With 68 teams hailing from all over the United States set to take part in the 2023 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, there are a wealth of thematic food choices for anyone holding a March Madness viewing party to offer.
Think sandwiches replete with coleslaw and french fries in honor of the Pittsburgh Panthers, or southwest style nachos loaded with Tex-Mex spice blends that would be right at home on the campus of the Texas Longhorns or Arizona Wildcats.
Of course, if you’re intent on holding a viewing party, you want to be watching the action, not stuck in the kitchen. Here’s a look at eight easy to make foods (one for each of the bracket’s opening weekend host sites) that will make you feel like you’re actually at the games without having to spend all day preparing.
While many of these foods (and their respective preparation styles) can be found all over the United States, that ease of access makes them perfect for party planning in a pinch.
This is more of a main course than a finger food, but it’s impossible to think of the Deep South without the combination of chicken and waffles: it’s a proven winner, just like the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Alabama is the No. 1 seed for the South region, and they’ll open play in Birmingham. As such, they have some of the best odds of cutting down the nets in April, listed at or around +700 to win it all this year. Tipico Sportsbook in Ohio is offering a March Madness promo for new bettors: make sure to get the best bonus possible and place your bets with them.
Des Moines, Iowa
While the Great Plains aren’t thought of as a traditional foodie haven, Iowa has its hidden gems—even ones that don’t include copious amounts of corn. The Sloppy Joe is similar to the Margarita in that dozens of places claim to have created the first: one origin theory traces the sandwich to Sioux City, Iowa.
Once thought to be the home of the mythical Fountain of Youth because of its paradisiacal landscapes, take your pick of seafood—or fresh, warm weather fruits like strawberries and oranges—if it’s the Sunshine State you want to channel.
Rocky road ice cream hails from nearby Oakland, and the indulgent chocolaty combination of nuts and marshmallow creme makes for an excellent dessert to round out your palate.
Albany, New York
It’s a food that no TV dinner (sports related or otherwise) would be complete without. The humble potato chip was born in Saratoga Lake, half an hour outside the Empire State’s capital, when African- and Native American inventor George Speck got the brilliant idea of frying thin slices of potato.
While nearly every city worth its salt thinks that their own spin on pizza is the best, Ohio’s capital has a version that is both delicious and easy to get your hands on. Columbus style pizza is defined by a thin, square cut crust that’s overflowing with cheese and pepperonis.
Colorado’s capital city has plenty of edible party offerings… and not just the mile high ones. Originally part of the Spanish Empire, the southwestern influence on Denver’s cuisine can still be felt today, with loads of dishes kicked up with green chile.
Denver is also a haven for hipsters, so take your pick of craft beers—or national staples like Coors, brewed with water from the Rocky Mountains—to feel like you’re right at home in Colorful Colorado.
Greensboro, North Carolina
North Carolina, like Kansas City and Buffalo, is one of many places in the United States that claims to have the definitive best way of making chicken wings. While Raleigh and Charlotte’s wings have more of a claim to fame than Greensboro’s, try your hand at the Carolina style—or order them from any number of wing shops—defined by their use of vinegar in the sauce.