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Hot Doug's Fans - need your help

I'm visiting my Chicago-transplanted daughter in a couple of weeks and she insists that we go to Hot Doug's. Of course I've seen it on the Food Network and the Travel Channel, so I'm game. Our plan is to each order 2 or 3 dogs and then share. That way we get a little sampler for ourselves. Since I've never had an official Chicago hotdog, that is obviously one of my choices. She's partial to some exotic game dog with foie gras?!!! WTH?!!! What are some of your favorites that you think we should try?

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Hot Doug's
3324 N California Ave, Chicago, IL 60618

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  1. The specials rotate on a weekly basis so I'm not sure that anybody here can recommend one and be certain that it'll be on the specials menu. They have a web site they update regularly with the weekly specials. I've had the foie dog before and it's quite good but pretty rich.

    http://www.hotdougs.com/

    Additionally, the hot dogs are quite filling because Hot Doug's piles on the toppings. I was able to eat 1.5 hot dogs and some duck fat fries (Fridays and Saturdays only, large size only) and I was done. Four to six hot dogs for two people seems like a bit much to me.

    Call before you go, as the hours can be a bit nutty and Doug likes to take holiday weekends off and/or random vacations!

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    Hot Doug's
    3324 N California Ave, Chicago, IL 60618

    3 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      I've reviewed their menu and realize that specials come and go. I was hoping for recommendations like "OMG, if so-and-so is on the menu that day, you HAVE to try it". And I realized that 4-6 sounds like a lot to order, but that doesn't mean it will all be eaten between the two of us. Just an easy way to sample several things. I'm iffy on the duck fries. Are they really that good??

      1. re: sheilal

        If a thuringer with blueberry compote is on the menu, OMG--actually it's blueberry season so if they try it again, just get whatever comes with blueberrys.
        I also had a lamb with feta sausage (and some other stuff i think) that was top notch.
        The game sausages are always quite tasty in my opinion.

        Of the regulars, you cannot go wrong, but I will say that you don't really need to try the regular chicago dog--it's good but why waste space.

        Also, you can make friends in line that may want to experiment with you.

        1. re: sheilal

          In that case, I LOVED the foie gras dog whereas my husband thought it was too much and too rich. But we both loved the spicy thai chicken sausage dog with seaweed salad on top. Delicious!

          As for the duck fat fries, they are browner but not noticeably crispier. And they don't really taste all that much of duck. There might be more subtle differences that you'd find in a side by side comparison.

      2. The duck fat fries are great. The specialty sausage with foie gras is amazing - you have to try it. Basically, all of the specialty sausages are great. As other folks have said, I wouldn't waste space on a true Chicago dog here. Not that it isn't good - there are just so many other spectacular things to try at Hot Doug's and you can get a good Chicago dog many places around our fine city. Enjoy!

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        Hot Doug's
        3324 N California Ave, Chicago, IL 60618

        11 Replies
        1. re: vrollings

          Thanx for the advice. I guess I'll forego the basic dog then so I can try more adventurous stuff. IDK about the duck fat fries though. What is it about the duck fat that makes them fabulous? Are they crispier, more flavorful, fluffier, etc??

          1. re: sheilal

            Like someone else said, the duck fries are good, but I'd have to try them side-by-side with regular fries. As far as I could tell the duck fat fries just give you bragging rights.

            1. re: chicgail

              It's more than just bragging rights... It's about flavor.

              1. re: The Professor

                Can you describe in specifics the taste difference between the regular french fries and the duck fat french fries? That's what sheilal is asking for.

                1. re: kathryn

                  That's a tough one, taste being so subjective and all.
                  I guess there is a "richness" that comes from doing the fries in any kind of animal fat as opposed to the healthier but blander veggie oil alternatives. Perhaps the difference is more subtle to some palates than others.
                  Having been raised in a family with Eastern European roots, my taste apparatus is probably just more tuned in to the whole animal fat thing...my folks cooked practically everything in it.
                  Nowadays certainly, in the interests of keeping my vintage arteries clear, these kinds of fries are definitely only a once-in-a-while thing for me though. But still a treat.

                2. re: The Professor

                  Professor, having tasted HD's duck fat fries and their regular fries (albeit on different days, even different months) I can't distinguish between the two. I love duck and use duck fat occasionally but here I don't know what the taste difference is.

                  1. re: chicgail

                    I went to Hot Doug's this afternoon. I purposely got the duck fat fries AND the regular fries, just so I could taste the difference and report back. In side by side tasting, the duck fat fries tasted slightly deeper and richer, whereas the regular fries were slightly blander and lighter, but the difference was frankly not all that noticeable. The duck fat fries also tasted significantly saltier (like they had more salt sprinkled on them). It's possible that some of these differences may be due to the fact that the duck fat fries are cut thinner (about 1/4" thick, vs about 3/8" thick for the regular fries.

                    Oh, and I arrived at 1:00 pm and waited in line for 80 minutes before placing my order. I checked the length of the line at 2:00 and again when I left at 3:00, and at both times it was longer than when I arrived, like the wait might be a half hour longer (i.e. 110 minutes). I wonder how they handle closing time (4:00 pm), whether they stay open to serve everyone who arrives by 4:00, or some other way of handling it.

                    1. re: nsxtasy

                      You are a true Chowhound! Thanks so much for reporting back. Wow. That's going above and beyond the call of Chow duty...

                      1. re: kathryn

                        It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it. :)

                        1. re: nsxtasy

                          I'm impressed.
                          Thanks for the report!

                      2. re: nsxtasy

                        Thanks for taking one for the team!

                        Here's the answer to your closing question, according to a Philly reporter who was just there:

                        http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/th...

            2. On the menu last week was a duck and sauternes sausage with fois gras mousse and truffle cheese. That's the one you're daughter is probably talking about. Have to second the advice about skipping the regular hot dog. Get one of the specials. Another heads up: Doug's is cash only.

              1 Reply
              1. re: chicagowinediva

                Ran across an episode of Tony Bourdain's "No Reservations" this weekend, and lo and behold, it was his trip to Chicago. He raved about the fois gras hot dog and duck fries, so I'm sold. Can't wait to try it!!

              2. If you don't mind an outsider chiming in, I have a comment and a question:

                re: the duck fat fries - A couple places here in Philly have them and I also can't really tell the difference between these and other kinds. They are good, but not "special" unless there is something else about Hot Doug's that make them particularly good.

                A more general question about Hot Doug's, which I would love to try on my upcoming trip to Chicago - is it possible to get (and eat) the dogs there without a bun? My husband can't eat wheat (celiac), but loves all kinds of sausages. Do they serve the food there in a way that's possible to eat without the bun and without making a giant mess?

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                Hot Doug's
                3324 N California Ave, Chicago, IL 60618

                2 Replies
                1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

                  Be sure your husband takes a fork and a knife to your table. That's how I eat the encased meat at Hot Doug's. As for mess, I think I always make a mess when I eat. I'm sure your husband will be much neater.

                  1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

                    It won't be a problem to get just the meat/toppings, as said above, make sure you have a knife/fork. The dogs come in a typical hot dog tray, so the "mess" is contained.

                    As far as the duck fat fries go, I believe there is a certain velvety richness that the fat lends to the fries, almost an advanced umami flavor. To me they are on a different level and a real treat.