BRONZEVILLE — Bears fans take their tailgating seriously.
Ahead of the team's first game of the season against the Cincinnati Bengals, burgers and hot dogs were on many menus in the 31st Street parking lot south of Soldier Field.
But in the sea of trailers, buses and Bears jerseys were some surprising culinary finds — like the 800-pound cow turning on a custom-made rotisserie grill built by Robert Bromberek from southwestern suburban Lemont.
Bromberek brought the cow from a farm in northwest Illinois, before setting next to the storied "Da Bus," which his friend and former Bridgeport native Tim "Timmy From Da Bus" Shanley drives from Austin, Texas, for every home Bears game.
"This is the biggest animal I've ever cooked," Bromberek said. "There's not too many animals that you can cook that are bigger than this guy."
After 12 to 14 hours of cooking, monitored with the help of computerized thermometers, 500 pounds of the meat was set to be packed up and shipped to Pacific Garden Mission, 1458 S. Canal St., to feed the needy.
The scraps would be converted to dog food, Bromberek.
Though there aren't plans to cook a cow like this at every home game, Bromberek and Shanley say they've embraced tailgating as a way to reach out to the hungry, setting up an organization called Tailgating for Hunger.
Of course, Shanley had plans to feed dozens in the parking lot from "Da Bus" and served up 60 pounds of beef, 30 pounds of pork loins and 80 pounds of chicken wings and leg quarters.
Other cooks grilled more modest amounts of food,
"We have great food, but it's about spending time with family and friends," said 37-year-old Ned Cook, a South Elgin man who is the culinary leader of a group of Bears fans who enjoyed his tri-tip steak sandwiches on grilled garlic bread.
The contingent plans to tailgate before every Bears home game this year, and while the menu hasn't been set in stone for future games, Cook gave a hint to what his family and friends will have.
"One game we're going to have mussels. Another game, lamb chops with tzatziki. It's going to be good," Cook said.
Kyle Allred of Glen Ellyn cooked beef ribs and asparagus on the grill.
While serving his fellow Bears fans was important to him while cooking, so was another thing.
"This food will help soak up this sauce," he said, pointing to a can of beer.
Warrenville's Marcello Alleruzzo said he has served calamari at every Bears tailgate since 1986. Sunday also featured shish kebabs, beef and chicken.
"I don't do hot dogs," Alleruzzo said while turning the kebabs. "I enjoy serving good food to my friends and family."
Like many grillmasters, Alleruzzo said he was optimistic about this year's squad.
"They'll do pretty well this year," Alleruzzo said. "But even if they don't, I'll still be here with my calamari."