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Hot Doug's-The Sausage Superstore and Encased Meat Emporium

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
After four weeks and 17 lost pounds of low carb eating, I decided to take a day and treat myself and the family to a one day road trip diet busting spectacular. That we woke this morning to a beautifully clear, sunny, fall Midwestern day only made the idea that much more appealing. We decided to make the trip from Beertown down to the City of Big Shoulders.

About a year ago, while browsing another food forum, I came across a long thread extolling the virtues of a small Chicago hot dog establishment called Hot Doug's. However, the reverential regard with which many of the posters held for this wonderful little restaurant made it obvious that this wasn't your typical Chicago Style Hot Dog eatery. It must be noted that we have been known to drive to Chicago for a hot dog or Italian beef with very little prompting, so to say a place that billed itself as "The Sausage Superstore and Encased Meat Emporium" had piqued my interest, would be akin to saying I am occasionally known to overeat.

Hot Doug's is located in a mixed use area in what I believe is known locally as Irving Park. I could be wrong there, because as a lifelong cheesehead, the intricacies of Chicago neighborhood boundaries confound me. The restaurant itself is housed on the first floor of a residential looking building. It appears there could be apartments above.

You would expect a restaurant the bills itself as stated above would be more than just a hot dog stand, and you would expect right. Of course the menu includes the standard Chicago sausage fare, snappy natural casing Chicago style dogs nestled in S. Rosen poppy seed buns, and Polish and Italian sausages. Even a bratwurst for those north of the flatland/cheeseland border. All are listed on the menu with clever names, and I'm sure they would not disappoint if that was your craving.

We weren't out hunting standard fare today, however, especially when what should have been at tops a one hour forty five minute drive from Milwaukee, stretched to almost three hours due to the wonders of IL freeway construction. Frustration probably increased my hunger threefold by the time of arrival. This may have been fortunate, because Hot Doug's offers another extensive list of sausages, and the beauties on this list cannot, no WILL NOT, be classified as standard fare.

We knew Hot Doug's was a popular destination, and there a was line of 75 to 100 people lined up down the block. This was not overly daunting, as from what I had read, the restaurant ran like clockwork, and patrons file in and through at a steady pace. The clientele waited amiably in the pleasant sunshine along the side of the brick building. Young, old, well dressed, tattooed and pierced, a wide variety of Chicagoans shuffled forward slowly but surely, not an unhappy face in the crowd. In 25-30 minutes we entered the front door. There were about ten to twelve people between us, and from what I knew from my reading, Doug in large black frame glasses, taking orders at the counter. From what I had understand, it is almost always Doug taking orders, Monday through Friday, 10:30 am to 4:00 pm, no Sundays, no nights, and no holidays. He sometimes closes just because he wants to take some time off. He is known for his extraordinarily good nature.

When we hit the front counter, Doug did not disappoint. I mentioned we were down from Milwaukee, (myself, my wife, my ten year old daughter, and my friend Shawn), and since we had just endured the torture of the IL freeway system, we were going to sample a considerable number of his specialties. He laughed loudly and welcomed us heartily and appreciatively, pointing out his bobble head dolls of the Miller park racing sausages. It appears he relishes the contact with his customers, and also spends just enough time conversing to allow the restaurant to run smoothly.

Doug is fronted by an energetic crew of three and backed by an equally energetic crew of four. The three employees in front of the counter are constantly moving, talking and smiling while welcoming and seating customers after they order, delivering food, and busing tables. All this is done very quickly and efficiently, the guys cooking behind the counter are pumping out orders.

I was as excited as a little girl. The energy and good humor of the place are infectious. This is the list of specialty sausages we ordered and mostly consumed at Hot Doug's. We might have over ordered just a tad for three adults and one child, but we were on an adventure. Doug comped us our soft drinks out of respect for our willingness to travel.

The Game of the Week
Goji Berry Pheasant Sausage with Caribbean Mayonnaise and Cheese-Stuffed Sweet Peppers

This sausage was slightly sweet from the berries. The meat itself was not dry as I thought it might be. It is much more flavorful than a chicken sausage, but not gamey. The creamy mayo added a bit of spice. On the sandwich were three small sweet cherry type pepper halves filled with a creamy cheese. Everything blended together well. This one for me, tied for top billing.

Saucisse de Toulouse with Black Truffle Butter and St. Nectaire Cheese

This one was rich, rich, rich, but silky, silky, silky smooth. A mild, I believe pork, sausage, the bun lightly coated with the truffle butter, and topped generously with chunks of an also buttery soft pale yellow cheese. This had a mellow flavor and appealing mouth feel. It did not seem greasy, almost not a like a sausage sandwich. This one also tied for top honors.

