The Piggies: The Best Things I Ate During the 2017 College Football Season

After eating his way through a thrilling season, Andy Staples takes a look back at the highlights of his culinary tour of college football's unique host cities. Plus, the biggest stories from the annual AFCA convention and the rest of this week's Punt, Pass & Pork.
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I considered writing an end-of-season awards column that looked back on the finest moments of the football season that just ended. But everyone does that. What I haven’t done yet is taken a look back at all the calories I consumed over a football season. That needs to be rectified, so today in Punt, Pass & Pork we’re going to hand out the Piggies.

These awards will honor the best things I ate all season. For official purposes, we’re going to define the college football season as “anything between the day I left the house for the trip that included SEC Media Days and the national title game.” Why not stretch back into the spring so we can encompass the entire year? Because the Offseason Piggies sure sounds like a column I could write in July. I’m franchise building here.

So without further ado, let’s hand out the Piggies for the 2017 college football season.

Best breakfast


The breakfast options should be excellent in America’s Brunchingest State, but Georgia came stronger than usual this season. I considered the challah souffle from Atlanta’s Oy!, but the winner was the breakfast (for lunch) that I ate at Mama’s Boy in Athens in November.

The pulled pork hash features pulled pork over home fries with a drizzle of mustard-based barbecue sauce and two poached eggs on top. Break those yolks, mix it all together and dig in. I also had a short stack of the fig and rosemary pancakes. I didn’t have room for a football-sized cinnamon roll, but I’m getting one next time.

Most weirdly wonderful dish


The Chili Cheese Takoyaki at Austin’s Kemuri Tatsuya is, essentially, Frito Pie with octopus fritters instead of brisket. Whereas the brisket has a similar flavor profile to the chili in the original dish, the octopus adds a lighter, brighter element to a gut-busting Texas staple. Besides, at Kemuri Tatsuya, you should get your brisket with your ramen.

Spiciest moment

While researching my Hot Chicken Power Rankings in Nashville, I resolved to try the hottest version available at each restaurant. Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack—which finished No. 1 in the rankings—does not lie about the heat of its Extra Extra Extra Hot.

Best meal I haven’t written about yet (but will)


What Atlanta’s Superica considers a mixed fajita plate is so far beyond the sizzling platters served everywhere else that it needs a better name. Perfectly cooked steak, juicy chicken and a giant hunk of grilled pork belly form a meat mountain and await their trip to the tortilla. I’m ruined for every other fajita plate from this point forward.

Best giant piece of meat I haven’t written about yet (but will)

Galliano in New Orleans serves a “prime rib for two” that I decided to eat myself (twice in a week). This 32- to 40-ounce, bone-in beast is best served rare. 

Best dish that made someone say “We need to take a picture of your meat”


That’s exactly what the lady at the table next to me at Pittsburgh’s Gaucho Parrilla Argentina said when my asado platter arrived. She took photos, and so did I. Then I feasted on a glorious selection of cuts at this unpretentious Argentinian steakhouse.

Best hidden gem

The Marine roll from Tsukushinbo.

The Marine roll from Tsukushinbo.

I’ve never been cool enough to be told about the hip, unmarked-door spots. But I did luck into one in Seattle. If you can find it, and if you can get in, Tsukushinbo is the sushi secret you’ll happily tell everyone.

Best Burger


Everyone has a bacon burger. Quite a few places now have an avocado burger. But Madison Social in Tallahassee, Fla., combines thick-cut bacon with fried avocado on its MadSo Burger. Frying the avocado makes the burger even richer, yet it somehow tastes lighter and fresher at the same time. It’s a marvel of fryer engineering.

Most delightfully named restaurant I reviewed

The winner is Curry Up Now in Palo Alto, Calif. Aside from having a wonderfully punny name, this place marries the Indian/British gravy-based concept of tikka masala with the Canadian gravy-based concept of poutine. The result? Lamb tikka masala fries.

Most delightfully named restaurant I didn’t review

That honor goes to Pho Shizzle, a bargain-priced joint in Renton, Wash., that—judging by the numerous photos on the walls—is a favorite of Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin. The place was good but not spectacular. I asked the lady behind the counter if they’d ever considered making T-shirts—which would be spectacular—and she looked at me like I’d just landed from another planet.

