Saturday, December 5, 2009

Chicago: Hot Doug's

Ahh, Hot Doug's.

The infamous encased meats emporium. You know, the place where Anthony Bourdain went to during his 'No Reservations' trip to Chicago. Yes, that's the place. Basically, you HAVE TO come here if you're ever in the Chicago area.
I was fortunate enough to drop by here before my flight home to San Diego. Knowing that the shop opened at 10:30am, I checked out early from my hotel and drove a few miles to a neighborhood called Avondale. After finding a parking spot two blocks away from the shop, I arrived at Hot Doug's at 10:40am. This is what I saw:

A line out of the door.

Luckily it wasn't snowing or too cold outside so the weather was bearable to stand in and wait in line for one and half hours. Yes, folks. That's 1 hour and 30 minutes waiting in line for a hot dog. It's insanity, but well worth the wait.

Once you get into the shop, you have to go through two doors to view the menu. You have a number of options to choose from such as, Game of the Week (a rotating selection of game-animal sausages), Daily Specials (a selection of gourmet sausages) and other notably hot dogs with famous names attached to them.

Can't decide on what to order? Have no fear, Doug is here.

Doug Sohn himself is there to help you. He takes all of the orders and he's such a great guy. I was very impressed that he was able to spell my name correctly on my order without having to ask for its spelling.

He commented, "I didn't let that college education go to
waste." and we both laughed. He went to Kendall College (a few block down from Alinea).

After I ordered, I quickly found a table which to my surprise was even possible given the number of people outside waiting to get in. I mean, there was a seriously long line outside. I think Doug has a strong sense of anticipating the traffic coming in and out of the shop. Like a commuter traffic light. He knows how many orders it takes to fill a room and how long it takes a diner to finish eating to open up a table. Ingenious!

Since I was dining alone and just finished a 23-course dinner the night before, here is what I ordered.

The Sally Vega (formerly the Ace Patrick and the "Psycho" Ronnie Raines) - $1.50
Corn Dog: Deep fried to a golden splendor

Today's Specials: Foie Gras and Sauternes Duck Sausage - $9.00
With Truffle Aioli, Foie Gras Mousse a
nd Sel Gris

Duck Fat Fries - $3.50
Pommes frites deep fried in duck fat

Mmm, scrumptious! So good. Who would've thought a sausage or an 'encased meat' for that matter can be so good. I don't know what else to say but you have to come here. This place is even on Anthony Bourdain's list of 13 Places to Eat Before You Die (see link). I think Bourdain said it best:

"This place convinced me the Chicago red hot is, in fact, superior to the New York hot dog. And it's home to two great innovations in American gastronomy: the "foie gras dog" and the weekends-only practice of cooking French fries in duck fat. It's proof that food doesn't have to be expensive to be great."

Touché Mr. Bourdain. Touché.

So for all of you foodies out there. If you walk up to the shop...

...expect to wait in this (roughly 1 and a half hours). Bring some reading material, please.

Things to know:
  • Hot Doug's is located on the corner of W Roscoe St. and N California Ave. in the neighborhood of Avondale.
  • The shop is open Monday-Saturday from 10:30am to 4:00pm. It's closed on Sundays and on the holidays. Call the shop to make sure they're open if it's a holiday.
  • Expect to see the line form prior to 10:30am.
  • Approximate waiting time on the weekend: 1 hour and 30 minutes.
  • Parking: You can find parking on W Roscoe St. or N. California Ave. Be sure to pay attention to the parking signs.
  • Price Range: $
  • The most important thing to know: CASH ONLY. No credit cards or ATM machine on site.

Hot Doug's
3324 N. California Avenue, Chicago IL 60618



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