Avoid bumping shoulders with the crowd trying to win the bartender’s attention to get another beer during March Madness 2017. No need to signal the overworked waitress for more wings. You an avoid that madness and watch the NCAA drama unfold on a widescreen from the roomy comforts of your own sectional. Your food is made just to your liking and your drink just a moment away when you’re the cook and master of your own basketball-watching mania.
To go with all this deliciousness below, you might need to know how to stream NCAA tournament games and watch online. Before even that, you’ll need to check out how to pick your March Madness Bracket.
This is a bowl of what you really want when you’re in couch potato mode: creamy, cheesy, spicy dip with chunks of chicken in each bite. Use some raw carrot and celery sticks in addition to tortilla chips or crackers and you’ve got a (ahem) well-balanced meal all in one. Get our Buffalo Chicken Dip recipe.
2. Onion Rings
A Dutch oven or a large, heavy-bottomed pot along with a ton of vegetable oil are necessities to making the crispiest, best bar side to your burger or brat for this game-day spread. Onions rings are often forgotten next to fries, but don’t. They’re great. Get our Onion Rings recipe.
3. Bacon and Cheddar Jalapeño Poppers
You gotta have poppers for the game. And making them at home means they’re going to taste so much better. With smoky bacon and sharp cheddar plus the spice of fresh jalapeños, these little appetizer bites will go fast. Get our Bacon and Cheddar Jalapeño Poppers recipe.
4. Pork and Shrimp Potstickers
This is another one/two-bite heavy appetizer many of us crave, at game time or anytime. These filling, savory, pan-fried dumplings are dipped in a savory, oniony, gingery, soy sauce with the flavor deepened even more by sesame oil. Get our Pork and Shrimp Potstickers recipe.
5. Poutine with Beef Gravy
We’ve gotta hand it to the French Canadians: Poutine might just be the ultimate bar food. (Sorry, chicken wings.) It is a time-consuming dish, but the payoff comes with a rich, slow-simmered short rib gravy you’ll want to bathe in. Get our Poutine with Beef Gravy recipe.
6. French Fries
Because every time you serve those frozen-then-baked crinkle fries from a bag, a little part of you dies. Whether you serve them in a poutine you slaved over or dipped in classic homemade Ranch Dressing, these fries are all about kitchen cred. Get our French Fries recipe.
If you’re thinking, “Focaccia? Bar food?” you might have a point. But this is one of those dead-simple recipes with a bajillion possibilities for customization (think: roasted garlic, briny Kalamata olives, rosemary, and sea salt), which makes sense if you’re serving a group and have more on your mind than snacks, like the 9.2-quintillion-to-1 odds of picking the perfect bracket. Get our Basic Focaccia recipe.
8. Focaccia Pizza
Case in point on that focaccia? A sheet pan of pizza that feeds 10 (make two—you’ll thank us for the leftovers). Bonus: It goes down equally well with a cheap beer or red wine. Get our Focaccia Pizza recipe.
9. Hot Dog Buns
Your encased meat deserves better than a processed, bland bun that disintegrates under the weight of a single condiment. Serve your brats, dogs, or gourmet sausages on these buns and bask in the glow of respect from your fellow eaters. Get our Hot Dog Buns recipe.
10. Mixed Nuts & Snack Mixes
You know the siren song of the bar snack bowl: the crunchy, spicy, umami bowls of weirdness and popcorn you mindlessly plow into despite knowing that at least 15 unwashed bar patrons have pawed through it. That stuff. Treat yourself to better. Get our Creole Shrimp Pecans recipe, Barbecue Pumpkin Seeds recipe, and Honey Mustard Snack Mix recipe.
11. Oven-Fried Buffalo Wings
Let’s be honest: Unless you’re a skilled line fry cook, boiling oil in your own kitchen is a pain in the ass, messy, and never as good as you want the end result to be. Serious Eats’ managing culinary director is a god of delicious food science and recipe geeking, and his rigorous trial to make Really Good Oven-Fried Wings wins. Get the recipe here.
Following a recipe for nachos is a little bit like following Google map directions to your own home. You don’t measure refried beans or count jalapeño slices. There’s a Zen intuition to building a perfect platter of nachos—it’s as much about balance and restraint as it is about cheesy, crispy gluttony. Follow the BA Foodist Andrew Knowlton’s 10 rules of nacho making and if you really need some nacho inspiration, check out the Fully Loaded Black Bean Nachos here.
13. Pork Tenderloin Sandwich
When it comes to regional bar food delicacies, Indiana owns it with the big-as-your-head breaded pork tenderloin sandwich. Indianapolis—home of the 2015 Final Four—may be a full two hours south-ish of Huntington, Indiana, and Nick’s Kitchen, where the sandwich originated, but work with us here. You’ll find great examples of this perfect sandwich in food-serving watering holes across the state. Get the recipe here.
— Original article by Colleen Rush March 5, 2015; updated by Amy Sowder March 14, 2017.
Colleen Rush is a food and travel writer who eats, drinks, cooks, and writes mostly in New Orleans, but also … everywhere else. She is the author of “The Mere Mortal’s Guide to Fine Dining” (Broadway Books, 2006), and coauthor of “Low & Slow: Master the Art of Barbecue in 5 Easy Lessons” (Running Press, 2009) and the upcoming “Low & Slow 2: The Art of Barbecue, Smoke Roasting, and Basic Curing” (Running Press, 2015). Follow her on Twitter or Instagram.