It is officially GAME WEEK people. In six days, the 2016 LSU Football season will officially kickoff at 2:30 p.m. CST, as the Tigers take on the Wisconsin Badgers at legendary Lambeau Field in Green Bay.
Yes, I wanted to see Madison too, but as neutral sites go, this is definitely the coolest alternative. As of press time, the trip is still on for yours truly, despite the devastating floods that have hit Baton Rouge, including my own home.
In the spirit of our blog’s love of all things eating, drinking and tailgating, I decided to consult some local sources for a little first-hand info on the scene in Green Bay, as well as Milwaukee for those that are staying there and driving in.
But for first-hand Intel on America’s Dairyland, and the town of Green Bay itself, we sought out Evan “Tex” Western of the SB Nation Green Bay Packers blog, Acme Packing Company. He supplied us with the following report:
Let me be the first of many Wisconsin natives to welcome the LSU fan base to the great state of Wisconsin and, specifically, to Lambeau Field. The city of Green Bay is of course drastically different from Baton Rouge – it's not a state capital, there is no flagship university, and the city's population is just over 100,000. In those respects, Baton Rouge is probably much more closely aligned to Madison, which you'll find about two and a half hours to the southwest.
However, there are critical similarities here: football is king in Green Bay, and tailgating is a big freaking deal for us Wisconsinites.
With that said, here's a bit of a primer on a few places to go and things to look out for when you're in Wisconsin for the Badgers' and Tigers' season opener.
First, let's cover the local specialties. Yes, Wisconsin is known for a few critical things: beer, cheese, and bratwurst. And for good reason – the beer industry basically built Milwaukee, the nickname “America's Dairyland” reflects the rich farming heritage in the state, and who doesn't love cased meats? However, there are a few items you absolutely must try if you're making the trip.
Most critical of all are the little nuggets of joy called cheese curds. They can be served one of two ways: refrigerated and squeaky, or battered and deep-fried. Either option is magnificent, and you really can't go wrong. (And I'm serious about the “squeaky” part – you can tell the quality of a good curd by whether it squeaks against your teeth as you chew it).
Another great Wisconsin delicacy is Kringle, a flaky, fruit-filled pastry. The best-known Kringles come from Racine, just south of Milwaukee, but you can get good ones just about anywhere.
Then there are the brats. Soaked or boiled in beer and onions and grilled up to perfection, brats are a staple at every Wisconsinite's tailgate party. If someone offers you a brat, take it and eat it and enjoy the injection of grease going straight to your arteries, because it's well worth it.
Wisconsin is known for macrobrews like Miller and Pabst Blue Ribbon, but the craft beer scene in the state is second to none. Green Bay itself has a handful of good breweries, most of which offer tours for fans with some time to kill – Hinterland, Titletown, and Badger State Brewing are all great options (Ed. Note: another local offered up these options in a fanshot). There are also numerous other craft breweries from around the state that should be available in local bars and liquor stores. A few top options are Tyranena and Central Waters, each of whom produce a wide variety of quality beers.
However, this University of Wisconsin alumnus believes the very best microbrews in the state come from a couple of breweries closer to Madison. Natives will rave day and night about New Glarus Brewing, which has the iconic Spotted Cow farmhouse ale as its flagship. However, hop fans should go crazy for their Moon Man pale ale or Black Top IPA, which are both excellent. The other great option to make a point to try is Ale Asylum, whose Ambergeddon, Bedlam Belgian IPA, and Hopalicious IPA are all terrific. Any liquor store in the state should carry both breweries, so grab a few of each and enjoy.
If hard liquor is more your style, Green Bay Distillery is just blocks from Lambeau and makes some excellent spirits. Just be sure to remember the one weird rule about alcohol sales in the state – all stores have to stop sales at 9 PM, so stock up early. Otherwise, you'll have no choice but to head to a bar (which I'm sure would just be a devastating thing to have to do). As for open containers, you should be good in any tailgating area, but I would not test the local PD on the sidewalks in town.
Don't expect a whole lot of frills from any of the restaurants in the immediate vicinity of Lambeau Field. Instead, expect plenty of sports bars that will be happy to serve up top-notch pub grub. The best option for a Wisconsin-style butterburger and a basket of fried cheese curds is Kroll's West, which is just down the street from the stadium. Green Bay Distillery also has an excellent menu, with some local delicacies. However, 1919 Kitchen & Tap is the new restaurant inside the Lambeau Field Atrium and it's a great spot for foodies that want to sample local fare. Their gastropub menu matches traditional American dishes with a uniquely Wisconsin flair - my personal favorite is the venison sloppy joe sandwich with a cup of the beer cheese soup. Don't try to get a table on gameday, but it's a great spot to grab a bite after taking a tour of the Packers Hall of Fame (also in the Atrium). Brett Favre's Steakhouse is still operating a few blocks down the road from Lambeau as well, and has a traditional steakhouse and seafood menu with plenty of Packers memorabilia all over.
For people who have been to both NFL and college football games, rest assured that the vibe for Packers games is much closer to a college atmosphere than a traditional pro game. Part of this is due to the wide swath of parking lots surrounding Lambeau Field, which cater strongly to big tailgate parties. Another factor here is the local houses around the stadium, whose owners typically open up their lawns to fans looking for a spot and willing to pay cash. There are also plenty of local businesses with parking available, so you should have no trouble parking within a ten-minute walk from the stadium and paying $20 or less.
