Welcome to Aggro-Tourism, EDSBS's roaming safari tour of all those foreign cultures that spring up on fall Saturdays, right here in America. Now playing: The Nebraska Cornhuskers.
SHIT TYRONE GET IT TOGETHER.
Nebraska is cordially out for blood after last year's Big 12 championship fiasco, and fans are flying in for this shindig from as far away as Thailand, so you better come correct.
While we will personally never forgive offenses to the person of a certain young lady at a certain Fiesta Bowl, it cannot be denied that Husker fans are among the most knowledgable and welcoming you'll meet at a major program. We've assembled a massive roundtable of them to discuss just how one goes about having a fine old time in Lincoln.
In Lincoln, Nebraska, Husker football is everything. Every single bar and restaurant opens early, everybody wears red whether you have a ticket or not and everybody know who we're playing, what they're ranked, who their qb and coach are. It is the most informed college football city in the nation.
Everyone wears red. I mean, everyone in Lincoln wears red on Gameday, and the stadium will be as monochrome as any you'll see on a gameday Saturday.
RED.RED.RED. It's the "Sea of Red" for a reason. We don't do blackouts, there's no award for lime green "go nebraska" shirts, it's Red or nothing.
Go Big Rev
As far as actual tailgating goes, Nebraska will likely be a disappointment. The stadium is surrounded by campus, downtown and I-180, meaning there just isn't a lot of room to set up a truly magnificent tailgate. It shames me to say this, but the Cyclowns here in Ames tailgate far better. Then again, when there's an actual football-like substance to enjoy on a regular basis, inebriation to the point of blackout becomes a drawback, not a plus.
It's almost like we'd rather have visiting fans come to our tailgate than our regular friends. Even this week, the Texas fans will be greeted with handshakes and welcomed into tents for food, drink, and probably at least 742 mentions of last year's Big XII championship game.
The best advice I can give anybody is this. GET THERE EARLY. I mean 2 days early if you can. Memorial Stadium is right in the heart of downtown Lincoln, so many 1 way streets, and hardly any available parking make tailgating a nightmare. It truly does not have the same "drinking in somebody's lawn" feeling that other schools have.
But I can say this, there are 2 main highways that lead into Lincoln. and on gameday, Memorial Stadium (86,000) becomes the THIRD largest populated area in the STATE of Nebraska. So that concentration of people means that driving is horrid. The best thing to note is that everything is in walking distance if you're downtown.
The parking immediately around the stadium is reserved for boosters, fat cats, and old people, so forget that noise. North of Memorial Stadium, in the neighborhood known as the North Bottoms, are quite a few private lots, charging anywhere from $10 to $20. Some have port-o-johns, some don't. Some you have to pay to use said johns, some you don't. There's also parking at Haymarket Park, which is just west of the stadium; in downtown lots and garages, which are south/southeast of the stadium; and on the east side of campus. Best bet is to arrive early and get a spot in a lot off 10th St. just north of the stadium.
The games sell out. Always. But, if you start at "O" street (the main drag in town and home to most of the college bars) and head North on Tenth St you'll run into folks selling tickets, no matter the opponent. You'll also run through some of the best tailgating you'll find in Lincoln. Witty and civil banter will likely get you a burger and beer.
If you're going to tailgate as a visitor, you're probably better off dragging a disposable cooler around and bumming; the friendliness and hospitality of Nebraska fans isn't just a myth, and besides, it's a refreshing break to talk to fans of other teams. We all already know our own stories, and there aren't fans of any other teams in the state - we've rather effectively purged them by now. (Iowa fans, much like herpes, continue to hang around.) Any parking lot of any size near the stadium will be packed with tailgaters; the best bets are to the west (under the freeway), anywhere on campus, and in the downtown area.
If you insist on tailgating with your own kit, your best bet bet is over by the new baseball stadium, Hawks Field at Haymarket Park. It's a bit of a challenge to get to, but it's about the only nearby tailgate parking that isn't already spoken for.
Most tailgates stock Busch Light and Merican beef in large amounts and are more than happy to provide you with a taste of both. NU fans love nothing more than tipping a few back with visiting fans, so as long as you're not an asshole you'll be shown a good time. Most students elect to get their drink on at party houses near the stadium rather than drinking in a parking lot, so the tailgates are mostly dominated by the alumni crowd. If offered "Husker Punch" at a tailgate, only drink it if you want to black out prior to the game. Also be prepared to see several grown-ass men dressed as Herbie Husker (beer gut Herbie, not HGH Herbie).
Light domestic beer is the rule, though the gifted boozehound will find some higher class booze if they're dedicated. As much of the tailgating is done in University parking lots where no alcohol is permitted (*wink) you're best served to stay cool. If you can keep the festivities down to a dull roar the cops will generally live and let live. I recommend a flask for those cold November games, again with some discretion.
A word to the wise, Lincoln cops have been known to ticket for open containers, see, Musberger, Brent, and for public urination, see, Paul, Niles and half my fraternity, so be sure to pour your booze into a red cup and keep it zipped. Also, NU is a dry campus, so no drinking in the frats or parking lots. (Yeah, right.)
The only way you can get in real trouble in Lincoln is with an open container (see: Brent Musberger) or by telling people that you actually liked Bill Callahan.
The signature cocktail in Lincoln is the Red Beer (Tomato Beer) I'm not a huge fan of it myself, but due to the EARLY start most fans get Red Beers and Bloody Mary's will get you ready until the real powerdrinking starts at 1pm.
Also, the tunnel walk and pre-game festivities at a Nebraska game are NOT to be missed. Quoted many times as being the most intimidating entrance in all of college football, I've heard many of times "I buy the ticket to see the pre-game and the first quarter, I could watch the rest at the bar" Making a fashionably late entrance is NOT advised in Huskerland.
