Hot Doug's. What an experience.
If you arrive early or late enough to avoid the long line at lunchtime, you're greeted first by Doug himself, sporting black horn rims. He takes the orders himself. One wall shouts, "There are no two finer words in the English language than "encased meats." Have truer words ever been uttered?
This place offers much more than the standard hot dog/Polish sausage fare typical of Chicago joints. Each menu item is cheekily named after a celebrity, and several items have been renamed when their original namesake falls out of favor. "The Jennifer Garner," for example, is formerly "The Britney Spears," and is a mighty hot fire dog. (Ouch Britney! Perhaps you should considered concealing your nether-regions in public? Just a thought...)
On Fridays and Saturdays Doug cooks his french fries in duck fat, which is possibly the most delicious idea ever, but Monday through Thursday, the fresh cut potatoes are fantastic and extra crispy. To quote my brother-in-law, Matt, "they're the fries you break your diet for."
Matt and I had an early lunch at Hot Doug's yesterday. He's partial to "The Don Rickles",
a Thuringer sausage made from ground beef, pork, and garlic and smothered with Gouda cheese and french fried onions. I took a gamble with the weekly-changing game sausage. It was rabbit topped with pomegranate creme fraiche goat cheese and vodka-soaked dried blueberries, and it was amazing. The goat cheese and vodka imparted a pleasant tang that was offset by the sweetness of the fruits.
With a combination like that, it's clear that Doug has some major culinary prowess, and that his hot dog stand is a cut above the rest. If you need more proof, consider that two customers at a table near ours were drinking wine with their meals. That's high-class. It was 11:15 a.m. That's not for me to judge.
Check out the full menu avoid the noon hour like the plague, and remember that they close at 4:00 in the afternoon.