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Katie Davis

@PopCultureCuisine

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Hot Diggity-Doug!

Friday, January 14, 2011 @ 01:01 PM

1532011 is already off to a great start and Adam and I have been off and running.  We have some big plans this year for PCC, but in the meantime we still have quite a back log of famous restaurants that we visited last year that we still need to share with you all…and of course we will have plenty of new travels and spots in 2011 coming your way! And who knows….maybe we might even have some new “surprise” guests 😉

Well, after starting the year off with a couple of reviews, we’re ready to present this year’s first feature restaurant….and boy is it a doozy! I’m speaking, of course (if you already read the sign to the left) about Hot Doug’s, the “encased meat emporium” if there ever was one.

Featured on every food show from Travel Channel’s “Hot Dog Paradise,” “Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations,” and as well as Chicago’s own “Check Please!”, this spot has certainly grabbed the attention of many just like us. Started by a man named Doug, who loved him some sausage, he set out to create a “hot dog” shop that would cater to hot dog lovers with the most basic to the most complex tastes.  What is so unique about their sausages are really the creations they put together, from the types of meats used to the toppings for the dog…take a look!

Pretty unique huh?  Well…not as much anymore seeing as some other startups have more or less copied Doug’s model in the past year, but I assume they are just that…copies of the original…and not as good. So, being that Doug’s is the first and likely the best, Adam and I knew we had to try it…, which almost didn’t happen. Let me explain.  If you are from the Chicago area, you know all-to-well the notoriety of this spot.  I mean, it is so popular people will wait in line around the block for hours just to get a taste; and when they are only open Monday – Saturday, 10:30 to 4 you can be sure their lunch crowd is off the hook!  Also, something we have since found out on several occasions is that if it is anywhere near a holiday, they will likely be closed (but we’ll dive into that later).

So, anyway, when we initially heard about the infamous Hot Doug’s and that it was in Chicago, we knew the next time we were in the city we would have to make a visit…which happened to fall right after New Years 2010 when were headed through Chicago on our way back to Dallas.  This was when we first learned that they often take off on Holidays and in this case extended vacations, so they would not be open at all while we were in the city.  We were extremely bummed, but said we would just have to make it a priority on our next visit, which happened 6 months later when we were in the city for a bachelor/bachelorette party weekend last summer and we thought we could make it in time for lunch. Well….no such luck this time either, because they were closed AGAIN for a holiday! UGH!!!!  Needless to say, this time we were pissed…not so much at the restaurant, but that we were just having the hardest time getting a chance to eat at this place!

Well, as they say, the ‘third time is a charm.’ Because later that summer when we came back for the wedding, we were lucky enough to pull up and see a line literally out the door and around the corner. I wasn’t so happy to see the line, but hey…at least I knew they were open! And, although I did not really want to wait (I’m impatient like that), knowing this may be our only shot, we hopped in line and waited the hour it took us to get to the counter….yes….I said AN HOUR!

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Although it look a little while, the wait actually wasn’t too bad, and at least we were all waiting for the common goal…encased meat!  It also made me all the more hungry, which allowed me to enjoy their duck fat fries all the more.  Yes I said it…they offer french fries fried in duck fat on Fridays and Saturdays….and well, let’s be honest, a fry is a fry, but a fry in duck fat is heavenly!

So we finally made our way in and were able to gander at the menu for a little bit to determine what we should order.  In addition to their typical menu items (which are far from typical), they have daily specials that are over the top unique.  I knew I wanted simple so I could taste their quality without a lot of other flavors throwing me off, so I went with “The Elvis” – a polish sausage topped with mustard, ketchup, caramelized onions, relish, and pickle.  Adam chose to be more adventurous and went with their “Game of the Week,” a beer and cheddar bison sausage. He also doubled his pleasure by ordering one of their specialty sausages the swiss cheese smoked pork knockwurst with bacon-garlic mayonnaise and vintage van gogh cheese; and we, of course, ordered a large duck fat fry to share.

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Deeeeeeee-Licious! Needless to say, we were stuffed by the time this meal was over; and I usually don’t condone eating past the point of being full, but I didn’t let a single one of those duck fat fries go to waste. Those are kind of a once in a lifetime sorta thing. clip_image002 In all, we were very pleased with our meal, especially considering how long we had to wait to try it…definitely worth it!

SIGNATURE DISH: It’s pretty clear from their name that they focus on one thing and one thing only…hot dogs, and in this case I guess that includes sausages.  Not only do they have what you would consider a run of the mill dog, but any kind of sausage or encased type of meat you might be able to think of they got it! They are definitely a one of a kind joint.

TASTE: I enjoy hot dogs and sausages, but I would hardly call myself a connoisseur.  I know what I like and don’t, and these definitely rank at the top of the like list.  The polish sausage had a nice snap to it, but was definitely juicy inside.  It’s flavor was distinct yet tasted familiar as well.  I truly enjoyed how all the condiments rounded out the sausage and those duck fat fries…simply delish.  Adam also enjoyed his two picks, one more that the other I believe, but surely seemed to enjoy the rich flavors of the meat paired with the unique condiments.

AMBIANCE: This spot reminds you of a carnival or kids spot, which adds to the playfulness of it all.  With its bright colors, bold patterns, and kitschy décor, you can’t help but enjoy yourself during your meal.

SERVICE: Although it took us an hour to get through the line, it was not due to lack of quick service.  In fact, that is just the opposite. They are churning out order after order…there are just that many people! But it works well for them, and by the time you place your order at the counter, others are finishing up their meals and there is room for you to sit down.  Doug himself is working the counter and is very friendly and fun. Also, everyone on the staff we encountered was very helpful, and has a great sense of humor.

PRICE: For what you are getting and for the gourmet of it all, this place is a steal on price. Our entire meal was less than $20, and we had enough food for 4!

Yes….it took us 3 tries to actually get a chance to eat here, but it was so worth the wait.  We truly enjoyed the basic AND unique types of dogs they offer; and well….those duck fat fries are enough to bring anyone back and we can’t wait to eat there again sometime soon…that is if they’re open. 😉 Hot Doug….your encased meat emporium gets a well deserved 4 ½ ‘Little Piggies.’

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