My boyfriend and I arrived at Hot Doug’s at the corner of California and Roscoe in Chicago at 10:10 this morning, with growling stomachs, ready for some… brunch?
The restaurant, famous for its specialty “encased meats,” doesn’t open until 10:30, but we’d heard about the long lines, especially on Saturdays, and considering the downpour of rain in Chicago this weekend, we wanted to get there and have as little of a wait as possible.
Yet, despite the early hour, we still didn’t end up being the first in line. We squeezed into the front entryway, a three by five foot space, where ten other people stood, waiting for the doors to be opened. We poured over the menu while we waited, trying to decide between three-chili wild boar sausage or the spicy thai chicken sausage or any other number of meaty pieces of goodness.
When the doors opened, the people poured in, streaming in from outside, dripping wet from standing out in the rain, and came into the brightness that is Hot Doug’s. And by “brightness,” I mean that literally. The vibrant yellow walls are covered in photos of celebrities—the most were of, by far, Elvis. One wall detailed the history of encased meats, beginning with Neanderthals eating a sausage on a stick. The mantra of the restaurant also decorated the restaurant along with the server’s t-shirts: “There are no two finer words in the English language than ‘encased meats,’ my friend.”
The line moved quickly enough, and it was about 10:45 by the time the boy and I were seated and the food was delivered to our table. The boy couldn’t decide between two, so he ordered both. The blue cheese pork sausage—doused in a pear cream sauce and covered in smoked almonds—had an earthy, slightly crunchy flavor. The foie gras and sauternes duck sausage, which was decorated with a truffle sauce and other gourmet food items that I don’t know anything about, was okay, I thought. I didn’t like the hint of cinnamon flavor. But the boy loved it, even though he admitted that the delicate flavor of the foie grass was overwhelmed by the sauce.
Despite being indecisive, at first, I went with the cognac-infused pheasant sausage that was covered with a pomegranate-raspberry crème fraiche and goat cheese. The toppings went so well with the game sausage; the crème fraiche added a sweet flavor, while the goat cheese balanced it with a bit of tartness. Heaven! And, with the bit of sweetness,it was kind of like brunch.
But, wait, I’m not done! The boy and I split an enormous single serving of duck-fat fries, which is only served on Fridays and Saturdays. Drool. Seriously. They were crispy and salty, and oh so delicious.
Once completely satiated (meaning, every last drop was eaten), we walked out the door we had walked in only forty-five minutes or so before. The line was still there, still growing. It wound out the door and down Roscoe’s sidewalk, nearing the alleyway, meaning that the wait would be at least an hour.
That’s how amazing this place is. Rain or shine, freezing temperatures or humid air, people will be there, willing to wait in line for some specialty dogs.
I know I’m already planning on going back, wanting to try everything on the menu as someone ahead of me in line had. Plans are already in motion. My birthday weekend, only two weeks away, I will be there!