While Jim was busy preparing for Ring Of Honor's 1st Sinclair TV taping, I had a chance to go exploring the Windy City myself. Hot Doug's was my mission and believe me when I say it was so worth it!
When one thinks of hot dogs, one's mind is automatically drawn to the pig-part "mystery meat in tube form" from our youth. Smeared with neon yellow mustard on a slighty squished bun, sometimes hot off of a July grill, sometimes floating in greasy water from a street vendor. Maybe you think about the steamed ballpark dogs that taste so good with the $7 beer. In any case, somehow hot dogs direct us down memory lane, taking us back in time to when things seemed, well...easy. This is a tale of a quest that was anything but.
I was determined, nay, obsessed with finding the Chicago dog of my youth. Keep in mind there are hundreds of hot dog establishments in Chicagoland serving their own self-professed "Famous Chicago Dogs". Those delicious steamed franks dressed in the classic "Windy City" style, with bright yellow mustard, Kryptonite green relish, onions, tomatoes, peppers and a kosher dill spear right on top on that lightly toasted poppy seed bun. Add a little sprinkle of celery salt and voila...Chicago in a bun. While dogs from the much-publicized "Super Dawg" are extremely tasty, my taste buds have become a little more sophisticated over the years and a "Super Dawg" wasn't going to do the trick this time. No, this time I intended to do it "Cornette style" and that means gourmet.
Hugging the corner of North California Avenue & Roscoe, the modest victorian-style establishment only seats around 100 persons (maybe). I arrived at Hot Doug's fairly early, or so I thought. Casing the joint (pun intended) as I drove around the corner to find parking, the line seemed shorter than I was expecting for a busy Saturday, until I came around the front of the building, and saw the line 4 persons deep stretching a full block down the street. I'm as guilty as the rest of these "food-marks" in line but, Anthony Bourdain really screwed me on this one. His reviews always find a small diamond in the rough like this, and shine it to a blinding brillance. Every food-whore in the world (literally, I counted 5 languages being spoken in line), makes their pilgrimage to the holy land of culinary salvation with "Pope Tony the Only's" blessing. I'd love to tell him to go fuck himself, but--he's a God to me. My second husband. My Rockstar.
Guilty as charged, I parked and got in line. How long could it be, right? People were still aproaching and adding to it's length. Chinese tourists, Indian families, a flock of hot Japanese chicks and a few Eastern Europeans in the mix speaking their native tongue, and one word seemed universal--"BOURDAIN". I gritted my teeth and felt shame for being just as bad. But, "It's Foie Gras!", I reminded myself. The experience actually reminded me of a "Dead Show" minus the smelly patchouli-soaked hippies and drugs. This crowd's "smack" was in tube form and Hot Doug's was the methadone clinic.
A low rumbling sound came out of the south of us moments later and the line collectively looked up and saw a huge black cloud aproaching us. "Great.", I thought, "This is a real bad sign." Another curse to Tony under my breath, and that was my cue to go grab my umbrella from "Black Beauty". Of course, I asked the couple in back of me to save my place, which they kindly did and I rewarded them with a secondary umbrella I keep in the truck for Jim upon my return. I was already planning out my stratagy. Half of these saps in line DIDN'T HAVE UMBRELLAS! "This is great!" I mused, and smiled at the couple behind me that seemed to be thinking the same thing I was. "This line will thin out in no time at all when people start gettting rained on." That's just what DIDN'T happen 20 minutes later when the rain started, and when I say started, I mean poured.
Picture a line of hungry people in the scene from "Caddyshack" when the Priest and Carl are playing a little nine hole, with the wind whipping up the rain so it blows sideways instead of down. It was all I could do to keep my umbrella from flying out of my hands. Rain was hitting my bare legs, and I might has well have been standing in a puddle with what good my flip flops were, but at least I had an umbrella. I looked up to see how many hungry Bourdain disciples were going to flee like wet rats in a shanty flood, and to my amazement and disappointment...NOT A FRIGGIN' ONE! They all stood their ground soak wet. I mean--just fell in a river wet. These dog's must be good!
Look at the poor sap in the white tshirt to the right of this picture. He did NOT have an umbrella.
It kept pouring, and the line didn't move one bit. The people inside were all letting us "weather" it out so they didn't have to brave the elements after their meals....assholes! I kept thinking about Bill Murray's line in Caddyshack, "I don't think the heavy stuff is gonna come down for a while yet." I didn't have time to scoff at my humorous thoughts or even enjoy them, because now it was hailing on us. Yes, HAIL! Pea-sized ice nuggets pelting our umbrellas. The cosmos was laughing at our dumb asses, and what a chuckle they had. We all huddled against the side of the building and threw curses out to the universe. Really? REALLY? I just want a damn hot dog!
