Hot Doug's: 2008
You can see pictures of and read more about my lunch at Hot Doug's on my Flickr account (http://www.flickr.com/photos/ulteriorepicure/sets/72157604127635470/)
My friends and I were expecting a large meal at The Avenues later that evening, so between the three of us (one being pregnant), we ordered 5 dogs (yet we still managed to hit a tacqueria on our way back):
I ordered the "Celebrity of the Week, (http://www.flickr.com/photos/ulteriorepicure/2336838847/in/set-72157604127635470/) the "Treffly Coyne" (extra credit for those who actually know who she is). ($7) This featured mint garlic lamb sausage with anchovy aioli and Doux de Montagne cheese melted over the top. The sausage was gamey and lamby, which I liked. The anchovy aioli wasn't as pungent as I had hoped - I think the lamb really outpaced the rest of the flavors. The cheese was a great addition - slightly buttery and somewhat sharp.
I also ordered the (http://www.flickr.com/photos/ulteriorepicure/2337673060/in/set-72157604127635470/) "Spinach and Feta Chicken Sausage" with skordalia and sheep's milk haloumi cheese. ($7.50) This was a daily special and, as stated, was my favorite hot dog of the five we ordered. The chicken sausage was extremely moist and flavorful. It got a nice garlicky kick from the skordalia, which functioned as an adhesive for the chunks of cheese on top. I didn't get any feta from the sausage itself. Maybe it was all that yummy sheep's haloumi that covered it up. Loved this hot dog. Loved it.
My friend ordered the (http://www.flickr.com/photos/ulteriorepicure/2337672490/in/set-72157604127635470/) "Atomic Bomb" Daily Special: Spicy pork sausage with chipotle Dijonnaise and applewood-smoked Cheddar cheese. ($7) Two bites and it's pretty apparent why this is called the "Atomic Bomb." The heat is of the slow, gradual, then rapidly engulfing-mouth-in-flame type of heat. You think you're okay for the first bite - it's good, the pork sausage is wonderfully seasoned, and the cheese is nice and sharp - so you greedily take another big bite. Then it hits you. Despite the good kick of heat, I could have used more. Regardless, this should have been the last dog I tried. Unfortunately, it was my first. The heat lingered through the rest of my meal - not a bad thing, but I would have liked to taste the other dogs without that warm, spicy feeling in my mouth and throat.
He also ordered the (http://www.flickr.com/photos/ulteriorepicure/2336838169/in/set-72157604127635470/) "Game of the Week," a (http://www.flickr.com/photos/ulteriorepicure/2336838873/in/set-72157604127635470/) "Goji Berry Pheasant Sausage" with Jerk Dijonnaise, Pappadew Peppers and Butterkäse cheese. ($7.50) You couldn't taste the pheasant by itself (I have no idea wha the goji berry was supposed to do for the sausage - there was only trace amounts). This was a sweet-ish dog, due largely to the peppadew, which also imparted some level of heat. The jerk dijonnaise, which looked not unlike dirty mayo, also contributed to the heat. The cheese was good, but the dices kept falling off, despite the dijonnaise glue. This was probably the least memorable of the dogs we had.
Lastly, my other friend got (http://www.flickr.com/photos/ulteriorepicure/2337673272/in/set-72157604127635470/) "The Dog," the original Chicago-style Hot Dog with all the trimmings. ($1.75) When you order "The Dog," you're given (http://www.flickr.com/photos/ulterior...) a choice of weiner cooking methods: steamed, grilled, fried, or fried-and-grilled. My friend (wisely) choose grilled. This dog (served on a poppyseed bun) ended up taking second to the chicken sausage. The key to its success was the many different flavors (salty, sweet, tart, fresh) and textures (juicy, crispy, crunchy, meaty, etc...). Actually, I think the real key was the relish. It's a lot sweeter than I'm used to. It's also a lot more green. It's *neon* green. I thought it might be because it happened to be St. Patrick's weekend, but it's not - it's always that *neon* green. It almost looks toxic.
It being a weekend, we also splurged for duck fat fries (yes, we were being *VERY* irresponsible). And, of course, how can you eat sloppy food and NOT have a can of Cel-Ray on hand?
