings and creative transfusion mixed drinks.

Dilworth Neighborhood Grille

Neighborhood: Dilworth

This locally owned and operated neighborhood sports bar and restaurant (plus a patio) serves up a lively atmosphere, welcoming customer service, elevated bar food and diverse drink options—everything you need for a stellar game day experience.

Hickory Tavern

Neighborhood: Throughout the Charlotte region

This neighborhood sports bar always has dozens of TVs on the game, a lively bar and great food, like shareable apps (like pretzel bites, nachos and wings), burgers, tacos and other handheld favorites.

Original article by Lauren Levine Corriher, updates and additions made by Kristen Moore in August 2021.