Now, I know what you're thinking --"LEAVE!" I wasn't about to leave after the time I had invested in this fiasco, no way. I was getting my dog or I was going to go "Dairy Queen" on someone a la my hubby. I wasn't budging and that seemed to be the concensus among everyone. Not one person moved. They scurried under a small tree, but the damage was done and I can't even imagine the sight of all of us as people drove by in their cars laughing their asses off at these "foodies" in a block-long line soaked head to toe and battered by hail for a hot dog on the "Messiah of Food's" recommendation. "Damn you Tony!!! You kill what you love, you bastard!!". *sigh*
The rain and hail finally let up after about another 15 minutes and the sun started peeking out. Umbrellas were rolled away, and compacts were taken out of purses to assess the damage. The line slowly started moving again and we were back in business. I was in the promised land in--another hour. Yes, another hour to finally get in the door. Judge me all you'd like, but let me tell you something friend--it was SO worth it. This IS the "Sausage Superstore" after all. It says so right on the sign.
I was in a candyland of meaty edibles. The "Encased Meat Emporium". Hand blended,choice cuts of every animal on Noah's Ark, a plethora of porks, beefs, seafood, lamb, elk, rattlesnake, alligator, venison and poultry. The varieties of flavors are amazing, so well thought-out with every layer complimenting the other. Each with a symphony of tastes all their own. They pair the exotics with the not-so-exotics. These flavor compositions will definitely titillate your taste buds and give you a hand job at the same time. They are THAT good. The staff shirts read "There are no two finer words in the English language than "encased meat" Let me tell you something my friends, at that moment, I couldn't say they were lying,
I read the menu, studying all the options. Their regular menu was fantastic, Polish dog, brats, hot links, chorizo, kielbasa, etc., but I was here for the special.
It was hard to resist the temptation to order one of each and tote them back to Chicago Ridge's Frontier Fieldhouse for the boys, but they wouldn't travel well. DUCK. That's what I came here for, the Foie Gras and Sauternes Duck Sausage with Truffle Aioli link.
I can't express to you how delicious the dog was. The duck itself was seasoned perfectly with a hint of cinnamon which took it over to the top for me. And the foie...my God, the foie! Obscenely delicious, so rich and creamy softening over the sauternes duck.The truffle aioli just escalated the experience to what I'm going to have to call perfection on a bun. It was absolutely amazing. Foie Gras was actually illegal in Chicago from 2006 thru 2008, until establishments like Hot Doug's refused to lay down to the USDA bureaucracy. They stood on the front lines and gave a big meaty middle finger to PETA & the FDA. The law was overturned, making the use of goose liver legal in the states and I'm thanking one of our "founding fathers" for that today. This is my food independence day. Fine after fine, Hot Doug's paid their dues and soldiered a culinary revolution in the US--and boys, I thank you.
I had to complete the nirvana of gluttony and order a side order of duck fat fries--yes, hand cut french fries deep fried in rendered duck fat for a golden, crispy, richness that will make you whimper and call out for your mother. All fries should be so lucky a s to be submerged in duck fat. These are only available at Hot Doug's on Fridays and Saturdays. So, if you are lucky enough to get down there on one of those days....please endulge. Your heart with palpitate (not in a good way) but you will thank me later. The order is large enough to serve several people . I couldn't finish them on my own, so I bagged them up but I knew they wouldn't uphold the trip back to Chicago Ridge, as these are a "eat 'em while they're hot!" item. Still I had to try. I did actually order several dogs to take back with me for Jim and our production crew, but nothing that incredibly decadent. Dan, our prod ucer/ director is our resident vegetarian, so I opted to get him a veggie dog. Mark,our editor, had asked for the Chicago style dog, and I brought Jim back a Bacon Cheeseburger Beef Sausage with Coca-Cola BBQ Sauce and Maple-Smoked Cheddar Cheese. Yes, even in hot dog heaven, he wants a cheeseburger.
In closing, summer has left us and the bbq's are put away for winter, but football season is upon us, and that's always an excuse for great hot dogs. Yes, my ordeal was a pain in the ass, that it seems only I have the misfortune of having to endure. But, through rain and hail, if you are EVER in Chicago my friends, you must go to Hot Doug's. I promise you it will be worth it...just make sure, while you are in block-long line being punished by the elements, you clench your fist and curse to the heavens.."DAMN YOU BOURDAIN!!"