A good time was had by all (once we got inside the restaurant - the 40-ish minute wait on the freezing sidewalk was not fun).
I don't remember having to ever wait this long for Hot Doug's, but then again, the last time I visited I was a lot younger (in college), and the meal was more of an event (try convincing a college student that a $5+ hot dog is good value).
There are an assortment of small tables with seating for maybe 25, a counter along the window with stools for another 10 or so, and a few outdoor tables on the side of the building that can handle maybe 10-15 when the weather is nice. Best estimate. They seat plenty, but it's cozy.
There's seating at Hot Doug's and what I find funny about it is that even if there is a line of people out the door, you always seem to find a place to sit.
Also, about the wait, I find that the best time to go is around 3pm if you can. It's always super busy around lunch time, but about an hour before they close, the wait isn't nearly as bad.
I have been familiarizing myself with the Chiacgo board since I will soon be travelling there for the first time. I can say this type of place simply does not exist in my hometown of Austin. It sounds great--never had Chicgao-style dog before.
During my visit to Chicago I will be staying at the Park Hyatt. Is Hot Doug's worth a trip or is there something similar (in quality and type) closer to my hotel?
re: Honey Bee
"I can say this type of place simply does not exist in my hometown of Austin."
Nor, to my knowledge, anywheres else. Hot Doug's is pretty much sui generis, altho I wouldn't make a special trip there just for a typical Chicago hot dog, which is available elsewhere (say, Portillo's at 11 W. Ontario). Definitely worth a detour, tho, if you're a sausage aficionado
re: Honey Bee
Honey Bee - if you want a decent Chicago hot dog - try the char dog at the place RIGHT behind the Park Hyatt, next to Pippen's Bar. You can actually grab a spot at Pippen's and order from the hot dog place. Hot Doug's is an interesting place but not sure if its worth the logistics in getting there + the wait.
re: Honey Bee
I'm assuming that you may have not left for Chicago or... you are currently in Chicago.
Hot Doug's is serious business and should not be taken lightly. Portillo's? Seriously?
OK, if you are looking for a Chicago Style Dog... Portillo's or about 50 other places. In Austin, you can host a "Chicago Style" hot dog party, no problem.
Hot Doug's is "Mecca For All Things Encased"... And that is no joke. This is serious charcutterie on a bun.
Is it worth a $20.00 (each way... give or take) cab ride? I think that depends upon how much you want to spend on your "Stairway To Heaven". I do find it to be worth the foolish indulgence and drive there once a month, give or take, and with friends.
It's certainly up to you. If you can entice friends to go and split the cab... then DO IT! Or, if someone has a car... DO IT!
My 15 year old son and I just ate at HD last Friday. I had bid on and won a raffle package at Costco (?!) that included five $5.00 gift certificates and a blue HD T-shirt. It was nothing short of orgasmic. My son is a huge carnivore and ordered the polish w/everything and the alligator sausage with cajun shrimp mayo and St. Pete's blue cheese. I got the Dick Ruthven special, after asking Doug to pick between it (spicy jerk pork) and a chicken sausage (if the choice is btw chicken and pork; always go with the pork, he said) and a buffalo sausage that was a daily special. He also joked that the gift certs "expire when he does so use them up quickly."
I cannot believe no one has mentioned the duck fat fries which are only available on Fridays and Saturdays. They are amazing. Even reheated that night in the toaster oven.
I just returned from 5 days in New Orleans and (I could create a whole board topic on this next statement but) Hot Doug's is to Chicago what Domelise's is to New Orleans. Unduplicated, distinctly of that city and not to be missed. P.S. the wait Friday 3/28 around noon was only about 15 minutes.
A few years ago... we did a taste off on those Duck Fat Fries to the regular fries. Both are awfully good, but when it came down to it: their wasn't enough of a difference to justify the upcharge on the DFF, much less to wait that much longer on a Fri or Sat to warrant the trip.
They are really good, I'll give them that, but so are the regular fries. I guess it's more of the mystique of something even more "naughtier" than fries alone.
Great pics. I had a dream about Hot Doug's two nights ago and had to go yesterday for lunch. I always get the specialty sausages so this time I got a grilled Andouille (Salma Hayek) with all the trimmings. It was awesome. That was the first time I didn't have to wait outside, which made it much more pleasant.