The simply named San Diego Chargers Tailgating group is one of the most creative and welcoming parties you’ll find in a city that prides itself on its tailgating prowess. From cooking and mixing contests to authentic Mexican tacos, Dominic Giammarinaro and his ever-expanding posse have come a long way since their formation some 18 years ago.
The group began in the early ’90s when Giammarinaro and his pals were fresh out of high school. The early tailgates included take-out pizza and Burger King Whoppers. Since those early days, the group has organically evolved into a tailgating operation that regularly includes 50+ pre-gamers and much more refined culinary skills.
The Chargers Tailgaters purchased a short bus in 1995 and painted it old-school-Chargers baby blue and gold. After a few years of use, though, they ran into a problem. “No one wanted to park it at their house,” Giammarinaro explains. Wives and girlfriends refused to house the bus year-round, and street parking led to several tow-aways and $500 fines. They eventually sold it to The Scott & BR Show, AM-1090 radio’s morning sports talk show, for $1 and the rights to take batting practice at a San Diego Padres game. Scott and BR (that’s former Charger Billy Ray Smith) have since tricked out the bus and still use it for promotions at Padres and Chargers events.
The San Diego Chargers Tailgating group hosts three major events each season. Since 2006, Iron Tailgater cooking competition has been a popular contest, where five chefs square off to best prepare food from a pre-determined ingredient. Last year’s competition was guest judged by silver-medalist curler Cheryl Bernard, a Canadian who loves the Chargers. Another themed event is called Iron Bartender, a drink-mixing content which always produces a wide variety of creative and colorful ways to get faced before gametime. Under the ”Recipes” link on their website, you can learn how to make some of the winning dishes. Week 12 will be this year’s Taco Guy Day, when Giammarinaro hires a bona fide taco cart master to drive up from Tijuana, Mexico to prepare that day’s tailgating feast. Last season’s Taco Guy Day included a taco-eating contest, during which the winner put down an impressive 21.
Like many of the great NFL tailgaters we’ve met, Giammarinaro loves to welcome new group members and opposing fans. “The number one thing about a tailgate is the people that are there. Good people, people you’ve never met—that’s the fun part.” Last season they hosted five guests from Holland who were visiting California who didn’t know what tailgating was, but had contacted Giammarinaro when they’d found his website. Giammarinaro’s best advice to newcomers who want to join him on Sunday mornings is to get to the stadium early. Between the nightmare traffic in southern California and the cramped parking lots, first-timers should plan on getting to the stadium a good four hours early so they don’t miss out on the tailgating fun.