Family matters took me to Chicago and northwestern Indiana this week (more on that later).
Even though my traveling roadshow of social media was keeping me busy (all a dude needs is a camera, a laptop, and wifi), I did manage to take time out to make it to Hot Doug’s, the much hyped and highly touted “encased meats emporium” on the north side of the Windy City.
Everything you’ve read about this place is true: at Wednesday lunch time, with light snow falling and temperatures below 20° F. (no kidding), there was a line around the block. As a devoted lover of encased meats in general, I’d been wanting to get out to Hot Doug’s for sometime and my moment of truth had arrived. I’m here to tell you: it was worth the 20 minute wait I spent in the cold for that dog (I arrived around 11:45 a.m. and by the time I left the wait had increased to probably 45 minutes).
Hot Doug’s is probably most famous for having topped wieners with foie gras. (And owner Doug Sohn, below, gained notoriety when he was among the first to challenge Chicago’s ban, later repealed, on foie gras.) Being a traditionalist in Nebbiolo and hotodoggery, I went with the classic Chicago dog and a Polish sausage (with sauer kraut and mustard), plus cheese fries and a coke (my bill was less than $8 and, btw, when I ordered a large soda, Doug — who waits on everyone — pointed out that refills are free and recommended that I get a small, thus saving me about a dollar).
Hot Doug’s simply does it right. Dogs can be charbroiled, steamed, deep-fried, or fried and grilled, and the classic toppings applied on the Chicago-style dog are impeccably and impeachably aligned with the North American hot dog canon: “Mustard (yellow, spicy brown, honey or Dijon), Caramelized Onions, Relish, Tomatoes, Pickle [wedge not slice], Celery Salt [the sine qua non IMHO].”
I also really dug the Ramones-heavy mix that was playing the day I was there. Forget all the hype and all the paraphernalia (however fun) that surround Doug Sohn’s “emporium”: I highly recommend this joint.
Stay tuned for my harrowing escape from clutches of insipidness in the culinary wasteland of Bruce Springsteen’s America, on deck for tomorrow.