Tailgating Your Way

Tailgating party themes can be simple or structured. Here are three different styles with menu ideas to suit everyone.

Traditional
If the terms premade, Crock-Pot® and Sterno are not in your parking-lot-party lexicon, you fall into the "old school" category. The traditional tailgater rejects the consumption of meals that can't be grilled on an open fire at the back of a car. But even without the fancy salads, casserole-filled chafing dishes and bubbling pots of chili, the tried-and-true tailgater can still pack a unique and flavorful punch with these tasty ideas:

Potluck
For those tailgaters seeking variety without a lot of hassle, potluck meals are ideal because they equally distribute the amount of work and expense among guests. In terms of preparation, potlucks straddle the line between simple and structured. When all invited guests pitch in, it makes for light work and an array of traditional and unique choices guaranteed to satisfy every palate.

To simplify the process and avoid duplication, arrange for all members of your party to park near one another, and assign a specific set of items to each car -- ice and beverages can be located at one station, salads at another, hot food at the next, etc. Not only is this an easy setup, but it also allows guests to mingle.

If you're invited to a potluck, break out of the ordinary mold with some of these ideas:

Going for Broke
Tailgaters in this category go well beyond the barbecue when planning their weekly pregame festivities. With equipment and supplies that rival most professional kitchens, these fans simmer, saute and stir-fry between the white parking-lot lines.

Another sure sign of advanced tailgaters is a menu based on the home team's schedule. They mix and match their hometown specialties with the local tastes of gridiron rivals. Opposing mascots often appear in a roasted, grilled or deep-fried form. Here's a list of similarly inspired dishes to help get you started. For more ideas, consult regional cookbooks and be sure to visit the Recipe Finder and our message boards.

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