When I started college at the University of Missouri ten years ago, I made it one of my goals to make it to a Mizzou away game to each of the Big 12 stadiums at some point in time. That goal was shattered when the Mizzou-SEC marriage became official. But with the end of that goal came a new goal of hitting all fourteen of the SEC stadiums. Last year, I made it to Tennessee and South Carolina, and this year, Iâ€™m heading to Ole Miss. When planning away road trips, Iâ€™ve found that one of the most time-consuming tasks is gathering info on the town. You need to know where to drink on Friday night, where to tailgate, and so on. So I decided Iâ€™d offer my expertise as a ten-year Mizzou football season ticket holder for those planning trips to Columbia, MO this fall.
My Face is on Fire!Â If youâ€™ve been Googling where to eat in Columbia, youâ€™ve most likely seen Shakespeareâ€™s Pizza and Booches Billiard HallÂ (known for its burgers)Â pop up on your radar. While both are solid choices, they are likely to be packed on game weekends, so prepare for long waits.Â Stop by CJâ€™s for some hot wings instead. Sitting at the corner of 7th and Broadway downtown, CJâ€™s offers some of the best wings in the country. If youâ€™re daring, try the BYFO (Burn Your Face Off) sauce.Â If wings arenâ€™t your thing, other great choices include 44 Stone Public House, Flat Branch Pub and Brewing, and Murryâ€™s (If you go to Murryâ€™s be sure to get a jumbo glass of wine).
Where to drink, and where not to.Â Harpoâ€™s is by far the most famous bar in Columbia, MO, and is at the heart of a great Mizzou tradition that Iâ€™ll get to later. As far as a drinking spot, itâ€™s a great place to hang out during the day to catch other games on TV, or to watch NFL games on Sunday. But late at night, the fun, sports loving crowd filters out, and the d-bag frat crowd takes over. Iâ€™d steer clear after 10 PM.Â Same goes for Campus Bar and Grill, which students and alums still refer to at Big 12. The bar was known as Big 12 until the early 2000â€™s, when the Big 12 Conference threatened a lawsuit. Despite the official name change nearly ten years ago, Mizzou students still call it Big 12. Iâ€™m sure most of them donâ€™t even know why. By either name, it should be avoided late nights on game weekends.
The best place to go for a fun-loving drinking crowd, mostly free of the frat element is McNallyâ€™s on 6thStreet. I recommend going the Friday night before the game. There are always reasonably priced drinks, and the head bartender, Kenny, is the best bartender in the city. He wonâ€™t do a shot with you, because he gave up drinking years ago, but heâ€™ll ensure you get nice and sauced.
If youâ€™re looking for a good patio, go to Quintonâ€™s on 9th Street. Theyâ€™ve got a great double-decker rooftop patio that went in a couple of summers ago. It offers plenty of space to hang out. And if you brought your girlfriend/wife/mistress with you, take her by Tropical Liqueurs and thereâ€™s a good chance youâ€™ll get some action later that night.
Where are we again? If you want to be official, Missouri plays at Memorial Stadium. The field itself is Faurot Field, named after former coach Don Faurot, who remains the schoolâ€™s all-time wins leader. But any self-respecting Mizzou fan will refer to the stadium as Faurot.
When itâ€™s socially acceptable to open a beer at 8 AM.Â The tailgating scene at Mizzou is fairly spread out due to the layout of the parking lots around campus. If youâ€™re not a donor and didnâ€™t buy season tickets, itâ€™s close to impossible to get a spot anywhere near the stadium without taking out a second mortgage on your house. Youâ€™ll want to get there early so you can get a spot in one of the few open air pay lots in the vicinity of the stadium. Otherwise, youâ€™ll be stuck in a parking garage, and unable to use the grill you hauled 1,000 miles down I-70. Also, donâ€™t make the mistake of ending up in the â€œfamily friendlyâ€ lot near the VA Hospital. Family friendly is code for no booze allowed.
As far as food goes, Mizzou tailgates can hold their own against any in the country. Some of that might stem from the fact that a large portion of the Mizzou fan base doubles as Chiefs fans, and have learned the tailgating craft at Arrowhead. Of course youâ€™ll see your typical burgers, brats and dogs. Donâ€™t be surprised to see smokers with ribs, pulled pork, and brisket as well. Just beware of the Mizzou students who spent their last $12 on a 30 of â€˜Stones and now want to mooch off your spread.
