May 8, 2010 - "There are no two finer words in the English language than encased meats, my friends." This is the saying you'll see as you enter Hot Doug's, Chicago's encased meats emporium and sausage superstore, located on 3324 N. California Ave in the Avondale neighborhood.
We were told that we absolutely could not leave Chicago without going to Hot Doug's. We decided to make this our first stop of the day. It was a little out of the way from our downtown hotel so we took a taxi to get there (approximately a $15 taxi ride). Hot Doug's opens at 10:30 am. We arrived at 10:00 am hoping to beat the crowds but the line was already 40 people deep.
It took us approximately one hour to get inside the door of the store/restaurant. Inside we placed our order with the owner, Doug Sohn, who typically works the counter. It was clear to all of us that Doug loves his job and is good with people. Despite the long lines and wait, the crowd and general restaurant atmosphere was very friendly, and so was Doug! I even met a fellow WVU Mountaineer fan while standing in line (an 80 year old woman, living in Morgantown, who was visiting her daughter for Mother's Day). The hour long wait -which went by very fast- was definitely well worth the food experience.
Hot Doug's features a very unique and diverse menu of hot dogs. The menu changes daily and includes the traditional style Chicago dog to foie gras and sauternes duck sausage with truffle aioli, foie gras mousse and fleur de sel, to "Frankie, Five Angels, Pentangelli," one of my favorites of the day.
Our first decision was which dogs to order and our second was how we wanted them cooked. We decided to order 4 dogs to share between the three of us and chose the grilled then fried cooking method. We ordered the traditional Chicago-style dog, topped with the usual pickles, mustard, tomatoes, sport peppers, and celery salt. I actually didn't taste this one but Amy and Maria both agreed that this was one of their favorites of the four dogs we ordered that morning.
Next, we ordered the Smoked Portuguese Linguica with Saffron Rouille and Queso Iberico. This was the overall favorite of the day. This one was very juicy, firm, and had a nice crunch from the casing that typically comes with grilled dogs. The saffron rouille and Iberico cheese were the perfect accompaniments.
The dog below is the "Frankie, Five Angels, Pentangelli. The Italian sausage was spicy and very good but it wasn't as good as my father's. My father's is slightly more spicy and less fatty than Hot Doug's. Also, if I would have had my choice I would have put less toppings on it so as not to mask the flavors of the Italian sausage. My final thought about this dog - I'm a huge Godfathe 1 fan and I think they should have kept its name as the "Luca Brasi" or "Virgil, the Turk" Sollozzo.
We could not leave without trying the foie gras and sauternes duck sausage with truffle aioli, foie gras mousse and fleur de sel. While standing in line, we learned that the city of Chicago banned foie gras in 2006 because its making constituted cruelty to animals (the ducks are fattened by force feeding). During the ban, Hot Doug's continued to serve the foie gras and was eventually fined. The ban was repealed and the foie gras dog was brought back into the rotating menu lineup. The foie gras dog was awesome. The foie gras itself had very distinct smooth flavors and a creamy texture.
Finally, we ordered the restaurant's specialty french fries, which are cooked in duck fat. These shoestring fries were crunchy and good. Since I like my fries thick, I didn't think these fries were as good as the thick duck fat-fried fries served at the Blue Duck Tavern in Washington, DC.
Final thought - You can not visit Chicago without going to Hot Doug's. It is well worth the trip and an experience you won't soon forget.