Hot Doug's Exterior
|Slogan||The Sausage Superstore and Encased Meat Emporium|
|Closed||October 3, 2014|
|Previous owner(s)||Doug Sohn|
|Head chef||Doug Sohn|
|Food type||Hot Dogs|
|Street address||3324 N California Ave|
Hot Doug's was a Chicago, Illinois-based restaurant specializing in a variety of hot dogs and sausages. The self-proclaimed "Sausage Superstore and Encased Meat Emporium" was in its second location at 3324 North California Avenue in the city's Avondale neighborhood before it closed on October 3, 2014. Its first location, on Roscoe Street, closed after a 2004 fire. Hot Doug's was frequently featured in local and national media for its unique menu, and its purveyor and head chef, Doug Sohn, has been noted for his work to create affordable gourmet food. The restaurant was an extremely popular dining destination among both locals and tourists, and at lunch time and throughout much of the weekend customers could expect to wait in lines sometimes exceeding an hour just to get in the door.
Hot Doug's featured a diverse and rotating menu that includes the traditional Chicago dog, as well as more exotic items such as the "Game of the Week," a rotating selection of game-animal sausages. The menu also featured several recurring specials. Some specials that have been featured include Calvados Infused Duck Sausage with Apple Mustard; Beef and Lamb Gyros Sausage with Artichoke Tzatziki, Kalamata Olives and Feta Cheese; and White Wine and Dijon Rabbit Sausage with Sauce Moutarde and Tilsiter Cheese. Most of the items on the menu - both specials and regulars - were named after a celebrity, a well-known Chicago personality, or friends and relatives of owner Doug Sohn. Examples include the "Elvis" (polish sausage), the "Brigitte Bardot" (spicy andouille sausage), and the "Charlie and James Sohn" (mini bagel dogs and tater tots). The names attached to the permanent menu items were changed frequently but usually maintain a consistent theme: iconic Hollywood sex symbols, legendary comedians, famous Chicago Cubs baseball players, and so on. Hot Doug's was also notable for its duck fat fries, served on Fridays and Saturdays only, in which the potatoes are deep fried in rendered duck fat.
Hot Doug's won a 2006 Good Eating award from the Chicago Tribune, which noted the restaurant's "cult status" among hot dog aficionados. Hot Doug's has been featured as a Critics Pick on CBS, NBC, ABC, and the Travel Channel, and was featured in the Chicago episode of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. He has also been featured in The New York Times, USA Today, Bon Appetit, The Chicago Tribune, The Sun Times, Time Out Chicago and many other publications. Hot Doug's is highly rated by The Zagat Survey and is included in many of its Top Lists including Food Tops and Best Buys. Bon Appetit listed it as one of the 50 Best Restaurants on the Planet. The editors of Citysearch Chicago named Hot Doug's the 2006 Editorial Winner for Best Chicago Hot Dog. The restaurant also received a 2007 Best Hot Dog honors in a reader poll conducted by the magazine Time Out Chicago.
Foie Gras Controversy
In 2006, Hot Doug's garnered media attention when it continued to serve various foie gras-based sausages and condiments following the banning of foie gras by the city of Chicago. The ban had been pushed by Chicago chef Charlie Trotter and Alderman Joe Moore. Trotter entered into a public debate with Doug Sohn and other Chicago restaurateurs, arguing that the making of foie gras constituted cruelty to animals. Sohn flagrantly flouted the law by developing a "celebrity" dog made with foie gras, naming it after Ald. Joe Moore and selling the "Joe Moore" during the ban. Sohn, the owner of Hot Doug's, was eventually fined $250 and 30 pounds of foie gras were confiscated from the restaurant. While Sohn may not have entered the argument to drum up sales, the restaurant did benefit from the controversy as it served as free publicity. Sohn was the first in the city to be fined, though a city spokesman stated that enforcement of the ordinance was "one of our lowest priorities". The ban was repealed in May 2008 and the foie gras items were brought back into the restaurant's rotating menu lineup. Hot Doug's specialty duck fat fries weren't affected by the ban.
On May 6, 2014, Doug Sohn announced that he would be permanently closing Hot Doug's on Friday, October 3, 2014. Sohn decided to end operations as "it was time to do something else" and get out of the restaurant business. On the last day, the line was so long, additional customers were turned away at 6:30am, 4 hours before the restaurant was to open. A charity auction will be held to sell off some of the memorabilia from the restaurant.
- Nagrant, Michael (2007-01-16). "Mass Appeal: Resolution for a food revolution". Newcity Chicago. Retrieved 2007-05-08.
- "Hot Doug's... or... Why All Meat Should Be Encased". Skillet Doux. 2006-04-22. Retrieved 2007-05-08.
- Vettel, Phil (2006-11-01). "The 2006 Good Eating awards". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2007-05-08.
- "Best Chicago Hot Dog 2006". Citysearch Chicago. 2006. Retrieved 2007-05-08.
- "Readers' Choice: Best Hot Dog". Time Out Chicago. 2007-03-29. Retrieved 2007-05-08.
- Meisner, Jason; Emma Graves Fitzsimmons (2007-05-07). "Foie gras purveyor fined". Chicago Tribune. Tribune Co. Retrieved 2007-05-07.
- "Hot Doug's closing doors for good in October". Chicago Tribune. 2014-10-03. Retrieved 2016-07-29.
- "Hot Doug's closes: snapshots from the final day". Timeout.com. 2014-10-01. Retrieved 2016-07-29.
- "Hot Doug's: The exit interview". Chicago Tribune. 2014-10-03. Retrieved 2016-07-29.
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