Hot Doug’s


3324 North California Street AND 3324 South California Street
Chicago, Illinois

5 Second Summary
Price Range- Regular hot dogs $1.75-$4.00, Specialty hot dogs $7.50-$8.00 (at time of posting)
Ambiance- Casual with a sense of humor (i.e., sausage jokes)
Cuisine- All varieties of encased meats, my friend
Hits- Truly original and some gourmet sausages, a Chicago institution
Misses- Long line may not be worth the wait


“Are you still waiting?” Rich asked via cell phone for the umpteenth time.

“Yeeeees,” I sighed.

“Those had better be the best hot dogs you’ve ever tasted.”


On an urban culinary expedition, my three girlfriends and I trekked to Hot Doug’s (the self-proclaimed “Sausage Superstore and Encased Meat Emporium”) in Chicago’s Avondale neighborhood for some of the city’s best… well, wieners.

Two hours in the rain and two $20 cab rides later, my friends and I finally got to sink our teeth into some sausage.

Chef Doug Sohn offers a variety of traditional sausages, dogs, and brats in addition to specialty items like the foie gras and Sauternes duck sausage with truffle aioli, foie gras mousse, and Sel Gris.  Craving Greek? While we visited, another special was the spinach and feta loukaniko with skordalia, kalamata olives, and feta cheese.  Another tempting treat: the spicy Thai chicken sausage with Thai peanut sauce and toasted coconut.


Since they were out of the vegetarian dogs, I went (forgive the pun) whole hog.  I had “The Dog,” a standard Chicago-style hot dog, and “The Marty Allen,” a slightly pricier but still very reasonable Thuringer sausage (so named for its origins in the German state of Thuringia and also known in Germany as rostbratwurst) made from beef, pork, and garlic— both served with my choice of fixin’s: caramelized onion, tomato, pickle, and celery salt (which I’ve rediscovered, love, and plan to use on darn near everything in the near future).


Lindsay, our resident cheese consumer, tried the Saucisson Alsacienne (the spelling of which I had to check five times): a decadent bacon sausage with crème fraiche, caramelized onion, and Montboissie cheese.  She also had the “Paul Kelly,” a bratwurst, which she insisted we couldn’t leave Chicago without trying, and “the Charlie and James Sohn,” a kids-meal-esque offering of mini bagel dogs and tater tots.

Caroline had the “Frankie ‘Five Angels’ Pentangelli” Italian sausage just plain, which prompted some ribbing about her lack of adventure from the Hot Doug’s staff, but –frankly (pun intended)- I thought it was the mark of a purist and a wise move.  She also ordered “The Sally Vega,” a corn dog, (because one of us had to) and the infamous duck fat fries (more on this later).


Erica also had the “Frankie ‘Five Angels’ Pentangelli” Italian sausage, but hers was topped with crisp, vinegary giardiniera salad, dijon mustard, and caramelized onion.  Like me, she ordered “The Dog” but with “everything” (trimmings defined by Hot Doug’s as mustard, relish, caramelized ontions, tomatoes, pickle, and celery salt).  Oh, and another order of duck fries (as if one order weren’t enough for our table…).  In the heady glee that accompanies finally reaching the front of the line, we totally over-ordered.


Hot dogs at Hot Doug’s can be served chargrilled, deep fried, steamed, or fried then grilled.  The Marty Allen had a great snap to it, that brilliant pop of casing when your teeth break the skin, that wasn’t really matched by the texture of The Dog.  The Marty Allen’s flavor was also superior, offering everything it’s description promised while the Dog was, well, a hot dog.  (I’m not nearly enough of a hot dog expert to authoritatively say which preparation makes the best snap, but if you do, please comment and fill us in!)

Was it worth $1.75? Yes.

Was it worth 2 hours on line in the rain? No.

The other big draw was the famous duck fat fries.  I have to salute Hot Doug’s on this bold move back to the rendered animal fat frying used by our immigrant ancestors (and some current Europeans).  Food writer Michael Pollan talks a great deal about the ever-changing vogue of health fads and the perceived dangers of animal fats versus the hydrogenated vegetable oils in margarine (the latter of which is popularly considered “safe” but, ironically, may elevate bad cholesterol more than saturated fats).  That said, we tasted no strongly discernible difference between the duck fat fries (which are available only on weekends) and the regular fries (available in small, large, and with cheese), which were thicker and more potato-y.

If we had more time, we would have done a taste test with one of Hot Doug’s Lincoln Park competitors, The Wiener’s Circle, where the Cubs-White Sox battle rages on and the employees are known for dishing out sarcasm with their ’dogs.

If you’re planning to visit Chicago and determined to stick out the line to complete the your shticky, tourist experience, I’d recommend getting there close to the 10:30 a.m. opening time to minimize your wait.  Hot Doug’s closes at 4 p.m.; with a 1-2 hour wait, I’d get there no later than 3.  If nothing else, it’s worth the laughs at Hot Doug’s super sense of humor:



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