A tailgate can be as fun and lively as the game itself — especially with the right foods. All you need is a parking lot and a portable grill, and you’re in business! Here’s our go-to menu, full of all-American favorites like beer, beans and hot dogs. Let the games (and grills) begin.
Start the party with a classic sports snack: popcorn! Here’s a trick: put popcorn kernels in a loose packet of aluminum foil, then place the pack over direct heat on the grill. Let the kernels pop into popcorn. Top it with melted butter, salt and any of your favorite seasonings.
Light or dark beer: why choose? Take your cooler of brews to the next level with a Black & Tan, made by layering stout on top of a denser ale.
For the main event, you can’t beat classic hot dogs. This Chicago-style version is topped with banana peppers, raw onions and pickles, but use whatever ingredients you like. Or, try these variations:
- New England Ballpark-Style: Grill hot dogs and top with chopped grilled onions and peppers, ketchup, mustard and relish.
- New York-Style: Grill hot dogs on aluminum foil until lightly charred, serve on a warm white bun, and top with ketchup, brown mustard and sauerkraut.
- Stuffed: Halfway through grilling, remove the hot dogs and score on the diagonal 1/2 inch (12 mm.) deep. Insert pickled jalapeno slices into the incisions and top with grated pepper jack cheese. Finish grilling, covered, until the cheese melts and top with Creole mustard and spicy ketchup.
On the side, you’ll need something fresh. A raw salad with tomatoes, watermelon and feta hits the spot. While the grill is fired up, you can also grill the squash for this squash, orzo and mint salad, then toss it together on site. And don’t forget a pot of hearty baked beans with bacon; you can even cook them on the grill.
Finish the party on a sweet note with s’mores. Just brown a skewered marshmallow on the grill, then sandwich it between two graham crackers with a small bar of chocolate. It’s a final taste of summer!
- 1 to 2 days ahead: Make the beans, bring to room temperature, cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Day of: Prep ingredients for the salads and toppings for the hot dogs.
- Just before serving: Assemble and dress the salads. Make the hot dogs. Reheat the beans in a pot on the grill. Make the popcorn and s’mores.
Pack your cooler. You’ll be transporting perishable food, so make sure your meat and side dishes are well packed in a cooler filled with ice.
Transport your grill. If you’re an experienced tailgater and you plan on feeding a crowd, go ahead and pack up your big kettle grill, but a smaller, portable grill will also do the job.
Pick your spot. Most people tailgate outside of sports arenas in the parking lots. Don’t let that stop you, though; you can tailgate anywhere! Just be careful to set your grill only on a nonflammable surface.
Be fire safe. You will more than likely be in a crowd during your tailgating event, so never leave the grill unattended. Also, be sure to put your fire out and make sure the grill has cooled before you put it back in the car.