If you're an Ohio State fan, you've probably never had any kind of reason to go to the home stadium or town of Rutgers University. All you've heard is stuff about New York City in relation to RU and every joke that goes with that about Rutgers not having a single fan in the city (which isn't too far off from the truth). But as a Rutgers University Bachelors and Juris Doctor degree holder and current Ohio State MBA student, I feel pretty qualified to tell intrepid Buckeye fans what to do and where they should go when they visit Piscataway this weekend.
Rutgers is big
If you're staying in New York City for NYC's team's first game versus OSU, you're going to want to take NJ Transit down from Penn Station on 34th street and 7th avenue to the New Brunswick stop. Yes Rutgers' stadium is in Piscataway, NJ but Rutgers' New Brunswick/Piscataway campus is giant, stretch across two towns and into two different counties. You'll get off in New Brunswick, in the heart of the city and can take a bus from the Rutgers Student Center on College Avenue directly to the stadium (there is also one from the RAC to the stadium on Livingston campus). But don't go directly there unless you absolutely have to.
Go to New Brunswick, not PIscataway, to feel like an adult
The only time you've probably heard of the town where Rutgers plays is when Chris Carlin yelled "Pandimonium in Piscataway!" after Rutgers upset Louisville in 2006. That's where the football stadium is located as well as both Busch and Livingston campuses, but there's not much in Piscataway besides a Wal-Mart and a White Castle.
New Brunswick is where all the cool kids go, both young professionals and typically rowdy students. Don't expect anything quite like the Short North here in terms of fancy bars and places you feel like you can escape completely from undergrads, but there are some nice restaurants at least.
If you want a casual meal before the game but don't want to eat drunk food, try out Panico's Brick Oven Pizza, where the Italian food is delicious. They used to make gourmet fat sandwiches (don't worry I'm getting to those) but unfortunately discontinued them. Another solid option is the typical Rutgers first date restaurant, Old Man Rafferty's, where you're supposed to have dessert before dinner.
Rutgers campus eats
But where Rutgers really shines, and completely outdoes Ohio State in my opinion, is in terms of food within a few blocks of the College Ave campus. There you can find some of the best pizza in your life, the famed strombolis of Stuff Yer Face (where Mario Batali got his start) and, of course, fat sandwiches.
This is pure New York style pizza which you can get in every variety from pepperoni to buffalo chicken with bleu cheese sauce. There are literally no bad options for pizza on Easton Avenue, but my two picks would be La Familia, for a solid quality pizza with the best garlic knots you'll ever have, and Pizza City, which is pretty rundown and has a limited menu but probably the best pure pizza on the street.You really can't go wrong with any pizza place on Easton, though.
The strombolis of Stuff Yer Face are probably the second most famous campus food behind fat sandwiches and pretty overrated in my opinion, but they're still better than any you're getting at the Easton Sbarro's. They have every flavor you could possibly imagine and famous fish bowls too.
Now, onto fat sandwiches. The grease trucks aren't all in the central location they were when I went to Rutgers New Brunswick, but the one you should go to is still in prime location at 159 College Avenue: RU Hungry. That's the one that was featured on Man vs. Food in Adam Richman's failed attempt to win the Fat Sandwich Challenge of eating any five in 45 minutes. If you win, you get a sandwich of your choice named after you. Nick Mangold was one of the people to challenge for the title.
You can find fat sandwiches at pretty much any pizza place in New Brunswick, though. My roommates and I referred to the area between College Ave and Easton as the pizza district and with good reason. There are about 15 pizza places just in that one area bordering campus.
As for fat sandwich recommendations, the Fat Darrell, with chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, marinara sauce and french fries is probably the safest bet. The Fat Cat is the classic, with two cheeseburgers and fries. But my personal favorite is the Fat Knight, which is the Fat Darrell with cheesesteak added. It's truly a symphony of flavor.
But the best restaurant in New Brunswick is....
Hansel 'n Griddle is the one place at Rutgers that every single person who visits should eat at. It's by far the most popular restaurant among students and has by far the highest quality food.
A menu based around quesadillas sounds like a Chipotle knockoff, but try the Popcorn Buffalo Chicken Crisp and then tell me that it's not one of the best things you've ever had. Their burgers are fantastic, their breakfast items are beloved and their smoothies, especially the banana flip, are necessary sides.
There are vegetarian options and make your own crisp options as well. This is my favorite place in New Brunswick and the favorite place of pretty much every Rutgers student. If you go to the Rutgers game and don't go there, you're not my friend anymore. The original location closed down, but its replacement on Easton Ave is still fantastic. Please go there. I beg of you.
I even ran into Greg Schiano there once. Yes I was awed by his manliness.
New Brunswick nightlife
So after Ohio State trounces Rutgers, where should you go afterward if you would like to imbibe some legal beverages? Easton's second greatest export besides pizza would have to be dive bars so you're probably in luck!
The busiest and most social bar in New Brunswick is probably The Olive Branch, one of the only one of these not located on Easton. Its food isn't very good and the place is pretty rundown, but they have solid, cheap drinks and you can actually hear yourself think, which is pretty rare for Rutgers bars.
From there, Knight Club is a good option if you're down for dancing and not hearing another person talk. The place is cheap and has a large dance floor good for your quality bro, but it does get pretty loud and undegrad-y. Kelly's Korner offers a more low-key, less loud and filled with undergrad experience but is also pretty small and can get crowded pretty quick.
Scarlet Pub and Olde Queens are two of the most popular bars, but can get super crowded really quick and probably aren't worth it if you're a functioning adult. They're basically the O Patio of Rutgers, if that gives you an idea. And if you want to go downtown on George Street, there really isn't much of a scene beyond clubs and restaurants that happen to have bars like Panico's. There are always a few bars going in and out on George Street, but none were my particular cup of tea.
So there you have it
Have a fat sandwich, spend some time at the college bars and make sure you go to Hansel 'n Griddle. Please.