Sue Barto, center, is flanked by her nephew Rob Barto, left, and friend Brad Hutcherson. They’re preparing two Camp Chef grills for an Oktoberfest-themed tailgate party before a Cleveland Browns game against the Cincinnati Bengals. The menu included Wiener schnitzel, spaetzle, bratwurst, sauerkraut, pork tenderloin, potato pancakes, German potato salad, beer cheese dip, cream puffs and eclairs. And, for Cincinnati, they threw in Cincinnati chili. The drink that day was Breast Cancer Awareness Pink Punch.

Sue Barto of Medina, was born and raised in Cleveland. With that legacy came a lifelong commitment to being a Browns fan. She’s had season tickets for more than 35 years (and counting). And she only missed games last year because of the pandemic.
“We have tailgated at pretty much every game since the Browns came back in 1999. It started out with just four of us. We parked in the lot off Summit Street and pulled out our little Weber Smokey Joe to grill burgers or dogs,” she recalls.
Eventually, she and her friends were joined by nearby tailgaters. “The Smokey Joe was traded in for a Weber tailgate grill, and eventually two Camp Chef three-burner gas grills, complete with double griddle and pizza oven accessories,” she says. The food and party elevated from there. Barto has the planning spreadsheets to prove it.
Her crowd eventually moved to the county lot on Lakeside and West 4th for a flatter surface and more space. At that point Barto would arrive by 6:30 a.m. and set up a bar to serve her “drink of the week.” For example, against the Baltimore Ravens she served a many-spirited Baltimore Zoo. Against the Tennessee Titans the beverage of choice is a Lynchburg lemonade.
As with many things, people grew up or old and the party contracted. Barto calls her current planning “simple.” She’ll plan only one or two bigger themed parties and for the rest she serves subs/burgers/brats.
When it comes to drinks of the week, Ohio distilleries offer a breadth of local spirits. Recently, High Bank Distillery in Columbus won double gold for the best blended whiskey – Whiskey War Barrel Proof – in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. The distillery sells three different, small-batch whiskeys that would make fine cocktails for tailgate parties.
Chef Loretta Paganini, owner of Loretta Paganini School of Cooking in Chesterland, has tailgating experience as a chef and a fan. She says grilled foods and those that are warming – chili, beans, hot dogs, burgers, and sausage – are good options. To up your food game, she suggests adding interest with grilled and smoked foods.
“Ethnic flavors are very big this year, like chicken adobo and grilled flatbreads with a variety of toppings,” she notes. She offers some recipes below.
Melissa Khoury, butcher/owner of Saucisson butcher shop in Cleveland, sells uncured hot dogs from Chardon-based New Creation Farm. Given Cleveland’s broad ethnic history, she recommends selecting from the array of sausages made in house.
“Over the years we have developed many sausage flavors and continue to always challenge ourselves by coming up with new flavors,” she says. “A few of our staples that go great with tailgating are beer bratwurst made with Great Lakes Brewing’s Edmond Fitzgerald. Or, for spicy lovers, we recommend our Texas hotlink, which is a little spicy, softened by the tang of a little red wine vinegar. It’s awesome grilled or smoked. For the adventurous eaters, the currywurst is a blend of yellow curry, golden raisins, and mustard seeds. It’s a perfect fit for Cleveland Kraut’s gnar gnar.”
“If you wanted to take a different approach to tailgating, we sell everything you need for a fantastic nacho or you can buy pulled pork or BBQ beef that just needs to be warmed up.”
Want to name drop? Food and Wine magazine named KC Cattle’s Wagyu hot dogs the best they’ve tried. They’re made, that’s right, from Wagyu beef with very few ingredients and sold uncured. Wagyu refers to selectively bred Japanese black cattle with unusual amounts of intramuscular fat and impressive flavor. The hot dogs and other Wagyu beef are available mail order from
For those who want the festivities without the cooking Chef Kimberly Gibson suggests stopping by Hungry Bee Catery in Chagrin Falls for grab-and-go dips and appetizers. “We take great pride in our appetizer case,” she says. “We prepare everything from scratch. We can customize menus and happily prepare easy items for your tailgate.”
One of the favorite appetizers is 5-0 Buffalo Dip which was created by Officer Brian Reardon of the Bainbridge Police Department.
Serves 8-10
1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce
Fresh parsley
1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined with tails attached
Cayenne pepper to taste
In a mixing bowl, mix together olive oil, parsley, lemon juice, hot sauce, garlic, tomato paste, oregano, salt, and black pepper. Pour marinade into a large resealable plastic bag with shrimp. Seal, and marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours or overnight.
Cook on flat top grill or in a cast iron skillet until shrimp is cooked through. Sprinkle with cayenne pepper while cooking if you want a little more heat.
(Tennessee Titans Game)
Serves one
1 1/2 ounces Jack Daniels Whiskey
1-ounce triple sec
1 ounce lemon juice
4 ounces Sprite
Lemon slices, for garnish

Mix whiskey, triple sec, and lemon juice in a glass. Top with Sprite. Garnish with lemon slice.

