Monday, April 30, 2012

Hot Doug's

When people say, "a little bite of heaven," this is what I'd like to think is a close approximation.  My trip to Chicago was a hefty hodgepodge of cheap and expensive eats, but I think most people would agree that an irrefutably delicious bite of a hot dog is hard to beat.  And I think even more people would agree that America only has a few hot dog joints that can do it right.  Hot Doug's is easily one of them.

If you don't like lines, either come to terms with the fact that there will be a line at Hot Doug's, or go on the most inclement day of your trip in hopes of substituting a few minutes of your wait time with wet shoes and cold ears.  Not going when you're in Chicago is hardly an option.

Once you escape the weather, you're met with a friendly and pun-tastic memorabilia-laden interior.  The color scheme is that of a Hot Dog On a Stick, and the air is filled with the smell of grilled sausages and greasy fries.

The menu is extensive and fun, which, when paired with the panic of ordering without holding up the line, makes decision-making just a wee bit stressful.

That on on top of ten equally impressive specials...

a celebrity sausage, a game of the week, a bowl of 40-sausage chili, and the served-Friday-and-Saturday-only duck fat fries?  I'm at the brim with anxiety right now just thinking about all the delicious options.

After trying to play it off like locals (we didn't), we hurriedly shuffled over to the side to get our fountain drinks and stay out of everybody's way.

After about ten minutes, our beautiful tray of food arrived.  Four hot dogs, duck fat fries, and two people. Lordie, I love eating with Steph C.  And a very special props to Janice for sharing the duck fat fries. The first thing I appreciated about these dogs were the buns.  Simple, spongy, and very lightly toasted.  Just the way I like my buns, on hot dogs and hamburgers.

First up, the Über Garlic Pork Sausage.  A punchy, bold, and meaty sausage accompanied by a smoky bacon sauce, smoked gouda cheese, and roasted garlic cloves.  Holy smokes that's a lot of smoke.  But it worked.  The generous garnish of smoked gouda was just the ticket to calming down the rich bacon sauce and the piercing roasted garlic cloves.  The sausage pushes you right up to the garlicky limits of your stomach without making you regret a single bite.  But beware.  This dog is incredibly hearty and filling.

The Foie Gras and Sauternes Duck Sausage was also just as excessive as it sounds.  Add a truffle aioli, foie gras mousse, and fleur de sel?  How could my friend and I resist.  But I wish we did.  While each ingredient was fine enough, they were all too heavy to play in the same bun.  I remember the first bite being pretty darn delicious, but as I approached my second bite, I started to regret our decision.  Maybe an eighth of the foie as a grated topping and a little less of the aioli would fare better.

My second-favorite of the meal was The Dog, their standard, Chicago-style dog with mustard, caramelized onions, relish, tomatoes, a pickle, and celery salt.  So, so good.  This dog featured classic American hot dog flavors, and the addition of tomatoes, caramelized onions, and a crisp, acidic pickle added a ton of refreshing flavors to each bite.  The sprinkle of celery salt slightly enhanced the vegetal and savory aspects of the dog.  The actual hot dog was as juicy as ever, with a toothsome casing and a classic, chargrilled flavor.  Again.  So, so good.

The absolute best hot dog I had that day was the Chardonnay and Jalapeño Rattlesnake Sausage, which came with some berry-currant mustard cream and trugole cheese on top.

Something about rattlesnake sausages gets me every time, especially when it snaps in both flavor and texture and intoxicates your tongue with its strangely meaty and juicy qualities.  The jalapeño added a balanced heat to the sausage.  The chardonnay sauce brought some great acidity and sweetness to the hot dog, and the soft shavings of creamy cow's milk cheese melted into the bun and married meat, heat, and sweet.

The Duck Fat Fries were great, but the potatoes took over any hint of that delicious taste of duck fat.  They were beautifully golden-brown and most of the fries were nicely crispy.  I mean, if you're going to get a hot dog, you have to get some fries, right?  These won't wow, but they won't disappoint, either.

At the end of our meal, we were all sufficiently stuffed.  I mean, excessively stuffed.  But Douggone it!  It was worth it.  Everything about the excursion to Hot Doug's was worth it.  A bit of a drive, crappy weather, and a bit of a wait?  I would gladly do all three again next time I'm in Chicago.  Because the sausages are that good, because the varieties are that interesting, and because there are at least eighteen more hot dogs with my name on them.

Hot Doug's
3324 N California Ave
Chicago, IL 60618
(773) 279-9550

GET: The Dog; Chardonnay and Jalapeño Rattlesnake Sausage.


  1. Douggone it, I kind of hate you for that pun (obviously not). That Chardonnay and rattlesnake...the Chicago...we did do well.


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