Local Hero #3 Hot Doug’s

05/10/2009

Think it’s probably time that I shut up about food related adventures from our US road trip, but before I do, I HAD to give a heads up on Chicago’s number one sausage emporium, Hot Doug’s.

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Now, Chicago is a town that loves it’s hot dogs, and for the peeps of the windy city, this place is the stuff of legend. Everyone seems to have a Hot Doug’s related story, and if you’ve not been, you feel a bit left out.

To cut a long story short, there’s a guy called Doug who makes the most amazing speciality hot dogs that come in a bewildering and surprising array of flavours. And when I say bewildering, I mean it. Pork, duck, lamb, beef, weisswurst, bratwurst, veal, rattlesnake, vegetarian…I could go on. Doug’s place is pretty much in the middle of nowhere, so if you’re an un-escorted newbie, you can pretty much forget about finding it (we were lucky enough to have a couple of willing guides). But, despite the location, the place is RAMMED every day. It’s open between 11am and 4pm, and there’s a queue pretty much from opening to closing.

Photo: MSN

Photo: MSN

When we got there at about a quarter to twelve, there were already alot of people waiting. It tooks us about an hour to make it through the doors  and get a look at the wall mounted menu and specials, but when we did I nearly exploded with excitement. After much debate, my girlfriend and I decided to get 4 to share between us. We went for a duck and fois gras, a merguez and goats cheese, veal and pork weisswurst, and a classic Chicago dog (all pictured).

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First up the duck. Now I was fully expecting this to be a gimmic, but I could’nt have been further from the mark. You could taste everyhing. The duck and fois gras in the sausage, the fois gras mousse on top, and the insane truffle and garlic mayo. Every bite was rediculous. Too sickly to nail another, but amazing.

Next up the weisswurst. Again a taste sensation. The tangy apple and pork meat in the sausage was well seasoned and wrapped in this creamy mustard and parsley sauce. Then a nice bit of tangy, peppery horseradish cheese finished it off with style.

The traditional chicago dog was probably the least impressive of the four, but still damn tasty. Your glassic frank dog accompanied with fried onions, mustard, tomato, a slab of pickle and a kind of atomic green relish. When in Rome and all that.

Finally the merguez. One of my favourite sausages of all time. This baby came served up with a kind of smokey chipotle sauce that was a cross between a mayo and a gravy , and was topped with this amazigly fluffy and light goats cheese. Again you could taste all the flavours, and the cheese cooled down the chili kick of the sausage and sauce. Phenominal.

It’s not hard to see why people get evangelical about Hot Doug’s. It’s one of those proper institutions that specialise in one thing, and nails it time after time. It’s also fun and completely unpretentious. In the UK a place like Doug’s would probably fall out of favour as soon as it ceased to be fashionable, which is a great shame as I feel England’s restaurant scene would be a lot richer if there were more of the local neighbourhood heroes of the kind I’ve written about in the past few posts.

I’ve always liked the idea of starting a local sausage restaurant, maybe there’s a gap in the market?