Hot Doug’s

Hot Doug's classic Chicago hot dog hits the spot, but is it worth the wait?

Hot Doug's classic Chicago hot dog hits the spot, but is it worth the wait?

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!

Dr. Brown's soda is wonderful... even the diet version. I hadn't had it since we were at Kat's Deli in New York and was thrilled to find it at Hot Doug's.

Dr. Brown's soda is wonderful... even the diet version. I hadn't had it since we were at Kat's Deli in New York and was thrilled to find it at Hot Doug's.

Hot Doug’s
3324 N California Ave
Chicago, IL
Get directions

  1. Alex Pyatetsky left a comment on October 16, 2008 at 11:42 pm

    Pleased to read this!
    Had no clue they had 45 min lines. I originally became enamored with Hot Doug’s when one of my favorite artists/designers, Cody Hudson started regularly blogging about his meals there w/ pics 🙂
    Still haven’t been. I’ll re-comment once I go!

  2. Tammy left a comment on October 17, 2008 at 8:54 am

    That 45 minutes can go fast if it’s nice weather and you have a lively group of people around you. I can see where it would really suck as it gets colder.
    I recommend going during the week when it’s not a problem.

  3. lulubird6 left a comment on May 24, 2009 at 10:42 am

    I don’t agree about getting tired of his dogs as his gourmet selections often change. I would never order a regular Chicago dog there, tho, as I’d rather have a gourmet dog. Plenty of other places in Chicago that do the original just fine!
    It’s also fine if you never go again because that’s one less person in line before me! Thanks!

  4. Aiming4Simple left a comment on August 21, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    We went early and only waited about 10 minutes. The specialty sausages are well worth the trip, especially if, like my husband, you are intrigued by uncommon meats like elk and antelope.

Comments are closed.