Amid the aroma of smoking grills and the din of howling Vikings fans two weeks ago, 20-year season-ticket-holder Mike Beman presided over his tailgating brethren, beaming with Purple Pride.

In the corner of a Metrodome parking lot, Beman and his wife, Mary, sported brand-new matching Brett Favre jerseys, and custom-made Vikings Reebok sneakers. Snaking out the rear of a friend's purple van was an immense buffet of food -- enough to feed Bryant McKinnie and the entire offensive line.

"Wait until you see what it's like when the regular season starts," said Beman, of St. Cloud.

There are no fans like football fans. From the circus-like atmosphere of these parking lots to the packed crowds inside nearby bars, these pregame parties can be downright riotous. With Favre fever infecting Vikings fans, the buzz has only gotten louder.

Of course, not everyone wants to spend their Sunday morning huddled in a parking lot. That's why we're also going to give you a look at the best bars for pregame partying. All you need to worry about is getting there. Skol!

501 CLUB

Bar: The blocks around the Dome aren't exactly teeming with bars, but this new one is close by and worth a look. The owners of the 331 Club in northeast Minneapolis opened the rock club in April, bringing new life to the former Matty B's.

Pregame: Owner Jarret Oulman said the bar is excited about its first Vikings season and will tweak its format a bit to accommodate football fans. So don't expect any loud bands rattling your brains. Just beer specials and brunch. Opens at 9 a.m. for Sunday games.

Info: 501 Washington Av. S., Mpls. 612-338-3848.


Bar: This party bar's tagline might sound goofy ("Where the light rail ends, your party begins!") but it's good news for fans hoping to save on parking, either by using the cheaper municipal lots nearby or by riding the rails downtown. Further enticement: 55 plasma TVs and the NFL Sunday Ticket, the package that lets subscribers watch all of the day's games.

Pregame: One outrageous drink special -- $6 all-you-can-drink Miller Lite till noon on Sunday game days. Plus, a Bloody Mary bar and breakfast buffet. Opens at 9 a.m.

Info: 14 N. 5th St., Mpls. 612-333-8820.


Bar: Just blocks from the Dome, this supercool bar with a punk-rock attitude is popular on game day.

Pregame: It's a packed house inside and out with good beer and famous wings. Opens at 9 a.m.

Info: 1111 Washington Av. S., Mpls. 612-340-9738.


Bar: Craft beer lovers should look no further than this beloved brewpub. From here, you can ride a shuttle to the Dome, courtesy of Town Hall and other Seven Corners bars (such as Preston's and the Corner Bar).

Pregame: Obviously, they can satisfy your beer needs. They also have brunch and $1 off breakfast drinks (Bloody Marys, etc.). Opens at 9 a.m.

Info: 1430 Washington Av. S., Mpls. 612-339-8696.


Bar: Like Sneaky Pete's, the Loon is right off the light rail. With more than 27 years of experience, the pioneering First Avenue bar knows how to throw a pregame party.

Pregame: The bar will give you a light rail ticket with any purchase. Check out the brunch buffet and don't forget its famous chili. Opens at 9:30 a.m.

Info: 500 1st Av. N., Mpls. 612-332-8342.


Bar: The closest bar to the Dome, Hubert's is like a trip down memory lane. The walls at this 26-year-old institution are covered with enough sports memorabilia to make it a museum.

Pregame: As the weather gets colder, the lines get longer. "They line up before we even open," said owner Steve Anderly. "We just get out of the way." The bar offers breakfast specials. Opens at 10 a.m.

Info: 601 Chicago Av. S., Mpls. 612-332-6062.


Bar: A devastating fire couldn't snuff out this quality bar. Maxwell's is back for its second Vikings season since being rebuilt in 2008.

Pregame: Plenty of food here, including burgers, wings, Bloody Marys and some greasy breakfast concoction called "Hangover Heaven." Opens at 8:30 a.m.

Info: 1201 Washington Av. S., Mpls. 612-354-7085.


Bar: This gay bar has been on Washington Avenue near the Dome for more than a decade and gets a sizable Vikings crowd.

Pregame: Brunch and Bloody Mary bar. Come back after the game for the Sunday beer bust ($9 all-you-can-drink from 4-8 p.m.). Opens at 10 a.m.

Info: 515 Washington Av. S., Mpls. 612-338-4214.


Bar: Sushi and football don't go hand and hand. But this Japanese restaurant is worth a try if you want to go beyond burgers and brats.

Pregame: At press time, Wasabi wasn't planning to open early on Sunday unless it gets city approval for a new patio (currently it opens at 4 p.m. on Sundays). But if its patio is approved, the restaurant plans to open early for Vikings games.

Info: 903 Washington Av. S., Mpls. 612-339-6688.

Gadget tips from a tailgating king

For some, tailgating is just a party. For others, it's a lifestyle. Dave Lamm, 38, runs the popular website He's become an expert of sorts, posting daily reviews on the latest gear to hit the tailgating scene. "I consider tailgating to be the last great neighborhood," Lamm said. "Everybody gets along with everybody." Reached by phone at his home in Orange County, Calif., Lamm gave us an impassioned list of some of the best tailgating products out there. Some are practical, others pretty crazy. Most can be purchased through Lamm's website.


Purpose: A full-sized propane gas grill that attaches to your vehicle's tow hitch. When it's time to cook, a metal arm swings the grill away from the vehicle.

Lamm: "I swear by it. You don't need to worry about having a dirty, stinky grill leaking grease on the inside of your vehicle."

Cost: $399.


Purpose: Beer Pong is the rising star of tailgating games. This is an inflatable version of the frat house table game that can be taken anywhere.

Lamm: "It was originally made to float in a pool. When it comes to tailgating, it's perfect because ... you could slip it under the back seat of your car."

Cost: $50.


Purpose: Use your cordless drill to make margaritas. Connect the special blade attachment to your drill, lock it onto the cup and drill up a blended drink.

Lamm: "You can have blended drinks in the parking lot without spending a lot of money."

Cost: $29.


Purpose: This hybrid game mixes shuffleboard rules with golf putters.

Lamm: "It seems like when you're tailgating you have to be throwing something. Now you don't have to worry about hitting someone's car."

Cost: $70.


Purpose: The market is filled with pop-up tents to cover your party from the elements. This one connects to your vehicle's lift gate.

Lamm: "It's smaller and more lightweight than standard EZ-Up tents and costs about the same."

Cost: $120.


Purpose: A portable, self-contained satellite dish (in a cube) that allows you to pick up games with little hassle from providers like DirecTV and Dish Network.

Lamm: "It usually takes me less than 5 minutes to lock onto a satellite and get a crystal-clear picture. It's really, really cool."

Cost: $699.


Purpose: For diehard tailgaters only -- or anyone with money to blow. The Party-A-CarGo kegerator contains a refrigerated keg and a sound system in one large metal box that mounts on your hitch, turning your vehicle into a rolling nightclub.

Lamm: It exemplifies "the craziness level" that people will go to with tailgating.

Cost: Starts at $2,895.

TOM HORGEN • 612-673-7909