Category Archives: Chicago

Chicago Dining Food Food & Entertaining Fun Restaurants Travel

Getaway Guide: Chicago Edition – Hot Doug’s.

When I planned the itinerary for my Chicago trip mid last month, I didn’t have a doubt in my mind whose itinerary I wanted to mimic, live and breathe just due to the sheer fact that I am totally, completely and utterly obsessed with him.  This man is god and to me, his word is gospel.  In this facet of my life, travel, eating and writing, there is only one man that I have fallen under the spell of.  Thanks to his unwavering charm, his snarky quick witted comments, and discerning yet unelitist taste, I have become a fan of a fifty-four year old chain smoking Frenchman from New York who goes by the name of Anthony Bordain.

Yes, I am an Anthony Bourdain bandaid/roadie. In spite of his lanky, weathered appearance, hard eyes and guaranteed tarnished teeth and La Brea tar pit-like breath, the man turns me on to life like no other man has and I bow down to him for that.

So in my recent travels to Chicago, I just had to frequent all the locations Anthony Bourdain visited during his No Reservations: Chicago episode.  I mean after all, just because I’m not a religious person shouldn’t mean that I can’t go on my own makeshift pilgrimage, right? RIGHT!  So with my printed itinerary in tow, I set off to the Windy City to be where he had been, eat where he had eaten, taste the foods he had tasted and maybe, just maybe, experience levels of culinary euphoria that is usually reserved for the gluttons and the famished alike.

Among the places we dined at was the infamous Hot Doug’s, the same establishment that Bourdain, a self proclaimed “meat in tube form” enthusiast, determined housed the best hot dog in all of America.  Located in a suburban neighborhood in the north part of Chicago, my friend, Tony (name doppelganger to my beloved was coincidental), and I hopped on the northbound 52 bus towards California/Roscoe and made the trek to Hot Doug’s.  We were, for a lack of a better word, less than prepared for what was in store for us.

We got off at the Roscoe stop and to our left stood a brick building with a seedy motel vacancy like sign brightly announcing Hot Doug’s presence amongst a rather ghostlike and barren part of town.  I began to think, “Was this part of the appeal of Hot Doug’s? Because if it is, I’m buying it!”

Welcome to Hot Doug’s. We have 4 vacancies. You’ll just have to wait in the cold for two hours.

Immediately beneath that sign ran a long line of hungry and cold customers braving the fierce winds of Chicago, huddled up along the side of the building that moved at a snail’s pace.  Believe it or not, it made the TSA lines at LAX feel like the drive-thru at McDonald’s.

And there we stood, for two full hours, in the windy coldness that is Chicago, waiting patiently…NO…zealously for our chance to partake in these mighty dogs.

And mighty they were!  Of their copious menu…

We ordered everything!

Well, almost everything.  We got the Ale and Chipotle Buffalo Sausage pictured above in Tony’s left hand.  It came with a bacon-garlic mayonnaise and maple smoked cheddar cheese.  I had one bite.  It was aiight.  Nothing to write home about.

We also ordered the Shiraz and Sweet Cherry Pork Sausage pictured below.  It was slathered with a pomegranate creme fraiche which tasted more like creamy wine and topped with a large helping of snow white cheese.  Yea, it sounded good, but not unlike Communism, what sounds good in theory doesn’t always work well in practice.  So I’m sorry to say my fellow capitalistic cronies, but this particular dog wreaked of Chairman Mao.

Next was the infamous Chicago Style Dog that earned Hot Doug’s the title of Best Hot Dog in America by the Almighty Bourdain.  It was actually pretty good because the sweetness of the tomatoes and the tartness of the pickles balanced out the richness and heavyness of what one usually experiences when eating a sausage.  Also, the celery salt gave it that added savory sodium and msg laden punch that us Asians just love so much.  Cancer schmancer.

The Foie Gras and Sauternes Duck Sausage which came adorned with a beautifully fragrant truffle aioli, a smooth foie gras mouse and sprinkled lightly with fleur de sel was my personal favorite.  But that’s because I LOVE foie gras.  It makes everything, and I mean everything, taste that much better.  So with that said, my opinion of this dish is skewed for that reason alone because I do recognize that the duck sausage itself was overcooked and dry.  My recommendation: ask them to throw salmonella to the wind and cook it medium rare.

A heart attack waiting to happen.

And as if that wasn’t enough food for two, we decided to order a side of their duck fat fries.  Although I would love to announce that the fries were heavily laden with the savory duck fat aroma, in this particular order, they really weren’t.  And to be honest with you, I couldn’t even taste the difference.  Maybe it’s because I’m getting old and my taste buds are slacking off but I tried and I tried.  I even closed my eyes and imagined little ducks running around but nothing.  Nada.  The thing is, I’ve had fries fried in bacon fat at Laurel Tavern in Sherman Oaks, CA and that my friend, is hard to compete with.

All in all, Hot Doug’s is good eats!  However, I highly recommend not over doing it as I did.  Eat what you can.  Leave what you can’t.  The food there is very filling.  After standing in line for two hours in the freezing cold and risking hypothermia, I couldn’t rationalize not finishing this food that I treked so far and hard for.   So at 3pm that Saturday afternoon, even though I have never eaten more than one hot dog in one sitting, I managed to choke down two sausages (insert perverse comment here), as well as half an order of duck fat fries. How did I feel afterwords? Lets just say I was still so nauseous by midnight that I couldn’t even muster up the stomach to finish my drink atop the Hancock Building.

Hot Chocolate Pixie: Bailey’s Irish Cream, Butterscotch schnapps, hot cocoa

And having jumped out of a plane twice…

The most amazing thing you can do with your clothes on.

I can assure you that it wasn’t due to the heights.

View from the Signature Lounge on the 96th floor of the Hancock Building.

All in and all, I’d have to say that I’m glad that I’m allowing myself to let myself go, and somewhat follow group think, to a certain degree.  I’ve always had this fear that I would become this soulless drone of a person if I stopped listening to who I was and allowed myself to blindly follow the status quo, with no regard for what I truly wanted for myself. But what I’m beginning to learn is that it’s ok if what I want for myself occasionally coincides with what everyone else wants.  Because in the end, no matter what I own, what I eat, where I am, who I’m with or what I do…I will always be me.  Happy, excited, curious, lovable and enthusiastic little ole me!