Elevate Your Tailgate This Football Season

Elevate Your Tailgate This Football Season
Photos Provided by Watchman’s

At some point in the football season, the old "hot dog wrapped in bacon" and buffalo chicken dip scene starts to get old. If you're hosting the next watch party, or even the holy grail of watch parties– The Iron Bowl– we've got some great tips and pointers to add some spice to your tailgate. 

We sat down with the close-knit crew behind Atlanta’s acclaimed Kimball House and Watchman’s– Matt Christison, Miles Macquarrie, Bryan Rackley, and Jesse Smith– to get the inside scoop on how to elevate a tailgate. This super star team has built two successful restaurants. When you walk into either eatery, you can't help but feel the hospitality, spirit, and a good dose of humor buzzing in the atmosphere.

At Watchman's, the herringbone counter top, live hanging plants, and industrial bar are the perfect setting to try one their one-of-a-kind, specialty cocktails. Kimball House is adorned with grandiose light fixtures, dark wood, and a staff that will add the cherry on top to your delicious entree. Both are known for their oysters, delectable desserts, and splendid spirits.

These food and wine connoisseurs create an intentional atmosphere that is loved by their loyal guests and first-time visitors. It's no surprise that any kind of festivity, like our good ole southern tailgates, is no excuse to skimp on memorable food and drink experiences for the team at Kimball House and Watchman's. 

For those who are saying "No More!" to burgers and cheap beer during football season, we’ve included some tips and tricks to please even the most sophisticated of friends at a tailgate.


These six-time James Beard Award nominees for Outstanding Bar Program (Kimball House) agree that game day is no place for complicated cocktails. Instead, they recommend imbibing on Ranch Water, Pilsners, or Pét-Nats.

  • Ranch Water: This easy and refreshing Texas classic is made of only three ingredients: Tequila, Topo Chico, + Lime Juice. Simply juice half of a lime into a cup, add one teaspoon of simple syrup, one shot of tequila, and add Topo Chico (or sparkling mineral water of your choice) to taste. Miles, beverage director, says the simple syrup is completely optional, and he recommends serving the drink in a reusable cup like a Yeti mug.

  • Pilsners: When Matt Christison sought to find the perfect house beer for Watchman’s, he knew he wanted something crisp, smooth, and versatile to pair with the menu’s sustainable seafood offerings. He found exactly what he was looking for with Upland Brewing’s Champagne Velvet, which comes with the tagline: “The Beer with the Million Dollar Flavor.” The key to choosing beer for a tailgate is to find one that pleases both your snobbiest craft beer enthusiast and domestic drinker alike. Matt recommends Champagne Velvet because, according to him, it’s “beer that tastes like beer.” Can’t beat that!

  • Bottles of Pét-Nat: Miles encourages people to introduce their friends to Pétillant-Naturel wines. These natural sparkling wines are as festive for tailgates as they are delicious. Simple yet funky and rustic yet swanky, you never quite know what you’ll get with these bubbles—and that’s the allure.


Bryan Rackley, Oyster Bar Manager for both Watchman’s and Kimball House, recommends serving oysters a couple of ways, while the other three suggest bringing charcuterie + cheese. Here’s how Bryan suggests preparing oysters for a tailgate to keep things easy yet delicious:

  • Fry them… with pancake batter! Either bring a fryer or put a pan on a grill with hot oil, then toss oysters in pancake batter (boxed is fine) to fry them. If you have a portable fryer, deep fry for a minute, then toss the oysters with syrup and hot sauce to taste in a mixing bowl, and serve.

  • Grill ‘em: Why not throw some buttered-up oysters on the grill while you already have it hot for burgers and hot dogs? The magic here is that the oysters cook in their own shell and juices, so the more delicious you make the compound butter, the more delicious the oysters will be.

  • Charcuterie and cheeses: make everyone happy.