Most college football pre-game meals are traditionally consumed in a stadium parking lot on the tailgate on the back of a truck or off a grill next to an RV. But bowl games, played as a reward for players and fans during the holidays at intriguing destinations, deserves a little local flavor in the food department. Bypass the brats and burgers for something better. Here are the best restaurants for bowl games:
Orange Bowl, Miami, Florida
Joe’s Stone Crab Restaurant, on the south end of South Beach, has been serving celebrities seafood for more than a century and is one of the most successful family restaurants in American history. Don’t leave without a slice of secret recipe key lime pie.
Rose Bowl Pasadena, California
Paparazzi spot movie and television stars eating fried chicken at The Ivy in West Hollywood, but real, old school celebrities get cozy at the celebrity chef’s Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air. The magical garden and terrace are hidden in what seems like secret a 12-acre enclave above Beverly Hills.
Outback Bowl, Tampa, Florida
Time-honored Bern’s Steakhouse runs an end-around on the bowl game’s title sponsor. While Outback Steakhouse’s gimmick is a “Bloomin’ Onion,” people leave Bern’s talking about the Harry Waugh Dessert Room: 48 private desert rooms, created using wine casks, serving deserts, ports and sherries.
Holiday Bowl, San Diego, California
Leave the cheering for the stadium – it’s a silent kitchen acclaimed grand chef William Bradley directs and overseen at Addison, the stunning artisanal, five-star/five-diamond European cuisine experience in the luxurious Fairmont Grand Del Mar Resort.
Boca Raton Bowl, Boca Raton, Florida
No one travels to the Sunshine State during winter to be inside, so score a sidewalk table or open-air bar seat for breakfast, lunch or dinner at Caffe Luna Rosa, a casual bistro setting with fresh Italian cuisine directly across from the ocean in Delray Beach.
Military Bowl, Annapolis, Maryland
Close enough to the Nation’s Capital to pull up a chair at The Palm, where if you don’t see a notable Washington D.C. elected official, cabinet secretary or media luminary in person, you will see that characterized in the cartoon drawings on the walls.
With three bowl games, there are plenty of bells and whistles Disney-style dining options not only in and around the resort but also up and down International Drive. For something more authentic, Peebles Bar-B-Q, over in Auburndale, is a charming shack, family-operated since 1947, and serving 15 exceptional items from a huge indoor smoke pit.
Pinstripe Bowl, Bronx, New York
The famed 21 Club, near Rockefeller Center, has vintage wines in the cellar and toys suspended from the dining room ceiling – both due to the stars who’ve illuminated 21 since Humphrey Bogart, Howard Hughes, and Ernest Hemingway. The pool cue Jackie Gleason used in the film “The Hustler” is steps from the table at which Michael Douglas in the movie “Wall Street,” advised Charlie Sheen to order the steak tartare.
Quick Lane Bowl, Detroit, Michigan
Instead of the usual pre-game tailgate bratwurst, do what Detroiters have been doing since 1917 – often late, late night – after big, fancy events and “go for Coney dogs” at American Coney Island on Lafayette Street across from the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel. The natural casing hot dogs topped with chili, onions and mustard may preempt a hangover…or at least ensure you remember the night.
Fiesta Bowl, Phoenix, Arizona
The Grill Kitchen and Bar at Boulders Resort and Spa has an 80-seat, open-air, covered patio offering a panoramic, colorful desert mountain view of one of two dramatic golf courses. Sip on an “Indian Paintbrush:” gin, elderflower liquor, hibiscus syrup, orange and lemon while nibbling short rib tacos and basil hummus.
Las Vegas Bowl, Las Vegas, Nevada
Celebrity Chef Gordon Ramsey’s new “Hell’s Kitchen,” a stand alone restaurant right on the Strip out in front of Caesar’s Palace, simulates his television show set and often features working characters viewers have seen featured on the program. Diners are greeted by a life-sized, animated Ramsey tossing tart comments at them. And the most irreverent show in Las Vegas, “Absinthe,” is performed in an elaborate tent right next to the restaurant.
The Hawai’i Bowl Honolulu, Hawai’i
Former Miss Hawaii winners dance gracefully at sunset under a Kiawe tree at the House Without A Key, the Waikiki restaurant a 1925 Charlie Chan novel made famous. What could be more relaxing than the sounds of a ukulele and the taste of a Mai Tai?
Michael Patrick Shiels is a radio host and travel blogger. Follow his adventures at GoWorldTravel.com/TravelTattler. You can contact him via MShiels@aol.com.