Hot Doug’s, 3324 N. California Avenue, Chicago
Hot Doug’s is more than a bit of a cult here in Chicago. A paean to “encased meats,” the little corner storefront in the otherwise unremarkable Avondale neighborhood is a destination for hundreds – perhaps thousands – of tourists to Chicago every year. Those tourists get to mingle with the plethora of locals who line up for their regular sojourn to the “sausage superstore.”
Given the hype, you would think that the place served something like foie gras on a bun. Or like maybe they cook their fries in duck fat.
You would think that someone like TV’s celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain had sung its praises on national television or declared it one of “13 Places to Eat Before You Die.”
What’s that, Fellow FoodBeest?
Oh, yeah, Hot Doug’s does serve a duck fat fries (on Fridays and Saturdays) and the menu almost always includes an extraordinary duck and sauterne sausage topped with foie gras. Not to be overlooked is how Hot Doug’s got seriously fined – twice – when proprietor Doug Sohn continued to serve foie gras in flagrant violation of an infamous foie gras ban once imposed by the Chicago City Council. (It seems said City Council had nothing else to do at the time but worry about protecting those poor geese who were the source of the liver for the foie gras. Whatever.)
And Tony B did call Hot Doug’s “a nirvana for lovers of meat in tube form” and those other really nice things about this impressive little hot dog stand. The place is not only rated highly by Zagat, but Bon Appetit listed it as one of the “50 Best Restaurants on the Planet.”
Which is why on a fairly nice day – and almost always on Fridays and Saturdays – you can expect the lunch line at Hot Doug’s to wind out the door, around the corner to the alley and beyond.
Get the picture? If you haven’t yet, Fellow FoodBeest, you want to try this place. Inconvenient, out-of-the-way location, lines down the block and all.
So when my friends (and Hot Doug’s regulars) Lee and his wife Karen invited me and Mr. FB to join them at Hot Doug’s I couldn’t wait. Yes, I’d been there before, but not with Lee and Karen who are on a friendly first-name basis with Hot Doug-the-man, himself.
Some out-of-towners (misguidedly) go to Hot Doug’s to get a traditional Chicago dog, but decent Chicago-style hot dogs are a dime-a-dozen in this town and are hardly worth the sojourn to this out-of-the-way neighborhood.
No, Fellow FoodBeest, one goes to Hot Doug’s for the foie gras. Or for the rotating selection of game animal sausages (for us those included yak with bacon-garlic mayonnaise and queso tetilla and kangaroo with roasted garlic-chipotle Dijonnaise and St. Paulin cheese.).
Doug doesn’t make all his sausages, but he does find the best purveyors and then he puts together sausage, cheese and condiment combos that can bring a strong man to tears.
And then there’s that terrible moment that approaches as you get through the door. What to choose? What to pass on? It can’t be any harder when faced any great gourmet menu in the world.
Thank goodness there were four of us and the most expensive item on the menu was $9 so we could splurge. We each got one sausage, plus the yak “for the table”
The duck sauterne sausage topped with foie gras for sure. Mine. But I shared.
The Smoked Shrimp and Pork Sausage with Spicy Cajun Remoulade and Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese was almost as good.
Lee and Karen are especially fond of the Portugense Linguica that sports saffron rouiille and Iberico cheese. So we got one of those.
And the Irish Banger with mustard creme and crispy onions.
Good Eatin’, Fellow FoodBeest.
But that still meant I didn’t get to taste the Apple and Cherry Pork Sausage with Blackberry Mustard and Creme de Brie Cheese. Or the Spicy Thai Chicken Sausage with Thai Peanut Sauce and Toasted Coconut. This time, sadly, true.
But this time will not be the last time. Who wants to go?