My friends and I were expecting a large meal at Avenues later that evening, so among the three of us (one being pregnant), we tried to be responsible and ordered 5 dogs (yet we still managed to hit a tacqueria on our way back) (You can see pictures of and read more about my lunch at Hot Doug’s on my Flickr set.):
I ordered the “Celebrity of the Week,” the “Treffly Coyne” (extra credit for those who actually know who she is). ($7) This featured mint garlic lamb sausage with anchovy aioli and Doux de Montagne cheese melted over the top. The sausage was musky, which I liked. The anchovy aioli wasn’t as pungent as I had hoped – I think the lamb really outpaced the rest of the flavors. The cheese was a great addition – slightly buttery and somewhat sharp.
I also ordered the “Spinach and Feta Chicken Sausage” with skordalia and sheep’s milk haloumi cheese. ($7.50) This was a daily special and was my favorite hot dog of the five we ordered. The chicken sausage was extremely moist and flavorful. It got a nice garlicky kick from the skordalia, which functioned as an adhesive for the chunks of cheese on top. I didn’t get any feta from the sausage itself. Maybe it was all that yummy sheep’s haloumi that covered it up. Loved this hot dog. Loved it.
My friend ordered the “Atomic Bomb” Daily Special: Spicy pork sausage with chipotle Dijonnaise and applewood-smoked Cheddar cheese. ($7) Two bites and it’s pretty apparent why this is called the “Atomic Bomb.” The heat is of the slow, gradual, then rapidly engulfing-mouth-in-flame type of heat. You think you’re okay for the first bite – it’s good, the pork sausage is wonderfully seasoned, and the cheese is nice and sharp – so you greedily take another big bite. Then it hits you. Despite the good kick of heat, I could have used more. Regardless, this should have been the last dog I tried. Unfortunately, it was my first. The heat lingered through the rest of my meal – not a bad thing, but I would have liked to taste the other dogs without that warm, spicy feeling in my mouth and throat.
He also ordered the “Game of the Week,” a “Goji Berry Pheasant Sausage” with Jerk Dijonnaise, Pappadew Peppers and Butterkäse cheese. ($7.50) You couldn’t taste the pheasant by itself (I have no idea what the goji berry was supposed to do for the sausage – there was only trace amounts). This was a sweet-ish dog, due largely to the peppadew, which also imparted some level of heat. The jerk dijonnaise, which looked not unlike dirty mayo, also contributed to the heat. The cheese was good, but the dices kept falling off, despite the dijonnaise glue. This was probably the least memorable of the dogs we had.
Lastly, my other friend got “The Dog,” the original Chicago-Style Hot Dog with all the trimmings. ($1.75) When you order “The Dog,” you’re given a choice of weiner cooking methods: steamed, grilled, fried, or fried-and-grilled. My friend (wisely) choose grilled. This dog (served on a poppyseed bun) ended up taking second to the chicken sausage. The key to its success was the many different flavors (salty, sweet, tart, fresh) and textures (juicy, crispy, crunchy, meaty, etc…). Actually, I think the real key was the relish. It’s a lot sweeter than I’m used to. It’s also a lot more green. It’s *neon* green. I thought it might be because it happened to be St. Patrick’s weekend, but it’s not – it’s always that *neon* green. It almost looks toxic.
It being the weekend, we also splurged for duck fat fries (only offered Friday-Saturday – yes, we were being *VERY* irresponsible). And, of course, how can you eat sloppy food and NOT have a can of Cel-Ray on hand?
A good time was had by all (once we got inside the restaurant – the 40-ish minute wait on the freezing sidewalk was not fun. Thankfully, the line inside is much shorter, and quite efficient. I especially love how the servers scout out tables for incoming parties.).
The atmosphere is unbeatable. I’ve never seen so much Elvis and hot dog art/kitsch in one place in my life. The whole interior is cartoony, campy, and fun (like the Viagra clock on the way to the restrooms).
I don’t remember having to ever wait this long for Hot Doug’s, but then again, the last time I visited I was a lot younger (in college), and the meal was more of an event (try convincing a college student that a $5+ hot dog is good value).
The success of Hot Doug’s, to me, is their base product: all of his sausages were moist, plump, and flavorful. All the added fixin’s were bonuses. Even so, I’m not sure that Hot Doug’s’ hot dogs are worth the hour wait (especially, in the cold). But, given a (much) shorter line (or better climes), I could see myself going back more frequently for more “encased meat” products, when I have a hankering.
3324 North California
Chicago, Illinois 60618