Hot Doug’s in Chicago – Encased Meats Heaven
I know that this place was popular and has a cult following but I didn’t expect a line that goes inside that restaurant and wrap outside about a third way down the block – and that was just opening time of 10:30 AM.
By the time my friend and I made it through the doors, this place was decorated in hot dog kitsch. Mainly in colors of red, yellow and blue with an assortment of hot dog and sausage related posters and artwork. The seating were simple wooden tables with chairs that have the same color theme cushions. For this kind of establishment, it works.
On the large wall on the right of the entrance/exit, there were two main menus to order from – one was the regular menu (featuring items like the Chicago dog, Andouille sausage, etc.) and the Today’s Specials. Eventually we got to speak to the friendly and gregarious proprietor of Hot Doug’s, Doug Sohn, who was taking everyone’s orders.
What my friend and I ordered were duck fat fries, foie gras and sauternes duck sausage, spicy Thai Chicken sausage, and Saucisse de Toulouse. The latter is considered as their “Celebrity Sausage, Jim Finks” and two sodas (comped).
The duck fat fries ($3.50) are only sold on Friday and Saturdays. Least to say, these fries were delicious. There’s a hint of duck flavor when you eat through this pile of skinny, slightly crisp fries.
The sausage I’ve been dreaming of getting my hands on for this stop was the famous (or notorious) foie gras and sauternes duck sausage with truffle aioli, foie gras mousse and fleur de sel ($9). My friend and I were in awe how delicious this sausage was. This is a great gateway to foie gras for people who never ate this luxurious, rich, creamy duck liver. It is not a pretentious or precious kind of sausage it just celebrates the duck and foie gras in one serving. The truffle aioli adds a subtle earthiness and ties everything up.
The spicy Thai chicken sausage with sriracha mustard and sesame-seaweed salad ($7.50) the chicken sausage was flavorful, juicy and slightly spicy. The seaweed salad added a layer of nutty and briny flavors with a subtle crunchiness. It’s the second best hot dog of the three we ate (the foie gras dog kicks major butt).
Our final selection of encased meats was the Saucisse de Toulouse with roasted pepper goat butter and Morbier cheese. It is a tasty pork sausage that’s balanced in flavors of onion, white wine and spices. The smear of goat butter and delightfully creamy yet stinky Morbier cheese make it interesting but it’s not as exciting as the other two we ate.
I now understand the cult following and I do like Hot Doug’s very much. It’s a great encased meats restaurant that takes a sausage (of different styles) and make it amazing. Think of this as an accessible upscale food (e.g. foie gras dog) that you don’t have to fork over so much money (you can definitely go under $10 if you stick with the regular hot dogs and sausages) for a delicious and filling meal.
A few things you have to be aware of when you visit here, check out their website ahead of time to make sure they’re not closed for vacation, be prepared to wait on line, and it’s cash only. Otherwise, embrace the deliciousness of encased meats from Mr. Sohn’s kitchen.
To view more photos of my meal here, please click through the slideshow (or view my Flickr set):