Gourmet Groceries to Stock the Ultimate Tailgate

Looking to throw an NFL-worthy tailgate without the hassle of a mini grill and charcoal?

These gourmet food venues offer ready-to-go takeout ideas that will have your guests high-fiving.

A La Carte  

Chrisi DiClementi-Harlow, owner of A La Carte in Highland Park (formerly Wilmette), has arranged takeaway tailgate menus (all using disposable serving dishes and utensils) for groups as large as 50 that bring together traditional tailgate fare with some creative additions. One menu she created includes mini slider burgers, triple-decker turkey sandwiches along with buffalo chicken pita wraps. To add some zing, she also recommends a special Caesar pasta salad, as well a tortilla roulade platter (small, two-bite wraps) in varieties such as roasted vegetables, spinach and Boursin, soy chicken salad, turkey and Brie, tuna Nicoise and roasted corn and goat cheese. A La Carte, 1480 Old Deerfield Rd., #1, 2 and 3, Highland Park, 847-256-4102


The Grand Food Center 

At The Grand Food Center in Winnetka, executive chef Philip Siciliano has more than 20,000 food items on hand to help you create a wide variety of easy-to-transport gourmet tailgate items. Themes include a Wisconsin cheese basket with a variety of specialty cheeses (pub cheese spread, cheddar and Wisconsin blue), crackers and a selection of gourmet meats. Siciliano can also prepare custom chili to go (turkey, beef or veggie), complete with cornbread sides. On the more exotic side, he says their Mediterranean trays with hummus, pita and veggies are “flying off the shelves.” Lastly, he says, you can’t beat hot wings for a tailgate in a variety of flavors: teriyaki, buffalo, barbecue and garlic parmesan. He’ll even throw in the hand wipes. The Grand Food Center, 606 Green Bay Rd., Winnetka, 847-446-6707



Headed to Soldier Field? Then consider making a stop at one of Chicago’s newest and most famous gourmet dining hubs, Eataly Chicago. While takeout is not the primary focus of the restaurant, the guest relations team at Eataly is happy to put together a creative selection of 13 different portable sandwiches from I Panini with a variety of different toppings ranging from prosciutto to mozzarella to house-made fig mostarda.

“We have a grocery area as well with produce and even a meats-and-cheese counter, which is actually one of my personal favorites,” says Allison Spiaser, a guest relations ambassador at Eataly Chicago. “These, I feel, transport well and are exciting and enjoyable for everyone. I brought some different salumis (Italian meats) and formaggis (Italian cheeses) with me the other day for a tailgate for a Sox game!” To add authentic Italian flair, in addition to Italian beers and soft drinks, the restaurant offers single-serve Bellinis to go. Eataly, 43 E. Ohio St., Chicago, 312-521-8700 (also pictured above)



With four North Shore locations, Foodstuffs is a great spot to grab some mini sliders, veggie chips and El Rey lemon chips, along with their famous salsas and guacamole. With a call to the catering department, you can order single-serving green or pasta salads in small wonton boxes with your favorite team’s logo, says Vice President and COO Eve Albert Feldman.

“Any of our mini pastries, available in all four stores, are perfect. Available for order are football cupcakes, which are really cute, as well as football cookies,” Feldman adds. “Otherwise, all of our cookies, brownies and bars are perfect for little baskets and trays as sweet treats before walking into the big game—or after a big win!” Locations in Evanston, Glencoe, Glenview and Lake Forest.