Ohio State and Rutgers’ football programs don’t have much in common beyond trading Greg Schiano and Chris Ash. Rutgers’ most celebrated season ended in the Texas Bowl. That’s a season that would be Urban Meyer’s worst at OSU. But the towns and cities the teams play in? They’re really not that different at all.
Here’s what an Ohio State fan should do when visiting Rutgers’ campus in New Brunswick and Piscataway (yes, it’s spread across two towns which are in different counties. It’s weird) for the game this weekend!
Piscataway or New Brunswick?
Piscataway is where the football stadium and all its facilities are, and where all the tailgating areas will be. But if you want to do anything remotely interesting, head out of Piscataway and go to New Brunswick. Piscataway is the St. Paul to New Brunswick’s Minneapolis, if you want to invoke much larger and more interesting places.
Piscataway has Busch campus, effectively an industrial park, and Livingston campus, which has been remodeled into one of the nicer campuses you’ll ever see (it looked ugly and broken down when I was there from 2007-11 and that was when it was nice out. When it rained and all the red clay ran through the streets, it looked more like Verdun during World War I).
Tailgating is toned down after Rutgers AD Chris Hobbs chugged a beer on stage and got the student tailgating area, The Alley, shut down, but I’m sure you’ll be able to find something in the Blue Lot if you can get a spot — where all the cool kids used to go and blackout during my Rutgers tenure both before and during Rutgers losses.
New Brunswick is where the non-gameday action is. You can visit the Rutgers College Avenue Campus and even head down to Cook/Douglass if you wanted to get your farm on and go to Rutgers Gardens, the RU botanical garden on the outskirts of Cook but the Easton Ave and George Street areas are the more fun and hip (“How do you do fellow kids?”) areas of NB.
Piscataway’s cool but besides tailgating, all you can do is watch Rutgers football and eat at a dining hall. No thanks.
What to eat, do and see
The first thing you should do is head to Hansel & Griddle and have a buffalo chicken crisp with no tomato. Go do that now if you’re in New Brunswick. I’m waiting.
Okay you’re back from the finest culinary experience of your life. Fat sandwiches are good but Hansie is where it’s at.
I guess you’ll also have to go try the real, original fat sandwiches, not the ones P.J’s blatantly STOLE from good vulnerable Rutgers. “Original” fat sandwich sign on the P.J.’s door. That’s worse than New York inventing bread and barbecue.
You have to go to the original RU Hungry? on Hamilton Street at The Yard. It may not be the old dingy parking lot I often stumbled into at Rutgers, but hey it’s a real restaurant now! Get the Fat Knight, which has chicken tenders, mozzarella sticks, cheesesteak and fries all on a single 1500 calorie sandwich. It’s heaven and P.J.’s can eat it.
Then go back to Hansel again because you deserve it. I once knew someone who dined at Hansie for every meal during his senior year of college. As far as I know he’s still alive but the menu is that amazing and super special awesome that you should go there for every meal if you’re able.
Then go to Hansel for breakfast before the game. They have that too.
Stuff Yer Face is a place at Rutgers I’ve tried and tried to love but haven’t been able to. It’s famous for stromboli and the place where Iron Chef Mario Batali got his start. Yes, you can credit Eataly and one of the biggest chefs in the world to Rutgers. The strombolis are good but I always left disappointed somehow. But I’d still keep going back. Who can say why?
As for pizza, if Hansel’s the great up and coming opening act, the New York style pizza in every single storefront on Easton Ave, seemingly, is the main event with Michael and Bruce Buffer fighting for who gets to announce it.
My go to’s were La Familia, which has great pizza and giant garlic knots and Paulie’s, which has good pizza but the most amazing chicken parmesan entree you’ll ever have in your life.
I’m asking you to eat a lot during this escapade, even before drowning your hurting tummy in Red Dog during the tailgating and when you want to forget the eye searingly bad Rutgers offense. Is there anything else to do?
Yes there is! Kinda!
You can go to New York City in just 45 minutes via NJ Transit from the New Brunswick station straight into Midtown Manhattan, right by the Empire State Building. Go there and do whatever it is New York tourists do. Go see things! Go see Trump Tower and throw your leftover stromboli at it! Don’t throw your Hansel, it’s too valuable. The 34th Street Macy’s is also cool.
You can go see comedy at the Stress Factory in downtown New Brunswick as well. I went there to watch an Open Mic once and it was excruciating! Fun!
Rutgers has a building called Scott Hall, like the wrestler but not named after the wrestler. That’s fun I guess?
If you want a place to hang out after the games and actually be able to hear each other talk, head to the Olive Branch, nestled in between Easton and College Avenues. It’s the first place every good Rutgers bar crawl starts and the only one you usually remember.
But really, you’re there for tailgating and eating your face off and I think I’ve done a pretty good job of describing how to do that. If you want real world class entertainment....hop a train to NYC. Rutgers is pretty neatly placed in the burbs and super spread out, so don’t think you’re going to be able to walk from one campus to the other.
So is that it?
Yeah pretty much. You can tailgate, eat and eat some more at Rutgers and I miss its food ever so much if you couldn’t tell. I didn’t even mention Blitzburger, King’s Pizza (which is bad pizza but I’m pretty sure is a front for the mob), Old Man Rafferty’s, Harvest Moon and their beer, Tumulty’s and everywhere else.
So it’s a lot like Columbus in that it’s full of bars and restaurants but hey it’s at least close to NYC!