By Natalie Jack
Everything is bigger in Texas…including UT tailgates. During college football season and on any given Saturday, one can head down to the streets lining the University of Texas campus and find thousands and thousands of devoted Longhorns (and their rivals) coming together to hang out with friends, watch some football, and eat some delicious food.
Texas is also full of tradition…and tailgating is no exception. One particular group, Mike’s Tailgate Crew, has been coming together since 2004. The group is named in honor of Mike, who was born and raised in El Paso, but came to UT after graduating from high school. He was a big Texas football fan, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 21 and then again at age 29. One of his wishes was to have his old crew get together for as many home games as possible. They were able to do that with Mike for 2 years, until he passed on July 6th, 2006. Mike’s crew continued the tailgate to celebrate their friend. They also began raising money in order to fund a scholarship for Mike’s daughter, who plans on becoming a Texas Longhorn, and have also recently expanded into helping others in need in the Austin area.
Levon Steele, Mike’s cousin, has been there from the beginning and has worked hard to help Mike’s Tailgate Crew evolve into the well-known and respected tailgate it is today. Starting with just a few guys in the back of a pick up to now, taking up half of the coveted MLK and Trinity parking lot, Levon has cultivated one of the best tailgating experiences at UT. Not only will you be able to find shade under one of their massive tents, you will find fans, portable AC’s, big screen tvs, a live band or dj, several drink stations, and food from some very large, and well-seasoned, BBQ pits.
The menu is created and prepared by Jeff Rutkowski, who came to Mike’s Tailgate 4 years ago. Jeff is a well-known pit master in Austin, donating his culinary skills to many events, such as Bullet Proof, Backstage at the Texas Rodeo, Manos de Cristo, and Lone Star Cattleman. The menu varies from game to game, but on September 6th, Jeff served up slow smoked Texas brisket, pulled pork sliders with spicy sweet pickles, Hudson Premium Sausage, and cheesy spicy bacony potatoes (a crowd favorite). He also prepared a few extra treats for the VIP guests, including grilled quail and baby back ribs.
So the next time you find yourself heading to a Texas Longhorn football game, and you want to tailgate with some of the best fans, eat some of the best BBQ, and have the best time, head to MLK and Trinity. Because some things just go together…like Texas football, great BBQ, and Mike’s Tailgate Crew.
Photo Credit: Becky Kittleman