Best wings


This was a difficult choice between the Sticky Wings at Mint in New Orleans and the charcoal-grilled wings at Atlanta’s Minero. The Minero wings are the winner for two reasons. First, the grilling process has a higher degree of difficulty than frying. Second, Minero’s location at Ponce City Market means I can walk across the hall and eat raw cookie dough by the scoop from Batter.

Best example of truth in advertising


On the surface, the idea of a bacon-themed bar in New York seems too schticky and concept-y to actually be good. But BarBacon succeeds by going all in. The menu opens with an appetizer that includes samples of four different kinds of bacon, and it only gets better from there.

Best dessert that can get you drunk


The fine bartenders at Frank in Austin mix a mean Old Fashioned, but they also mix a sweet one. It’s the same bourbon and bitters from your favorite cocktail, but mixed with ice cream and served in shake form. When you’ve eaten everything above this, you need something special to wash it down.

Want to read more of Andy’s culinary adventures? SI Eats covers every moment where food, sports and culture collide

A Random Ranking

In honor of Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s incredible work replacing starter Jalen Hurts in the second half of the national title game, we’re going to rank the top five television cast additions who either saved their shows or made them even better.

1. Steve Urkel (Jaleel White)

Urkel was supposed to be an occasionally recurring character during season one of Perfect Strangers spinoff Family Matters. By the start of season two, he was the show’s biggest star. In fact, he got so much attention that no one noticed when Judy Winslow disappeared in season four.

2. Rebecca Howe (Kirstie Alley)

Cheers could have withered and died without Shelley Long’s Diane Chambers, but Alley combined with Ted Danson to drive plot lines that ultimately were better than the early Diane stories.

3. Ben Wyatt and Chris Traeger (Adam Scott and Rob Lowe)

These two helped a flagging Parks and Recreation find its voice. And Lowe’s Traeger allowed us to see this classic Ron Swanson scene.

4. Jefferson D’Arcy (Ted McGinley)

David Garrison’s Steve Rhoades was Al and Peg Bundy’s obnoxious yuppie neighbor for the first four seasons of Married…With Children. But when Garrison left to pursue more stage work, his character’s wife Marcy divorced Rhoades and married Jefferson D’Arcy, who was played by McGinley—aka The Patron Saint of Shark Jumping. But McGinley didn’t ruin this show. Rhoades was too obvious a foil for Al. McGinley’s D’Arcy wound up settling into the show as the occasional dimwitted accomplice for the Bundy patriarch.

5. Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan)

Star Trek: Voyager needed a spark, and it got it thanks to a reformed Borg.

Three And Out

1. At its annual convention last week, the American Football Coaches Association put forth its proposal for a change to the redshirt rule in football. The coaches would like to change the rule to allow any player who played four or fewer games to receive a redshirt. (Players still would only be able to redshirt once in a career unless they receive an injury waiver.)

Three conferences have backed this proposal, so it has a good chance of getting through the NCAA legislative process intact. And as AFCA president Todd Berry points out, it’s difficult to find a problem with it. Rosters get depleted because of injuries and other factors as the season goes on, so it would make sense for coaches to have the option to play freshmen toward the end of the season without burning an entire season of eligibility. And since bowl games represent a jump start on the next season for the teams outside the playoff, those teams could begin to see where those redshirted players fit. Plus, if a star sits out a bowl game, it might be a nice consolation to get a first look at a four- or five-star recruit who has been on the bench all season.

Berry said he imagines coaches in other sports might object to this proposal applying only to football, but that shouldn’t be a problem, either. Why not let every sport use the same system and the same number (one-third of the regular season)? Basketball coaches, who rarely redshirt players, probably wouldn’t do it much more because it’s less practical than in football. And football coaches who need to play freshmen extensively would still do it. A prime example? National champion Alabama, which used a true freshman quarterback, left tackle, tailback and receivers in crunch time of the national title game.

2. Speaking of the Tide, here’s the SI cover story on their win in the title game.

3. New LSU offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger has no time for the doubters in the media. (Which is good. Because if the Tigers don’t score in bunches next season, he’s going to have plenty of doubters.)

What’s Eating Andy?

Rest in peace to the man whose voice was college football.

What’s Andy Eating?

You can’t possibly still be hungry after reading about all that decadence at the top of this column, can you? To snap you out of that mindset, here’s a look at what I should be eating exclusively for the next few weeks.