Hot Doug's Lunch

Hot Doug’s in Chicago – The Ultimate Hot Dog Lunch

In Midwest, Restaurants by Daryl & Mindi Hirsch17 Comments

Hot Doug’s is closing! 

That was the news we heard a couple of months ago – like a venerable torpedo across the bow of the tube meat world. The Chicago institution, which made its name by elevating the pedestrian hot dog, would be shutting its doors for good on October 4th. In a marvelous coincidence, we had an opportunity to be in Chicago in early June. In light of the news, a visit to Chef Doug Sohn’s hot dog temple became mandatory.

Hot Doug's - The Sausage Superstore in Chicago

Hot Doug’s – The Sausage Superstore

How We Got to Hot Doug’s

To get to Hot Doug’s, we hopped on the CTA blue line and rode past Wicker Park to the Belmont station on the edge of Logan Square. After a short bus ride, we then walked four long blocks to brave the line of food fans for a chance to sample Sohn’s eclectic, even somewhat eccentric, sausage creations.

As we stepped off the bus to begin the walking leg of our trip, there they were – a group of twelve young foodies directly ahead, striding casually in the same direction.

“Hurry up!” exclaimed Daryl, taking no chances that the group was headed elsewhere.

On cue, Mindi switched on the accelerator in her feet, and the 2foodtrippers jammed on the gas, performing a turbo-powered pass around the group of fledgling foodies. (It reminded us of the kind of crowd dodging we did on the streets of Hong Kong when we made a mad dash for dim sum.) Passing the fanboys was a good thing too. The line was epic, and we beat them to “The Sausage Superstore” with minutes to spare.

Line for a Late Lunch at Hot Doug's in Chicago. Food fans wait over an hour for a last meal at Doug Sohn's temple of dogdom.

Line for a Late Lunch at Hot Doug’s in Chicago. Food fans wait over an hour for a last meal at Doug Sohn’s temple of dogdom.

Once we finally entered Hot Doug’s, we were welcomed by a colorful array of choices displayed on different menu boards. The first board displays a relatively standard menu with Chicago style hot dog and their many variations. The second board features gourmet style dogs. The third board lists the special ‘Game of the Week” – a one-time-only sausage special.

Colorful Menus at Hot Doug's in Chicago

Colorful Menus at Hot Doug’s

We were intrigued by the many delicious options, and our excitement built as we approached the front of the line.

The End of the Line at Hot Doug's in Chicago

The End of the Line at Hot Doug’s

After the 75 minute (we did mention that it was epic) wait, Sohn greeted us to take our order and carefully guided us through the menu. Sohn’s presence at the counter made the visit extra special, especially since he was in no rush as he helped us make our menu choices. Despite the seemingly never-ending line, he displayed an amazing sense of hospitality, courtesy and enthusiasm. We could sense that Sohn truly cares about his guests, and his conviviality transformed the wait into a distant memory.

Mindi with Doug Sohn (a/k/a Hot Doug)

Mindi with Doug Sohn (a/k/a Hot Doug)

What We Ate at Hot Doug’s

Daryl made no bones about his choice of dog – Foie Gras and Sauternes Duck Sausage with Truffle Aioli, Foie Gras Mousse and Fleur de Sel. What could have been a clumsy upscale mashup of ‘street food meets fine dining’ proved to be a magnificent combination of juicy, dessert wine injected duck sausage topped with generous slices of creamy, decadent foie gras. The delicious dog’s $10 dollar price was a bargain in our book.

Foie Gras and Sauternes Duck Sausage with Truffle Aioli, Foie Gras Mousse and Fleur de Sel at Hot Doug's

Foie Gras and Sauternes Duck Sausage with Truffle Aioli, Foie Gras Mousse and Fleur de Sel at Hot Doug’s

Capsation-crazed Mindi opted for the Atomic Bomb – a Spicy Cheese-Stuffed Pork Sausage with Sweet Devil’s Mustard and Cheese-Stuffed Hot Peppers. This gourmet dog did not disappoint, as each bite delivered a scorchingly spicy burst of flavor. Normally $8 for a hot dog would be expensive, but not for this complex, savory sandwich.

Atomic Bomb at Hot Doug's in Chicago

Atomic Bomb at Hot Doug’s

We also ordered a small order of fries ($2) and a charred chi dog ($2.50) to share and round out our Hot Doug’s experience, plus some soda to wash it all down.

Hot Doug's Chi Dog in Chicago

Hot Doug’s Chi Dog

Was ordering three monstrous dogs glutonous? Not really. Many guests sitting near us were eating two or three dogs each. Some were clearly tourists, but most appeared to be regulars satisfying their Hot Doug’s fix and the opportunity to eat as much as possible before the end of the Hot Doug’s era.

The 2foodtrippers Lunch at Hot Doug's

The 2foodtrippers Lunch at Hot Doug’s

Needless to say, we thoroughly enjoyed our lunch at Hot Doug’s. It was so good that we now have a new barometer for judging hot dogs and sausage sandwiches. In the future, we will likely say “yeah, but is it as good as Hot Doug’s?” after we bite into a frank that we like.

Daryl Bites into a Chi Dog at Hot Doug's in Chicago

Daryl Bites into a Chi Dog at Hot Doug’s

Final Thoughts on Hot Doug’s

When we left Hot Doug’s at almost 4:00 (a/k/a closing time), there was still a long line of people waiting their turn at the ultimate hot dog. Our leaving was bittersweet, as it’s not likely that we’ll be back in Chicago before October 4th.

During the 2.7 mile walk to Wicker Park, we chose to focus on the positive – it is better to have eaten the best hot dogs once than to have never eaten them at all.

Hot Doug’s was located at 3324 N California Ave, Chicago, IL 60618, United States. It is now closed.

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    1. Author

      It seems crazy for Hot Doug’s to close when it’s so popular, but we guess the owner is ready to move on to new adventures. The closing will be a real loss to Chicago as well as to hot dog fans everywhere.

  1. After living in Chicago for 5 years, we had never been to Hot Doug’s. We managed to get over there just before jetting out again to Bali. My review will be up soon!

    1. Author

      Ooh, I can’t wait to see what you ate and how you liked Hot Doug’s.

    1. Author

      We want to return to Chicago too! If we get there before October 4th, we’re definitely going back to Hot Doug’s.

    1. Author

      You still have two months to get there. Let us know how you like Hot Doug’s when you go.

  2. I can’t believe they’re closing! It’s one of most popular places in the city. I’ve been there a few times and always loved their dogs. I might have to see if I can find a reason to swing back up to Chicago before the end of the summer.
    Nick (Nick’s Travel Bug) recently posted…FotoFriday: Doi Suthep TempleMy Profile

  3. Great write up Daryl! At least you will still have Hot Diggity 😉

  4. Awesome. Looks like you guys made some excellent choices. That’s always the hardest part for me. I need to get back there at least once before closing. And Doug has always been sitting there every time I’ve been. I can’t imagine all the wonderful comments he’s getting now. Must feel amazing. Check out Eater Chicago for a couple great interviews with him about the closing. It’s like it’s just ‘run its course’ for Doug. Almost like a good show, he doesn’t want to “jump the shark.” I admire him for this decision and just moving on in life!
    Lisa | LLworldtour recently posted…My Midwest: Summertime in IndyMy Profile

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