Worth Waiting For: Hot Doug's

Hot Doug's There are hundreds of hot dog joints throughout the city of Chicago, yet only Hot Doug's—the maker of gourmet weinies like the foie gras–sauternes sausage with sel gris and truffle aïoli—boasts lines that weave around the block and demand an hour of your time. Jamie Feldmar tells us why it's worth the wait. 

 
Hot Doug’s, Chicago
by Jamie Feldmar
 
Chicago is a sausage kind of town. Ever since the city’s 19th-century meatpacking heyday, we Chicagoans have appreciated a good link. And while hundreds of hot dog joints dot the city, only one has lines (literally) out the door: Hot Doug’s, “The Sausage Superstore and Encased Meat Emporium.”

Hot Doug’s has all the standards: a Chicago-style dog complete with trimmings, the Elvis (“a Polish sausage, smoked and savory: just like the King”), and the Salma Hayek (“Formerly the Raquel Welch and the Ann-Margret: Andouille sausage—mighty, mighty hot!”). But owner Doug Sohn also turns out daily specials, like the foie gras and sauternes duck sausage with truffle aïoli, foie gras mousse, and sel gris that landed him with the city’s first foie gras ban fine in 2007. To top it all off, on weekends the french fries are cooked in duck fat.

Chicagoans and tourists alike line up around the block, down the street, and behind the restaurant to get a taste of Doug’s dogs. On Friday afternoons the wait usually approaches an hour, even in the depths of a Chicago winter. But no one seems to mind: once you’re inside, Doug, wearing his trademark Buddy Holly glasses, doles out sausages with a smile. My first bite of spicy Italian sausage with pesto Genovese, Roma tomatoes, and ricotta salata told me the wait had been worthwhile.

Originally published in JBF Notes, the member newsletter of the James Beard Foundation, June/July 2009.
 

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