Merguez Lamb Sausage with Spicy Harissa and Cana de Oveja

A smaller lamb link that was red and more dense than the first two. The Harissa was a red sauce that was spicy, but not torturous. The cheese reminded me of Brie. It had a similar rind, was creamy, and the taste remained pleasingly after a bite was swallowed. I liked this a lot, but there was maybe a bit too much cheese, or maybe not quite enough sauce.


The Atomic Bomb Spicy Pork Sausage with Spicy Passion Fruit-Mango Mayonnaise and Almond-Coated Goat Cheese

My wife ordered this link, and it was too spicy for her. The tightly packed sausage had some spice, similar to an andoullie. The goat cheese was mild, and the nuttiness of the almonds was an interesting contrast to the sweet/hot mayo. The mayo's heat really stayed in the mouth. It didn't make my eyes water, but I'm glad no one was voicing a sad story, because it was pretty close. I liked my couple bites quite well, but my wife just couldn't handle it.

Ribeye Steak Sausage with Chimichurri Sauce

The ribeye sausage was the bruiser of the order. Big and dense, a true tube steak. Designed to be a Latin grilled steak type of sausage with the chimichurri. This was my least favorite of the day. Not dry, but just too heavy. I would have enjoyed it more, with some grilled onions and maybe a cheese sauce, sort of a cheesesteak in a casing. I prefer mild garlic flavors, so it is not surprising I found the chimichurri a little overpowering.

Hot Doug's BLT: Bacon Sausage with Avocado Mayonnaise, Roma Tomatoes and Lettuce

I didn't sample this, unusual because I rarely turn away from anything bacon, but hey, even my voracious appetite has it's limits. My wife described it as "not bad, interesting." Not the most descriptive or shining review you'll ever hear, but I'll give it a shot at some point in the future.

DUCK FAT FRIES

That's right. Fresh cut french fries fried in duck fat. Creamy inside, a slight crispness to the exterior, they also have a not greasy silky flavor from the duck fat. We had two orders, which was a mistake because there had to have been at least a pound and half or more of potatoes. We ate about one order total, and even my daughter ate a good portion after first asking "what do they mean by duck fat fries?", and then crinkling her nose at the explanation.

My daughter also scarfed two steamed hot dogs. "Plain, nothing on them" as is her wont. She even scrapes the poppy seeds off the bun. She described them as "good". I asked if they had a nice snap. She said, "I guess." She's young, there's still time to learn.

As is probably obvious, we loved almost everything about Hot Doug's. I think it's great when you visit a highly spoken of restaurant that not only meets your expectations, but exceeds them. It doesn't hurt when it's great fun. I love a well executed fine dining experience as much as anyone, I think, but I also love the special locally owned burger joints, hot dog stands, pizzerias, ice cream parlors, the mom and pop breakfast place, etc. just as much. After experiencing Hot Doug's, not only the food, but Doug and his whole operation, I put today's' meal right there with some of the finest restaurant visits I have ever had. His special sausages I believe change regularly, and the the wild game sausage changes at least weekly. Like his tee shirts say, the two greatest words in the English language are "encased meat."

As we were leaving, he looked up from taking God knows what number order for the day, he smiled and asked if we enjoyed ourselves. I told him we were leaving as four very happy cheeseheads, and he burst out laughing. He can be pretty confident we'll be back. He's joined our list of Chicago favorites; O'Fame and Lou's for pizza, Al's for beef, Frontera Grill for mexican, Cafe Iberico for tapas, Shaw's for crab, The Cape Cod Room when we're feeling old school.

I think Hot Doug's set the tone for a great day. After eating we visited Myopic Books, a large used bookstore, where I found James Blish's A Case of Conscience, a science fiction classic I've been trying to locate for some time. Then we went to a children's film festival where in two hours we watched 20 short films made by children from all over the world. We all liked that very much, especially my ten year old daughter, who now wonders how she can make a film.

I know this is an incredibly long post, but I felt like sharing. I'm also going to post some pictures from Hot Doug's. I know that Nikko wants us to use the gallery, but I think they fit here nicely. I hope no one minds. There's also a link to Hot Doug's menu.

Kevin

Thanks, Chicago, I'm glad your down there.

Hot Doug's







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post #2 of 20
Sounds like a good place to go.

Phil
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #3 of 20
Once "road construction season" is over, I know where we'll be going! DH and I have been talking about a Chicago jaunt. I LOVE sausage, but the duck fat fries have my attention, too. Especially since my cholesterol levels have dropped..... :D
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post #4 of 20
Sounds like a great place. Some of those sausages are very appealing. So, let's see, if I get in my car now and head east, I can grab lunch on Tuesday ...

