One of the most highly anticipated meals on my recent jaunt to Chicago was at Hot Doug’s, a “Sausage Superstore and Encased Meat Emporium.” Here, Doug Sohn serves a bevy of traditional and exotic wieners topped every which way. The path to Doug’s is a well-beaten one due to loyal locals and tenacious tourists. The wait was well over an hour on this chilly Friday afternoon in March.
Joining The Astronomer and me for lunch was one of my oldest and bestest friends Kellie, a Chicago resident. While The Astronomer and I are accustomed to waiting in tortuously long lines for food [see: here, here, and here], such absurdity wasn’t a part of our companion’s day to day. I prayed that Doug’s dogs would be well worth the wait.
The primary reason for the line moving at a snail’s pace was the limited seating available inside the restaurant. To ensure that everyone had a proper place to sit, orders were only taken when a table was vacated.
Fortunately, the time between placing an order and food arriving was impressively fast. We were seated and eating within five minutes.
French fries are served daily at Hot Doug’s, but on Fridays and Saturdays they’re deep-fried in duck fat. Our boat of shoestrings ($3.50) arrived hot and crisp. The rendered duck fat, which added some richness to the potatoes, was barely noticeable with ketchup on the scene.
Between our party of three, we shared four different dogs. “The Dog” ($2), a Chicago-Style Hot Dog with all the trimmings, was the first to arrive. The Dog was constructed from an all-beef frankfurter tucked inside a poppy seed bun. On top was an intriguing collection of ingredients including yellow mustard, chopped white onions, sweet pickle relish with mint (or food coloring), a dill pickle spear, tomato slices, and a dash of celery salt.
While Kellie and The Astronomer weren’t too keen on The Dog, its savory and tangy profile was up my alley. Every mouthful was a rush of unlikely but ultimately complimentary flavors. Mostly, I loved how the celery salt stayed on my lips.
The Astronomer’s wiener of choice was “The Joe Wallis” ($8), also known as the day’s Celebrity Sausage. It featured a Merguez lamb sausage with spicy Harissa and feta cheese. Feta cheese has a way of making everything taste Greek, and that was certainly the case with this creation. The Astronomer was mostly happy with his selection, but yearned for a gamier tasting sausage. Next time, he’s getting “The Game of the Week.”
Kellie, on the other hand, was thoroughly pleased with her “Taco Pork Sausage” ($7.50) with green chili mayonnaise and pepper-jack cheese. This south-of-the-border-inspired sausage treated her just right. The one bite that I stole left an appealing and lingering spice.
Perhaps the most well-know of Doug’s dogs is the “Foie Gras and Sauternes Duck Sausage” ($10) with truffle aioli, foie gras mousse, and fleur de sel. While the duck sausage was nice and meaty, it was the gentle slices of foie gras mousse that put this dog over the top. The sprinkle of coarse salt was essential for keeping the liver’s richness in check. This dog lived up to its hype and then some.
There’s a reason why the line at Hot Doug’s stretches around the block and halfway on to the next. His creations strike the perfect balance between funky and thoughtful, daring and delicious. The foie gras dog stole my heart this afternoon, and I can’t imagine returning to The Windy City without paying Doug another visit. His dogs are dynamite.
3324 North California
Chicago, IL 60618
More hot dogs to explore on Gastronomy: