First, everyone, thank you! Thank you so much to all of you who got in touch with us, for your comments and emails and encouragement and tips. I'm so lucky to have awesomely supportive people who drop by to see what we're up to.
May I tempt you and show my gratitude with a quickie post about Hot Doug's in Chicago? We were there in October.
Hot Doug's is an encased meat emporium, otherwise known as a hot dog shop, on Chicago's northwestish side. Doug is famous nationwide for not only putting together freaking delicious combinations of sausages, sauces, cheeses and toppings, but also for flouting Chicago's short-lived ban on foie gras - and for serving fries fried in duck fat. Unfortunately, that last is only available Fridays and Saturdays, so we missed out.
They're also famed for their long, long lines.
I have to say I wondered, before we showed up, how a place with this kind of relentless pressure and popularity could possibly maintain its standards. I was simultaneously cherishing high hopes and trying to ignore expectations of disappointment (especially because I'd been saddened by our local fancy sausage place, Frank).
Part of the secret appears to be that Doug his very self is there every day the restaurant is open. The man cares deeply about this business, which after all does bear his name.
He was ridiculously friendly to us, patiently walking us through all the different hot dogs on his extensive menu, answering questions, and offering advice on how best to have each dog prepared (If I'm remembering this correctly, you can choose from grilled, fried, or steamed dogs). Specials rotate often, mostly daily, and can be seen on Hot Doug's website. There's always something new to try.
Of course we had to get the Celebrity Sausage, named after Dale Mortensen. He's an economist from Northwestern University who'd just won the Nobel Prize in Economics. Name me another hot dog joint that does an homage to a Nobel prize-winning economist. I dare you.
Pics of the sausages after the jump. Oh yes, and more descriptions.
We also got the game of the week (pheasant sausage with blackberry mustard and truffle tremor cheese), the duck and foie sausage with foie mousse, truffle aioli, and fleur de sel, an alligator sausage with shrimp remoulade and blue cheese, a corn dog (that is, the Sally Vega), and a Chicago-style hot dog with all the trimmings. Oh yeah, and a super-sweet virulently bright Green River or two to wash it all down. Talk about a blast from my Chicago childhood.
Holy hell, yous guys. These were insane. The balance of flavors on all of them (well, with the exception of the slightly too salty alligator offering) were spot-on. Nobody was overpowered by cheese, or drowning in jam (Frank, looking at you again) or too puny or plump for the bun. From the Chicago dog, with its pickle crunch, to the smooth, earthy sweetness of the foie dog, to the slight blackberry tang of the game of the day, they could have easily all been my favorites.
I was just sad I didn't have an extra stomach available to put more sausage in. It's tough to decide between a crop or that extra storage system cows have. Jellus.
And there were so many we didn't get to try.
After all the publicity and fame, all the excitement and press, and the sky-high expectations, Hot Doug's left me ecstatically happy - excepting the fact that they don't have an outpost within a thousand miles of me. But hey.
We were also lucky that our 45-minute wait outside was in fine weather and not in January (current temperature in Chicago: 18 degrees fahrenheit).
Thanks to my Dad, my aunt Ellen, my brother David, his girlfriend Courtney, and my cousin Matt for accompanying us, standing in a giant line, and putting up with our cameras. You guys are awesome.
Now you all have to come to Austin so I can share real Texas barbecue with you.
Hot Doug's is at 3324 North California in Chicago, IL. 773.279.9550. Definitely check their website before you go, as they're sometimes closed when you'd think they'd be open - for instance, February 14th through March 1st of this year. You can also check them out at Twitter @hotdougs.