Tailgating not so much just scraping by these days
By Megan Harris
Published: Friday, Aug. 2, 2013, 8:57 p.m.
Beyond the pyramids of beer cans and crumpled potato chip bags, some Pirates patrons are banding together for a classier, pre-game dining experience.
“It's a nice change of pace,” says Atria's chef Josh Hatajik, unfolding a pair of pressed white tablecloths beneath an overpass near PNC Park. “We get to get out and meet people and enjoy the excitement from the team. I love catering, so this was right up my alley.”
Hatajik had donned his first apron at 8 a.m. to prepare a feast of classic tailgate fare — burgers, beef dogs, pierogies, beans and BBQ — before hauling a grill and the grub nine miles down the Allegheny River for a throng of hungry Alcoa employees.
“I mean, I like my job in the restaurant,” says server Ryan Ewing, “but it's way better down here.”
Bill Blefere of Italian Specialty & Gourmet Catering, in Brookline, manages events for a few thousand people per day.
“Lots of tailgate parties — the Pirates, for Pitt, the Grand Prix the other day — we handle anywhere from 10 to 5,000 people per event,”he says.
As the Pirates edge closer to a pennant race, Blefere says the escalated fandom is “a caterer's nightmare” when it comes to outdoor entertaining.
“We're in Pittsburgh, so right now, it's dark and stormy. Later, we'll get sun and heat,” he says. “We don't even like to go down (to PNC Park) unless we get tents or the company puts us under a bridge.”
Catered tailgating takes planning, Blefere says.
“You can't just run down there,” he says. “You have to buy at least five parking spaces, usually more, and it's almost always on a weekday. We can put something together for 2,000 people by tomorrow if we really need to. But if the Pirates make the playoffs, expect total hysteria.”
Veteran tailgater Brian Butler of Upper St. Clair put together PNC Bank's latest team-building event. Clutching a color-coded, itemized spreadsheet, the tech project manager accounted for every penny of his $500 budget, opting to build his own versions of horseshoes and cornhole games to accompany three tables of homemade cocktails and cuisine.
“I don't mind doing this kind of stuff,” he says. “We want to get everyone together, get them talking, and it's easy to get everything together.”
Beside him, partner-in-crime Todd Simmons, PNC developer lead, shook his head.
“No, he just makes it look easy,” Simmons says of Butler. “You should've seen the surveys he made — all pirate-themed — with lots of ‘mateys' and ‘arghhs.' ”
Jim O'Connell, owner of Jimmy's Corporate Catering, Downtown, says he always gets more calls for Pirates games than for other black-and-gold pre-game events.
“People are so set in their ways for Steelers games,” he says. “They go to the same spot. Eat the same food. But with the Pirates, the superstitions are still catching on.
Like a lot of regional caterers, O'Connell says Jimmy's probably does five or six games a year, plus food drop-offs for corporate groups before they commute to PNC Park.
“If the Pirates keep winning, it could get bigger,” he says. “I have friends who really believe if they eat a certain food, the Steelers will win. People are crazy.”
Megan Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5815 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Kovacevic: Keeping faith in Letang is simple
- Steelers rookie RB Bell gets respect from teammates, foes alike
- Fleury, Crosby lead Penguins to victory over Sharks at Consol
- Penguins notebook: Injury keeps Malkin out against Sharks
- Unemployment rate falls as employers add 203,000 jobs nationwide
- Steelers lineman Adams gets 2nd chance to start
- Steelers notebook: Woodley practices but unsure where he’ll play
- ‘Gritty but vibrant world’ of Braddock lures director of ‘Out of the Furnace’
- South Side man qualifies for ‘biggest fantasy football event ever’ this weekend in Vegas
- For wind power, U.S. extends permit for eagle deaths
- Dark Braddock setting of ‘Out of the Furnace’ reflects a dying way of life