Ask A Chicago Expert: Best Easy Tailgate Food

August 26, 2014 7:00 AM

Bratwurst; generic image (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

There are two necessities to any tailgate party: free-flowing booze and plenty of good eats. Amp up your parking lot party even more by making gourmet tailgate food that’s sure to impress your friends. While some components of these recipes may need to be done beforehand, finish them up with your friends while you’re pre-celebrating out in the parking lot.

Chef Jared Van Camp
Old Town Social
455 W. North Ave.
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 266-2277

Old Town Social may be a sports bar, but it’s a sophisticated one with an expansive gourmet menu created and helmed by Chef Jared Van Camp. Pull up a chair and enjoy small bites — from bar snacks to charcuterie — as well as full entrees featuring burgers, tacos and more, along with a choice of 180+ beers. Chef Van Camp started his culinary career as a baker, but has since won awards and made his mark on Chicago’s dining scene with handmade eats made with locally-sourced food and ingredients.

OTS Pickled Jalapeno Pimento Cheese Dip

  • 2 cups chopped pickled jalapenos
  • 2 cups chopped pimento-stuffed green olives
  • 1 1/2 pounds shredded sharp cheddar
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 pound shredded jack cheese
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • Pinch of black pepper


  1. Fold all ingredients together.
  2. Serve hot or cold with crackers, such as Chef Meads’ recipe.

Chef Nate Meads’ Onion Crackers

  • 5 cups AP flour
  • 1/4 cup baking powder
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 pound butter (cold and cubed)
  • 4 oz canola oil
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup dehydrated onion


  1. Mix everything (except water and canola oil) until the butter is super small.
  2. Add liquid to the mixture, and then mix until almost pulled together.
  3. Place the dough in a mixing bowl and cover it with plastic wrap.
  4. Roll dough into sheets as thin as possible.
  5. Cut dough into rectangles approximately 1×3 inches.
  6. Let rest for 15 minutes.
  7. Bake the dough at 325 degrees Fahrenheit until brown and crispy, rotating every 5 minutes.
  8. Brush with melted butter, and let cool.

Duck Wings (Serves 6-8 people)

Duck wing ingredients

  • 5 pounds duck wing drumettes
  • 1 oz kosher salt
  • 1/2 oz sugar
  • 5 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 10 branches of thyme
  • 6 oz duck fat

Harissa ingredients (yields 3 cups)

  • 4 oz dried chipotle peppers
  • 2 oz dried ancho peppers
  • 2 oz dried chile de arbol peppers
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds, toasted
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds, toasted
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, toasted
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 10 garlic cloves
  • Salt, sugar and lemon juice to taste

Raita ingredients (yields 2 cups)

  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1 ea shallot, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 Tbsp chopped Mint
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice

Final assembly ingredients

  • 1/2 cup harissa
  • 1/2 pound butter, cold
  • 12 cup canola oil
  • 2 cups AP flour


For the duck wings:

  1. Using a cleaver, chop about one half inch off of the narrow end of the drumettes.
  2. Marinate the wings with the salt, sugar, thyme and garlic overnight in the refrigerator.
  3. The next day, preheat an oven to 275 degrees F. Melt the duck fat in a heavy-bottomed casserole or dutch oven large enough to hold all of the duck wings. Add the duck wings to the melted fat and continue to heat on the stovetop until the fat reaches a temperature of 250 degrees F.
  4. Cover the pot or casserole with a lid or foil and place in the oven. Cook for approx. 4 hours, or until the wings are tender. Remove the pot from the oven and leave at room temp until cool. Drain the wings from the fat and reserve the fat for another use. Place the wings on a sheet tray to cool in a refrigerator.

For the harissa:

  1. Briefly toast the chile de arbol, ancho and chipotle chiles in a 350 degree F oven. Pull out the seeds and stems and discard. Boil water and pour over toasted chiles. Cover and let sit for 20 minutes.
  2. Grind caraway, coriander and cumin finely.
  3. Puree the chiles, spices and olive oil in the VitaPrep using just enough of the soaking liquid to make it puree smoothly.
  4. Season with salt, sugar and lemon juice.
  5. Store in refrigerator.

For the raita:

  1. In a mixing bowl, stir together all ingredients until well combined.
  2. Store in the refrigerator.

Final assembly:

  1. Heat canola oil in a large dutch oven to 350 degree F.
  2. Warm half a cup of the harissa in a sauce pot and mount in cold butter. Reserve this sauce in a warm space.
  3. Dredge the duck wings in the flour and drop into the hot oil. The wings take about 4-5 minutes to cook.
  4. Once the wings have crisped up, remove them from the oil and drain off any excess oil. Toss the wings in a mixing bowl with the warm harissa-butter mixture. Plate with a ramekin or sauce dish of the raita for dipping.

Related: Best Sports Bars in Chicago

Chef Paul Katz
Old Town Pour House
1419 N. Wells St.
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 477-2800

Part of the Bottleneck Management Group, Old Town Pour House opened in 2012 with Corporate Executive Chef Paul Katz in charge of the kitchen. His delicious gourmet pub fare pairs well with your choice of 90 tapped beers — the most in the city of Chicago. His menu is packed full of American classics with a twist, such as this beer and mustard braised brat recipe, which he gives a more savory spin.

Beer & Mustard Braised Brats

  • 6 bratwursts
  • 2 yellow onions
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp dried thyme
  • 24 oz beer
  • 1 oz olive oil


  1. Slice the yellow onions.
  2. In a sauce pot big enough to fit all of the brats, add the olive oil in addition to the brats.
  3. When the oil is warm, add the onions and saute for five minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add thyme and Dijon mustard to the pot. Cook for one minute.
  5. Add beer and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down, and simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Take the brats out of the pot, and continue to cook the onions in the beer broth until most of all the liquid is gone. Reserve the onions for when the brats are cooked on the grill.
  7. Heat the grill. When the grill is hot, add the brats and grill until all sides are slightly charred.
  8. Remove the brats from the grill and place them in buns, topping them with sauteed onions and a drizzle of Dijon mustard.


Chef Guillermo Tellez
Municipal Bar + Dining Co.
216 W. Ohio St.
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 951-2125

While Chef Guillermo Tellez originally grew up in Mexico, his cuisine is all about contemporary American. Prior to working for Mercadito and Municipal Bar, Chef Tellez spent time in the kitchen at Charlie Trotter’s, as well as a number of restaurants in Philadelphia. The menu at Municipal Bar features sandwiches and flatbreads in a comfortable and stylish setting. For this particular deviled egg recipe, everything is to taste. Like your bacon? Add more of it. Want the egg yolks creamier? Then add more mayo. As for spice, throw in as much sriracha as you can handle.

Smoked Bacon Deviled Eggs

  • eggs
  • bacon bits
  • Sriracha
  • mayonnaise
  • salt
  • pepper
  • pickled serrano peppers, sliced (enough for one on each egg half)


  1. Boil the eggs for 12 minutes.
  2. Halve all of the eggs lengthwise.
  3. Carefully remove the yolks, and place them in a separate bowl.
  4. Mash the yolks and add the bacon bits, sriracha, mayo, salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Scoop a spoonful of yolk mixture into each egg white half.
  6. Garnish with a flake of bacon and slice of pickled serrano pepper.

Related: Best Bars to Watch the Bears

Elizabeth SanFilippo is a freelance writer, who enjoys trying new foods from all over the world. But her favorite city for culinary treats will always be Chicago. When not writing about food, she’s scribbling novels, and TV show reviews and recaps. Her work can be found at

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