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Chicago Bears Tailgate Food

My family and I are big Bears fans.  We always try and make it to one or two games a season if we are lucky.

This past weekend, the Bears played the Houston Texans on Sunday Night Football.  Kate and I were actually offered some tickets, but turned them down because 1) they were really expensive ($320 each for face value) and 2) because the weather forecast looked terrible.  After seeing the weather conditions on TV, we knew we made the right decision.


But just because we didn’t go to the game didn’t mean we couldn’t make a delicious tailgate themed menu!  I thought about possibly making a menu that was Chicago vs. Texas in theme (think Chicago style hotdogs and some Texas style BBQ), but opted to only focus on Chicago food instead.  After all, we were rooting for the Bears!


When I thought about what foods scream “Chicago,” I instantly came up with a menu that included Chicago style hotdogs and Chicago style Italian beef sandwiches.  And what Chicago menu would be complete without some deep dish pizza?  Making all this for four people (my parents, Kate and me) seemed like it would result in way too much food, so I decided to make small portions of everything so we could get a bit of each.


The result was even better than I could have anticipated.  Everything tasted so authentic and it really got us in the football mood.  The cool thing about this menu is that you could cater it to the foods that are famous in your city.  For example:

New England Patriots Fans: Clam Chowder and Mini Lobster Rolls

New York Giant or Jets Fans: NY Style Pizza and Mini Cheesecakes

Miami Dolphin Fans: Mini Cuban Sandwiches, Fried Plantains and Mojitos

Green Bay Packer Fans: Cheese???

My menu was decidedly very carb and meat heavy, so I decided to lighten things up and add some great nutrition by serving a huge arugula salad.


Even with making the portion sizes smaller, we still had a ton of leftovers (partially by design).  All of these recipes could easily serve six people.  I am not going to include my “recipe” for the Chicago Style hotdogs because there wasn’t much to them.

I started out with some organic, grass-fed all beef hotdogs (I used this brand) and crisped them up on an oiled grill pan.  Obviously, the grill would work great also.


I cooked the dogs until the blistered and got nice and crispy on the outside.  I then stuffed the dogs in a poppy seed bun (critical for Chicago style hotdogs) that was smothered in mustard (Dijon or yellow, just make sure there is no ketchup!) and topped them with a dill pickle and chopped onions and tomatoes.


The four of us split two hotdogs to go along with all the other food.  If this were a truly authentic dog, I also would have added celery salt, but didn’t have any lying around, so omitted it.

Up next? Another Chicago staple – the Italian Beef Sandwich.  The places that do it really well in Chicago include Portillos, Al’s Beef and Mr. Beef.  Basically, this sandwich includes thinly sliced beef, topped with sautéed onions and peppers, finished with spicy giardiniera and then dipped in the a flavorful au jus sauce.  The sandwich is traditionally served on a sourdough baguette, so that’s exactly what I used.  For those of you that are unfamiliar with giardinera, they are pickled spicy vegetables that are often used in sandwiches in Chicago.


In my humble opinion, these make any sandwich because they add texture, flavor and spice!


Add some peppers and onions and these sandwiches go from being amazing to even more amazing.


Finally, cut the sandwiches into small individual portions and you have the a great accompaniment to the hotdogs.


Last, but certainly not least, I made some deep dish pizza.  I made two varieties – one was vegetarian (just cheese) and the other was more traditional and included Italian sausage, peppers and mushrooms.  I made my own sauce and dough for these pizzas.  As you know, I typically rely on store bought sauce and dough when making my pizzas, but deep dish is an entirely different animal.  It definitely takes a bit more effort and planning, but trust me, it is worth it. These pizzas were hands down one of the best that I have ever made (recipe coming tomorrow!)


Despite the outcome of the Bears game (LOSS), we were able to fight through it because our tummies were full and happy!  Even if you aren’t from Chicago, you can make the deep dish or Italian Beef sammies anytime. Both were unbelievably good, inexpensive to make, and truly authentic.  Enjoy!

Italian Beef Sandwiches – Serves 2-3 as main dish and 4-6 for appetizer size sandwiches (inspired by Guy Fieri’s recipe)


  • 1.5 lbs top round beef
  • 1.5 TB dried basil
  • 1 TB salt
  • 1 TB freshly ground pepper
  • 1 TB paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3 TB canola oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
  • 1/3 red wine
  • 2 TB Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 beef stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sourdough baguette
  • 1/2 cup giardinerra vegetables, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 bell pepper, sliced
  • 1/4 medium onion, sliced


Mix dried basil, salt, pepper, paprika, cayenne and red pepper flakes together in a small bowl.  Rub evenly over the beef and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.


Pre-heat oven to 275 degrees.  Remove the beef from the fridge.  In a large dutch oven, heat 2 TB of canola oil over medium heat.  Once hot, add the beef and allow to cook for 2 minutes per side until all sides are browned.  Remove beef from pan.  If pan looks dry, add a little bit more oil and then sauté onions and garlic cloves in oil.  Cook for 10-15 minutes until onions are softened.  Add the wine, beef broth and Worcestershire sauce to pot and deglaze the pan, scraping all the bits off the bottom.  Add the beef back to the dutch oven and place in the oven.

Cook the beef for 2-3 hours or until the temperature on a meat thermometer comes to 135 degrees (mine took about 2 hours).


Remove the beef from the pan and allow to cool completely.  Once cooled, slice very thinly.  Put the sauce on the stove and heat it up.  Add the thinly sliced beef and heat through.


Slice baguette in half lengthwise and toast until browned. 

Meanwhile, heat a nonstick pan over medium heat.  Add remaining one tablespoon of oil and sauté sliced pepper and onions until tender (about 10 minutes).

Top one half of baguette with beef, giardiniera and sautéed peppers and onions.


Top with other baguette and slice into small sandwiches.


Serve these with additional sauce and more giardiniera!

4 Responses to Chicago Bears Tailgate Food

  1. 1) NOM 2) Packers: Cheese??? hahahaha

  2. [...] than Deep Dish Pizza.  That’s why I knew it would be the perfect dish to be served for my Bears vs. Texans Tailgating Party.  And when I say party, I mean dinner with my parents and Kate.  When you have a family [...]

  3. My new favorite(s)

  4. [...] As you know, I am a big time Chicago Bears fan.  So when they failed to make the playoffs this year, I was very disappointed.  [...]

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