The Ultimate Tailgater’s Companion

Michael Nagrant / 09.21.07

As autumn winds begin to blow, football greats are once again storming the field.  It’s a long haul to bowl season, though, and the weekend warriors among us will need some sustenance.  So pull out the portable Weber, hit the road, and host a world-class tailgate with supplies from these local champions of eats and drinks.

Dive in with submarines from Bari Foods; 1120 W. Grand, Chicago (312) 666-0730

Bari’s deli case, filled with ruddy salamis, glistening prosciuttos and ivory logs of provolone, is the perfect spot for building your own meat tray.  If you want finished products only, the submarines — as large as Popeye’s forearm and served on fat, yeasty loaves from D’Amato’s Bakery next door — will do.  These hand-held beauties make for easy parking-lot noshing; favorites include the Italian, with pepper-flecked mortadella and other meats.

Keep the party flying high with Harold’s Chicken Shack No. 36; 1361 N. Milwaukee, Chicago (773) 252-2424

It ain’t a tailgate without fried food.  But who wants to lug around a deep fryer or risk third-degree burns before kickoff?  Load up on a couple of 24-piece buckets, catfish nuggets, fried okra and onion rings from Harold’s instead.  Keep in mind, though, not all Harold’s are created equal.  Try this location in Wicker Park, which churns out some of the crispier birds.

Stoke the grill with meat from Gepperth’s Meat Market; 964 N. Halsted, Chicago (773) 549-3883

Keep your barbecue stocked with meat from Chicago’s 101-year-old meat market.  From the house-cured, deeply smoked bacon to the spicy Italian sausage, the quality here never disappoints.  It’s also an encased-meat geek’s dream, with a selection of Sheboygan brats, smoked Polish sausage and even English-style bangers.  Fans who can afford box seats can pick up the perfect Black Angus New York Strip.

Keep your tailgate strictly Ivy League at Fox & Obel; 401 E. Illinois, Chicago (312) 410-7301

If your crew rolls more Ivy League than Big Ten, this is the ultimate one-stop shop for swanky DIYers.  Don’t miss the deli counter, filled with D’Artagnan Sauccison Sec (great spicy salami), mini portions of caviar and crab cakes as big as your fist.  The gourmet market also has one of the best cheese counters in Chicago, with varieties like Kings Island’s Roaring Forties blue and Costwald Cheddar making the perfect platter.