Give a shout out to The Antlers.Â Mizzouâ€™s famed Antlers have tailgated in Lot U for as long as anyone can remember. If you find them, be sure to participate in a circle up. However, be warned that the Antler tailgate is far from kid-friendly, so donâ€™t bring along the young ones. (Full disclosure: Iâ€™m a former member).
Mizzou fans still hate KU.Â Midwesterners have a reputation for being nice, friendly people, and by and large that reputation is well-earned. That said, some of the niceties go out the window on game day. Beware if you come wearing gear from another school, because some drunk, tailgating Mizzou fans tend to become jerks. It’s a small few, but those are the ones you are likely to remember. A friend of mine and Nebraska grad once told me we were second only to Colorado fans as biggest jerks in the Big 12. I donâ€™t know where that would put us in the pantheon of SEC fan bases, but we will take any number 2 ranking we can get.
That said, if you are a visiting fan and want to make friends with some of these Mizzou fans when youâ€™re tailgating in Columbia, itâ€™s easy. Within the first two minutes of conversation, mention that you always hated those pretentious a-holes at Kansas, and that they are clearly cowards for refusing the play Mizzou in football or basketball this year.Â Mizzou fans are going to try our best to hate Arkansas, Alabama and Tennessee in the coming years, but nothing can come near to a rivalry that has its roots back in the civil war.Â Since the enemy of my enemy is my friend, trash Kansas a little bit, and youâ€™re sure to get along just fine with Mizzou tailgaters.
What are you drinking out of that paint can?Â Itâ€™s Mountain Dew, lemon and lime concentrate, and Everclear with a little bit of mint. Thanks for asking.
If youâ€™re not late, youâ€™re early.Â At most SEC stadiums, fans fill the place up as much as 90 minutes before game time to settle into their seats and watch the warm-ups.Â No such thing happens at Mizzou games, as it would be a waste of precious drinking time. Itâ€™s more common for someone at the tailgate to look down at their watch, and declare, â€œCrap!Â Kickoff is in 20 minutes!â€ This is followed by everyone frantically breaking down the tailgate and rushing to the entrances just in time to meet the mob of other fans that are also fashionably late.
Wait, we have a band? One big Mizzou tradition went to the wayside with the move to the SEC. As long as I can remember, halftimes at Memorial Stadium have meant 60% of the stadium rushing to the exits to head back to their tailgates to throw back a few mid-game beers. Alcohol is not sold or allowed in the stadium, so this was the only time to get re-intoxicated for the second half.Â SEC rules do not allow for re-entry to the stadium, so this tradition is gone. Â Â You can bet the number of Mizzou fans smuggling in flasks and other alcohol containers has gone up exponentially.Â The question is will Mizzou fans sit in the stands and actually watch the band at halftime for the first time ever?Honestly, this part of the move to the SEC worried me more than facing Georgia or Alabama.
What happens if Mizzou springs an upset? Â This point could only be relevant for the Florida, South Carolina or Texas A&M fans making the trip this year. Should Mizzou take out one of its top 10 opponents, Faurot Field will become a mad house. First, there will be an awkward standoff between the Teal Army (the nickname for the event staff) and the student section. Any time a big win is brewing, the higher-ups in the Athletic Department decide itâ€™s a great idea to put a hundred or so senior citizen event staff members in a line blocking the field to try to stop the thousands of students about to rush the field. As the students begin to rush out onto the field, 99% of the Teal Army use the olÃ© move and allow the students to run past them. No sense in being a hero for $10 an hour.
The influx of students will quickly split into two groups, one hitting the North goalpost while the others take out the South. Because it would be ridiculous to just tear down one set.Â Then begins the long trek to Harpoâ€™s. Itâ€™s a 1.3 mile walk from Faurot to Harpoâ€™s, but when youâ€™re carrying a set of goalposts and still half-drunk, it might as well be ten miles. I was part of three such melees as a student, and Iâ€™m amazed I didnâ€™t pass out of exhaustion. Once the trek to Harpoâ€™s is complete, hacksaws always seem to magically appear, and the posts are dismantled for souvenirs.
See you on game day.Â This should be enough to get you started on a successful trip to Columbia. And donâ€™t forget, screw Kansas.