RECIPES FROM Loretta Paganini
Serves four
1 cup Soy Sauce
½ cup Rice Vinegar (substitute cider or white wine vinegar)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
2 bay leaves
½ tsp black pepper, ground
1 chicken, cut into eight pieces

Combine the soy sauce, rice vinegar, water, garlic, bay leaves, and black pepper in a heavy-bottomed sauté pan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat so that liquid is at a gentle simmer.
Rinse chicken parts. Blot dry with a paper towel. Then, nestle into the sauté pan in an even layer. Cover the sauté pan and simmer chicken gently until cooked, about 30 minutes. Remove chicken from cooking liquid and drain until dry. While chicken is draining, reduce cooking liquid to about one cup.
You can prepare chicken and refrigerate until you’re ready to grill for the tailgate party. Then, cook over a medium grill until crisp. If desired, brush the reduced sauce on the chicken as it is cooking. Otherwise, serve sauce alongside chicken.
Serves 12

Chef Tip: Chilling salmon patties prior to cooking will help them hold together. They can be chilled overnight. Be certain your cooking oil is hot, and they are golden brown before flipping and cooking on the other side.

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds fresh salmon, cut into 1-inch pieces, skin and bones removed
½ cup shallots, chopped
½ cup dry white wine
3 cups fresh breadcrumbs
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon capers, drained, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

To serve:
12 hamburger buns, split, & toasted
Tomato slices
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in heavy, medium skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté until translucent, about 4 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high. Add white wine, lemon juice and drained capers and cook until almost all liquid evaporates, about 10 minutes. Transfer shallot mixture to large bowl. Refrigerate until shallot mixture is well-chilled, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, place salmon in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to coarsely chop salmon. Add salmon to the shallot mixture. Mix in breadcrumbs, beaten eggs, dill, salt and pepper, by hand.
Divide salmon mixture into 12 equal portions, form into patties. Chill for 15 minutes before cooking.
Heat remaining olive oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Working batches, add salmon patties to skillet and cook until patties are golden brown and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side, adding more oil to skillet as needed.
Serve salmon burgers on toasted hamburger buns with remoulade, lettuce, and tomato slices.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1 lime, juice only
2 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, chopped
2 tablespoon pickles, minced
1/2 teaspoon capers, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
Tabasco sauce, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and puree. Taste and adjust seasoning with tabasco sauce, salt and pepper. Chill until ready to serve.
Serves eight

2 cups cabbage sliced thin
1/2 cup red cabbage, sliced thin
1/2 cup carrots, peeled & sliced thin
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. celery salt
1/2 tsp. sea salt
Pepper, freshly ground, to taste

In a small non-reactive bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard, sugar, vinegar, celery salt, salt and pepper. Place the carrots and cabbages in a large glass bowl. Pour enough dressing over the vegetables to completely coat and moisten them.
Serves 8

2 flank steaks, approximately 2 lbs, each
1 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
1 tsp. fresh sage, chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh oregano, chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 tsp. black pepper, coarsely ground
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic glaze
Add all the herbs together in a small bowl and mix well, add the pepper, garlic, oil and brown sugar forming a coarse paste. Spread paste evenly over both sides of each flank steak. Wrap each flank steak individually with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.
Heat the grill to approximately 450°F to 500°F. Grill steaks directly over coals for 5 minutes on each side. Internal temperature of steak should reach 135°F to 140°F for medium rare to medium doneness.
Let the steaks rest for 10 minutes cover with foil.For optimum tenderness, cut flank steaks across the grain into 1/4-inch slices, drizzle with balsamic glaze and serve with wraps or flat bread.
Makes about 1/4 cup

1 teaspoon honey(acacia preferred)
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

Whisk honey and vinegar together in small saucepan. Reduce by about half, until it just begins to thicken. Glaze will get thicker as it cools.
Makes 16 pieces
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups walnuts, lightly toasted and chopped
1 lb. cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs, room temperature, whipped
3/4 cup sour cream, room temperature
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
3 Tbsp. flour
Apple Topping:
3 small honey crisp apples, peeled, cored and chopped
3/4 cup prepared caramel sauce, plus more for serving
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground nutmeg
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and chopped
1/4 cup rolled oats

Pre-heat oven to 375°F. Butter and flour a 9×13-inch baking dish. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl, set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract. Add in eggs, one at a time and mix well after each addition. Add flour mixture in and mix until just combined. Gently mix in half the walnuts.
Press cookie dough into the prepared baking dish with lightly floured hands. Top with remaining walnuts. Gently push them into the top of the cookie dough. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes.
While blondies are baking, make cheesecake filling. In a stand mixer, beat cream cheese and sour cream together with sugar. Incorporate milk, and vanilla into mixture. Finish with cornstarch. Whip eggs in a separate bowl and fold into cream cheese mixture. Set aside to rest while making apple topping.
To make apple topping toss all ingredients together in a medium bowl, make sure all ingredients are evenly distributed.
Pour cheesecake batter over blondie crust. Top with apple crisp mixture. Bake for about 45 minutes, until the cheesecake is set. Cool completely before cutting into bars. Drizzle with additional caramel sauce and serve.