Wisconsinites tend to fit the “Midwest nice” stereotype to a tee, so you can likely introduce yourself to just about anyone and be welcomed with open arms (as well as a friendly wisecrack or two). Furthermore, with such drastically different tailgating cultures, you're sure to find plenty of Wisconsin fans willing to trade a brat and some curds for jambalaya or any other Louisiana tailgating staples.
Once inside the stadium, be prepared – the metal benches don't offer much in the way of leg room or wiggle room. This is usually more of an issue late in the NFL season, however, when cold temperatures force most Packers fans into their heavy coats and snowpants.
I urge you to have a great time, and hope that everyone is treated well by my fellow Wisconsinites.
And as always, On Wisconsin!
We appreciate Tex taking the time to help us out here. It’s getting closer and closer y’all!
I’m a bit late on the draw, but as a Chicago resident, I thought I’d offer up some advice for those of you may take this opportunity on your sojourn up north to hit one of America’s great cities. Chicago is 3 hours south of Green Bay but easily within the realm of a weekend trip, or if you are coming up North a bit early or staying a bit late.
Food and Drink
Outside of college football, blogging and professional wrestling, eating and drinking is my primary recreational hobby. I make consistent and dedicated effort to hit the restaurant scene in Chicago, which is as immense and diverse as any city you’ll find.
The foremost thing to understand about Chicago is that the best of it is within the neighborhoods. So yes, if you already booked your Magnificent Mile hotel, it’s okay. But just know you are swimming with tourists there. That said it’s a safe and highly populated area and you can get around on foot. If you booked a hotel in the Loop, be prepared for everything to close around 6 p.m. or so. People work in the loop, they don’t go out there.
The single best tourist attraction in Chicago is the Architectural Boat Tour. It’s a cool view of the city and some of them are even booze cruises. Do it.
If you fancy museums, the Art Institute is swell. Museum of Science and Industry is my favorite... it’s fun and engaging and interactive. It’s not just looking at dead things or works of art. But it’s a hike to get out there, as it’s near University of Chicago on the Southside.
If you have time to catch a game, Wrigley is cool and undergoing serious construction. Wrigleyville is the pits, though. It’s for 22 year olds that can’t hold their liquor. But hey, if partying with young people is your thing, by all means.
Trying to formulate a list of restaurants for you would be nigh impossible. Here’s a few quick and dirty rules:
- Use Yelp.
- Skip Deep Dish.
- Eat a Chicago dog. (do not get ketchup)
- Eat Local.
Chicago has an amazing food scene. Scope out what you’re looking for. Yes, in Chicago, you often pay for experience. So it will be “overpriced.” Especially down in River North/Mag Mile area. But the food will be good. Chicago is largely known for steakhouses, deep dish, hot dogs and beef sandwiches. I’d get three of the four and skip the deep dish.
For drinking, there’s only a billion bars to choose from.
Assuming you’re in the Mag Mile/River North type area, Clark Street Ale House is an old, divey looking bar that’s been around for ages but features a great selection of beers and whiskeys. Two Dots and a Dash is an Island themed cocktail bar with some small bites that’s pretty good. Bub City has a nice whiskey selection, but it’s nearly always packed.
Again, these are just limited to downtown-ish type spots. If you want sweet ass neighborhood recs, hit me up on Twitter or e-mail. A few of my favorites:
Hop Leaf - far north of the city but it’s consistently voted one of the best beer bars in the world. Something like 200 things on tap. They don’t allow kids, even young ones, so you have to be 21+ to get in. Don’t think you can stop in for a beer and a quick lunch with the kids.
Schwa - I have no clue if they have availability, as they tend to fill up fast. Super small, pre-fixe, fine dining restaurant. But for fine dining, it’s reasonably priced at something like $135 a person. Trust me, you’ll leave with more than enough food. It’s also BYOB, so show up with a couple bottles of wine, a six pack for the kitchen and expect to be there for a few hours. You’ll have a hell of time. Best part is, it’s casual dress. So no need to suit up to get some fancy ass shit.
Au Cheval - Go here if and only if you are okay with the cheeseburger being forever ruined for you. Seriously, it’s unreal. Here’s the kicker, don’t expect to roll up at 6:00 p.m., even on a Sunday, and get sat. You’re gonna wait. And wait. and wait. Nice thing is, they’ll take your name down and you can cruise bars in the neighborhood. There’s a brewery caddy-corner to it that has some okay offerings (nothing special). Go next door to Lone Wolf. It looks like a dive on the outside, but it’s got a cool retro vibe inside. Get a Sazerac or whatever you drink. They sling good cocktails there.
Sheffield’s Beer Garden and Tap - Another great beer bar within walking distance to Wrigley. This is just outside the hoopla of Wrigleyville kinda tucked away, but a great beer drinkers destination. The food here is decent. It’s BBQ in the most passable sense. Though, Louisiana isn’t exactly known for BBQ anyway. The real attraction is the immense beer selection. They’ll also fill up a growler for you if you aren’t there at peak hours.
Dove’s Luncheonette - If you got time for a brunch, go here. It’s in the famous Wicker Park neighborhood, which is now pretty populated with young and middle-aged working class people after previously being the hipster area. Dove’s is dope and everything on the menu is excellent. Big Star tacos is next door and also quite nice. AND there’s a fine, upscale cocktail bar across the street with a bit of a hidden entrance, called the Violet Hour.
Questions? Ask ‘em.