On my most recent visit to Chicago, my wife and I had lunch at Hot Doug’s, a hot dog/sausage joint that receives rave reviews.
It’s not a particularly big place, and the line was out the door when we arrived. Considering it was 20 degrees outside and there were four inches of snow on the ground, we eagerly awaited being able to get inside and place our order.
Once inside, it’s a very casual atmosphere. The menu is on the wall and you order at the counter before finding an open table. It’s cash only - so prepare accordingly.
The menu changes on a regular basis and features some wonderful combinations of meats, toppings and sauces. You can order a traditional Chicago-style hot dog, but you can also get things like alligator sausage, chicken sausage with mole, pork sausage with a blueberry merlot, and countless other impressive options.
Both were very good, but I think I was actually a bigger fan of the Chicago dog. While I really liked the creamy, cheddar-garlic cheese spread on The Badger, there is something about the ingredients on a Chicago dog that I find to be just right.
Fresh tomatoes, a dill pickle spear, celery salt, onions, relish and a grilled hot dog on a poppyseed bun are simply meant to be together.
My wife tried the alligator sausage, which was good, but didn’t have any type of distinct flavor to make it very unique. Had it been randomly served to us, I doubt I would have known it was alligator meat.
Along with our various dogs, we also tried the duck fat fries. These are only available at Hot Doug’s on Fridays and Saturdays, and we lucked out by visiting on a Saturday. To be honest, I’d say these are overrated. Similar to the alligator, I wouldn’t have known the fries were cooked in duck fat if it didn’t say so on the menu. They’re still good fries, but I’d just stick with a regular order of french fries and save the extra couple dollars.
Our entire meal was $25, which seemed relatively reasonable for the amount of food we received.
And although I don’t frequently visit Chicago, I’d be happy to make a return visit to Hot Doug’s. As much as I love the idea of gourmet sausages, I seem to be more of a Chicago traditionalist. Don’t worry about the fancy sauce reductions and roasted toppings for me - just a fresh tomato, pickle, onions and relish will do.
Who am I kidding? I’m not picky. I like all of it.
3324 N. California Avenue
Chicago, IL 60618