I ride my bike to the windy city's hidden gems, lost goldmines, new kids on the block, and old standbys then tell you what to think and what to order. Check, czech, Česká it out...

Monday, March 7, 2011

Street (Food) Fight: Part 3, Teach Me How to Dougie

after one hour of hell
I wasn't sure what category to put this review under. This is street food but I'm not comparing anything here. After all, how do you compare any place to (drumroll please).... Hot Doug's! It is a singular entity whose reputation has reached an almost legendary status.

Here's why: they are a Chicago foodie destination that modestly refers to themselves as a "Sausage Superstore and Encased Meat Emporium." They put weird stuff in their sausage (like rattlesnake, cherries and cocaine*). They put weird stuff on their sausage (mostly in the form of unique mustards and exotic cheeses)**. They are concurrently gourmet and cheap, exclusive and laid back.

so irish, so good
-Traditional Irish Banger (with Guinness Stout Mustard, Cahill's Porter Cheese). I had no qualms about ordering this Gaelic goody because 1. I hadn't eaten breakfast, 2. This was my nickname in high school (I'm kidding, or am I?), and 3. St. Patrick's Day is next week. When biting into this taste o' Dublin, the first thing you notice is the cheese. It looks like the kind of cheese the Guinness people would make if they made something other than beer and really cool commercials. It tastes like the kind of cheese Guinness would make; slightly tangy/sharp like a good Irish cheddar, with a hint of coffee like a good Irish stout. The second thing you notice is the mustard, which doesn't taste like Guinness but does taste like moutarde, which I like. Oh, you also notice the perfectly cooked, if subtly seasoned banger, which was a nice bonus. This was my third favorite "hot dog"*** of the day.

-Spicy Beef Hot Link (with Coca-Cola BBQ sauce, and Mantoro Cheese). In case you were wondering what Mantoro cheese is, it's Michigan's version of Manchego (check my review of The Cellar to get my take on this Spanish jewel). If you're wondering what Coca-Cola barbecue sauce is, it's barbecue sauce made with Coca-Cola. Combine both of these mystical ingredients with a housemade hot link and what you get is a spicy, sweet, rich, and tart phenomenon. Seemingly simple but polished in execution, this was my second favorite "hot dog" of the day.

-Saucisse de Toulouse (with Sweet Garlic Mustard and Yellow Buck Camembert Cheese)
This saucy French sausage, usually used in fancy-dancy cassoulets, was dressed up with a velvety garlic mustard and creamy-dreamy camembert. It tasted pretty much like you'd expect it to taste; sweet and winey with lingering garlic and pepper notes. This taste-tour-de-force walked the line between sweet snack and savory meat-treat, and walked it well. Over all, my fourth favorite "hot dog" of the day.

decadence in hot dog

-Foie Gras and Sauternes Duck Sausage (with Truffle Aioli, Foie Gras Mousse, Fleur de Sel).
If you thought the last hot dog sounded good to your inner francophile, then you're going to downright LOVE this one. France's best known liver, mushroom, salt, and mallard join forces here to make this a very delicious, if rich, marriage of meat, bun and condiment. This one was a show stopper but it ended up tied for third on my favorite "hot dog" of the contest.

Nobel Prize worthy
-Cherry and Apple Pork Sausage (with Sir William Pear Mustard, and Vosges Bacon Chocolate).
A revelation. That's the only word for a chocolate topped, syrupy sweet mustard drenched, cherry and apple imbued meat wonder. Like so many other strange sounding coalitions (pineapple and pizza, Harold and Maude, shorts and blazers, Splinter and the Ninja Turtles), this works. It's everything you could want in food; sausage, chocolate, bread, and sauce, then throw in some bacon flavor and...what's left to say. It's perfection. It's a must order. And it was my favorite "hot dog."

-Duck Fat Fries. Only available on Fridays and Saturdays, these fries are one of the big reasons why Doug's is Doug's. They are the same hand-cut fries Doug's normally uses but fried in rendered duck fat instead of the usual canola/peanut oil. Truth be told I don't think I'm enough of a fry connoisseur to fully appreciate the fineries of these les frites au gras de canard. They were good but if you gave me the regular fries instead, I don't think I'd miss the duck.

-Chili-Cheese Fries.
Now these, THESE are fries. Appropriate amounts of chili (tons) and gooey yellow cheese (some) made this calorie laden number a hit amongst the still defrosting members of my posse.

Yes, ordering a bounty like this (I left off three hot dogs, oops) would subdue even the most stout midwesterner but when you wait outside for an hour in pelting snow and subfreezing temperatures, you order a fucking bounty, because you've earned it and because you're a bit delirious. In case you hadn't heard by now, there is always a wait at Hot Doug's and the wait is worth it (even if I still can't feel my face).
No, Hot Doug's is not your quintessential Chicago hot dog place (it's so much more) but it is where you should take your friend/future father-in-law when they come to town.

*no cocaine was present in any of the food, that would be illegal. But some of their creations are as addictive as cocaine.
**this sentence, taken out of context, is hilarious.
***none of the food reviewed was, technically speaking, a hot dog (hence the quotation marks). That's because I can get a really good chicago dog lots of places and this place makes their own sausage and puts crazy wild condiments on them. Can you blame me?
Hot Doug's on Urbanspoon
Hot Doug's


  1. You are making me miss Hot Doug's so much! I saw your link on urbanspoon as I was internet stalking the encased meat emporium. I've been in Sydney for the last 9 months, but I am a born and raised Chitownian. This post is enough to make me come home ASAP!

  2. cammi- g'day stranger! glad to hear your new found home hasn't buried your innate midwestern love of hot dogs too far beneath all the new boomerangs, wallabies and didgeridoos you're no doubt surrounded by.