I like the pics incorporated into the message. Good decision.

Does Doug sell sausages by mail order?

shel
post #5 of 20
Thread Starter 
Mezz, make sure you head down there on a Friday or Saturday as those are the two days for duck fat fries. It's hard not to be intrigued. I mean come on, they're DUCK FAT fries. LOL. Also, I know from your posts that your husband is not a real adventuresome eater, but Cafe Iberico is a really good reasonably priced tapas restaurant. We eat a late lunch there every time we spend more than a day in Chicago. It gets really busy at night, which doesn't work that well with a ten year old in tow. Steer clear of the Paella Negro. Let's just say the abundance of squid ink in the dish did not agree with me. :eek:

Shel, I don't believe Doug makes many, if any, of these sausages in house (I could be wrong, but I doubt it), but rather tracks down quality products, and then uses his own ideas to creatively dress and serve them. I did a little Googling last night before posting, because I wanted more info on what I had just enjoyed, and in the process came across distributors for these types of encased meat goodies. There is a company in Northern, CA, for instance that makes a Goji Berry Pheasant sausage. They're out there.

Kevin

A Fall Sunday without the Packers playing moves sllllooooowwwlllyyy.

Here's a close up of the Goji Pheasant Sausage dressed up a la Hot Doug's.

post #6 of 20
Yers, it's Fabrique Délices, a local outfit. http://www.fabriquedelices.com/snatural.htm

Checking around, it seems that I can get their sausage at one of the nearby farmer's markets. Great news!

shel
post #7 of 20
Thread Starter 
As a clarification, apparently Doug works with a local sausage maker to create the sausages he serves. That makes his restaurant that much cooler.

Kevin
post #8 of 20
Yep, that's cool alright. However, I'll have to be satisfied with the local stuff :cry: Thanks for bringing these neat sausage variations to our attention.

shel
post #9 of 20
That is a great post! Sad I have driven by there but the lines always keep me going.
Thanks,

Nicko 
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Nicko 
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post #10 of 20
duck fat fries.....5.5 hours away.....
great post, thank you.
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #11 of 20
And when is that? :D
post #12 of 20
Wow, Musky! What a great post. Gotta eat there next time I'm in Chicago.
Sadly, my two sisters that used to live there have retired to Florida and Colorado-bummer.

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post #13 of 20
Thread Starter 
It is a really fun place. We went back again Saturday, using the Children's Film festival as a convenient excuse.

Two of the interesting specials I tried were the following. Both were sublime. I'm now officially sausageiated. :lol:

Corned Beef Sausage with Horseradish Mustard and Chicken Liver Mousse

Sweet and Savory Rabbit Sausage with Cassis Cream Sauce and Port Derby Cheese

Kevin

Put 'er in the ol' vise.
post #14 of 20
Kevin, great post!! You should submit that to Roadfood too.

I'm with shroomgirl on this. As I was reading I was calculating the drive time from Houston, TX! ;) No. Seriously.

*drooling*
post #15 of 20
Man, they do sound good. Perhaps Doug should open a branch in the vacant store down the road from me. He really should you know, and I'll work there for a very reasonable rate. He'll need someone who knows the area and the clientel.:lol:

shel
post #16 of 20
Very well presented Musky! I'm not sure how adventurous I am when it comes to a sausage sand or hot dog. Some might say I'm a stick in the mud about it. Only once in a while venturing past fried peppers or cheese to add Italian beef to my sausage or bacon and cheese to a dog(minus the regular Chicago style condiments of course).;) But I have to say many of the choices sounded very interesting and worth a try sometime. Actually, the DW and I have been talking about a trek back to Chicago. Just not sure when.

[
post #17 of 20
I'm going to have to go there!!  My husband loves encased meat of any kind, so he will think he's died and gone to heaven!  The used bookstore you mentioned sounds like a place we'll have to visit too. 
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post #18 of 20
I know all those wonderful gourmet sausage options are insanely tempting, but please, if you go to Hot Doug's, do yourself a favor and have one classic Chicago hot dog, with all the trimmings. You'll never really think about hot dogs the same way again.
post #19 of 20
Thread Starter 
 Good point.  I usually have a dog or two with the works as an appetizer.  LOL.

Kevin
post #20 of 20
It is going to be a stretch for me as I am not much of a meat eater..I do enjoy well prepared meats but honestly if I had to live without it I'd be fine.  My husband is the exact opposite but in the 20+ years we have been together he has started to eat and actually enjoy vegetarian dishes and we do meatless meals at least once or twice a week. 

That just said.. do they have the best hot dogs in town there?  While I am not a huge meat eater I do like a good hot dog!
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