Hot dogs are tradition in Chicago. And Hot Doug’s is touted as one of the best places to get them. So Tammy and I went there Saturday to see if it is all that.
There’s been a lot of hype about Hot Doug’s. Tony Bourdain said it gives him a reason to come back to Chicago and eat. And the line of people waiting to get into the storefront on weekends is certainly a testament to its popularity.
“There’s another hot dog place right ‘round the corner!” a passerby taunted as we joined the line. “No wait down there.” But nobody moved. In fact, we found ourselves sandwiched between experienced customers who had come prepared to wait. The group in front of us kept themselves entertained with origami, and the guy behind us brought his own folding stool to sit on while he waited.
You wouldn’t think of a hot dog stand as a destination restaurant, but Hot Doug’s is. There is not much else around it, and it’s not close any trains, yet people wait in line.
Once you get inside, it’s surprisingly spacious and comfortably tacky. The walls, painted bright primary colors, are decorated with pictures of movie stars and hot dog memorabilia. You can even get a t-shirt that reads: “There are no two finer words in the English language than ‘encased meats,’ my friend.” I think I need one!
The service is efficient and friendly. The menu has a little something for everyone. Traditionalists can load up on mustard, onions, and pickles while the more adventurous can go for a specialty dog like the foie gras and sauternes duck sausage with black truffle butter.
I opted to try a Chicago dog with all the fixings and the chardonnay and jalapeño rattlesnake sausage with chili-garlic mayo and smoked gouda cheese. The rattlesnake has serious bite that is balanced perfectly by the cheese. Still, I liked the Chicago dog better.
T had a veggie dog and a veggie corndog. She was lukewarm about both, and the corndog is a tad sweet for her tastes.
We shared an order of duck fat fries (only served on Saturdays), and they were our biggest disappointment. They are a big step up from McDonald’s but certainly not equal to Bouchon.
Hot Doug’s is well worth at least one visit for the experience. I would pay another $8 to try a different specialty dog just because I’m curious. But I know the novelty will eventually wear off, and in the end, I’ll want a good old-fashioned hot dog.
So would I go back and wait in line for another 45 minutes to have one there? Probably not. I can get my Chicago dog somewhere else and enjoy it just as much.
Dining tip: The folks at Hot Doug’s celebrate a variety of unique holidays including Don Knotts’ birthday. Right now, it’s closed until October 28 in honor of Columbus Day. So always check its Web site to make sure Hot Doug’s is open before you head over there. And while you’re surfing the site, take a moment to listen to the Hot Doug’s theme songs. Too funny!