Go Big Rev
Get into the stadium early - getting to your seat takes for-freaking-ever in Lincoln.
For post-game, either head to the Haymarket District (Lincoln's bohemian or downtown for the bar scene, or back to a tailgate with a satellite dish. If you plan on driving back to civilization - i.e. Omaha, as Lincoln hotel rooms are criminally priced on game weekends - expect stop-and-cuss traffic the whole way.
READERS, SUSTAIN THYSELVES.
Nebraska's not the tailgating scene of some other schools, because the campus and stadium abut Lincoln's downtown and an interstate highway. However, the presence of downtown means the pregame bar scene thrives.
A fair amount of people opt for the bars prior to games, but the real time to go is post-game. QUICK HIT: Bars in Lincoln can now serve until 2am, making it no longer necessary to chug four Bud heavies at 12:45. Now you only need three at 1:45.
Go Big Rev
Misty's restaurant on Havelock, Friday night. Melt-in-your-mouth prime rib, "sports bar before there were sports bars" feel, pep band sets at 8 and 9. The GameDay crew will often get a table when they're in town for a game - usually out amongst the hoi polloi, not in a private room. When I was in the band in college, I swear Chris Fowler saw me so many times he knew who I was.
You're in the heart of beef country, you owe it to yourself to go to a Nebraska steakhouse. The Prime Rib is excellent (the cognoscenti take it rare), the decor is retro, and the pep band plays on Friday nights before all home football games. If it's good enough for Keith Jackson it's good enough for you.
Go Big Rev
The Haymarket District - just a few blocks away from Memorial Stadium is the coolest little district of bars, restaurants, coffeeshops and other re-imagined old warehouses. They're going to build a new basketball arena for the Huskers in that part of town (apparently, we still have a basketball team).
Lazlo's: best beer brewed in Nebraska, hands down. Empyrean Ales is the brewery, and they make good stuff. Third Stone Brown & LunaSea ESB are the two I've enjoyed most often, but they change up the menu seasonally.
RUNZA. Semi-famous "sandwich" that originated in Russia and came to the U.S. with Volga Germans. It's ground beef/pork mixed with cabbage, onions and other seasonings. Much like a pasty, except it's stuffed bread, not stuffed pie crust. There's a chain in Nebraska called Runza that serves them at the stadium and various fast-food eateries around the state. Should the weather turn chilly this weekend, a Runza serves as an excellent hand-warmer prior to it filling your belly.
If you're gonna eat at a local place before the game, you have plenty of options....but if you want the local 'fare' then you need an original Runza sandwich. Don't ask me to explain it, it's like a giant kolache hot pocket filled with meat, cabbage, and spices. What spices you ask? I will never know. If that doesn't tickle your stomach, then there is a local pizza chain called Valentino's. But dont bother with any of the sites other than the original restaurant on 33rd & Holdredge. The pizza is very unique, but only good when served hot......not at underground concession stand temperature during a game.
For a bit of local libations, pick up some Empyrean Brewing Company beers - their Burning Skye Scotch Ale and Dark Side Vanilla Porter are scrum-diddly-dumptious. It's brewed at Lazlo's, about 9 blocks from the stadium, so it tastes like victory and a consecutive sellout streak.
What's really interesting about the bars in the Haymarket is that for 358 days a year they have a "look" and you would know exactly where you are when you're inside of them. But on Husker game day, false walls are taken out, back rooms are opened, and bars that normally hold about 150 people are now capable of holding 700+. For instance, Barry's Bar and Grill opens up an entire back room which seems like a warehouse, with 24oz beers sold out of metal tubs of ice for $3 and a multitude of games played on the projectors. Suddenly what seemed like a run of the mill sports bar transforms into what seems like a party in somebodys garage. Brewsky's in the haymarket opens up their basement which is closed for most of the year. Suddenly they can facilitate 2 decks, and 2 stories of husker fans.
Downtown Husker eats are expensive and leave a lot to the imagination. This is where the tailgating comes into play. Nebraska steaks, brats, burgers, and dogs all grilled up.
Not hungry? Just wanna drink? You won't truly experience Lincoln until you've had a pitcher of Elk Creek at a bar called Sandy's. Again, I have no idea what goes into this sweet drink....but it's a mix of screwdriver, schnapps, maybe some rum or sour mix, and about 30 straws for you to suck it down with friends. Pitchers on game day are only about $6, so grab one and either skip your hangover that morning or prepare yourself for one later....everyone is a winner here.
TALES OF INTEREST.
If you're in town Friday night, check out Side Track Tavern, home of the infamous Side Track Band. Its basically a bunch of old folks singing dirty songs about Eric Crouch, Suh, and blowjobs. No joke.
One of the can't-miss spectacles of Lincoln Nebraska happens during the post-game. This is a bar that is open 14 days a year (Friday/Saturday of games). It's a hole in the wall that sells cheap domestic pitchers and has a house band of 60+ year old husker fans that have been doing it for years. They play your Johnny Cash, etc. but they also sing the fight songs of all the schools in the Big XII with derogatory song lyrics and jokes thrown in between. The walls of Sidetracks is a blast from the past, with "the Scoring Explosion" posters from the 80's and all of the national championship Sports Illustrated covers, etc. decorating the otherwise beaten up walls. The band reads anything and everything that you write on napkins and send up to them.
The Drinks are reasonable, and they'll mix the margaritas in your mouth if you're into that sort of thing. But it's the crowd and the band that truly makes it special.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO.
Husker Lawya has assembled this helpful map with denotations like "BOOZEVILLE." Drink safe, now.