Sunday, June 1, 2014
I have been to Hot Doug's many times and it is probably my favorite hot dog joint that I have ever been to. I figured that since it has announced that it would be closing in October, I should come and actually write about it. Located in Avondale, it is actually much more than your average hot dog stand, they bill themselves as an Encased Meat Emporium and Sausage Superstore. While it does have the standards that you would find at your average hot dog stand, the Chicago Dog, Polish, Red Hot, Corn Dog, Brat, Thuringer, and Italian dogs, (named after celebrities) as well as fries and fountain drinks, the lines form, and there are very long lines, for the specials. They have such things as Alligator Sausage with Cajun Shrimp Remoulade, Steak Au Poivre sausage with Four Roses Bourbon Mustard, Emmantal Cheese, and Crispy Fried Onions, and Foie Gras and Sauternes Duck Sausage with Truffle Aioli, Foie Gras Mousse, and Fleur de Sel. If I'm going to talk about the restaurant, the first thing that I should talk about is talk about the line. Part of the line is probably due to the fact that Hot Doug's is only open essentially for lunch (10:30 am to 4 pm) and it is only open when Doug Sohn, the owner/creator of Hot Doug's is there to run the cash register. The place is small, seating maybe 40 people, it's open only for a limited time, and the hot dogs are really creative and good. It's a perfect storm for creating a long line. On the day that I went, it was the Friday before Memorial Day, a long weekend, when many people start there weekend early. Add to that the fact that Doug had recently announced that he would be closing and that he said that he would be taking the next week off and the line was especially long. Despite the long line, the people that join the line know ahead of time what they are getting into and are generally pretty good spirited about it. Many people brought things to occupy there time in the line. I had my Kindle as I saw other people have and other people had their smart phones and video games. I talked with the people that I stood in line with and we ended up playing several rounds of Heads Up. We waited in line for 3 hours which is exceptionally long and if I had know beforehand how long it would take, I may not have taken the plunge despite the fact that I got along well with the people with whom I was in line. However, once I was committed to standing in line and had no plans for the rest of the day, I was not going to leave the line. The interior of Hot Doug's is brightly colored and filled with pop culture and kitsch. There is a counter along the front of the restaurant but most of the seating is with two tops along the wall and larger round tables in the center of the dining room. After you place your order with Doug and pay, you are seated and your food is brought to you. I sat at a round table with the three people that I had spent the last three hours with.
As I stood in line for three hours, I ended up ordering two specialty dogs and some Duck Fat Fries which are only offered on Friday and Saturday. The duck fat fries are only offered in a large size and are amazing. They are like the best fries, salty and crisp, with a soft interior. I assume that the large size is because they are so popular that the smaller size was never ordered and people were just wolfing down the large size.
For the first of my specialty dogs, I ordered a Merguez Sausage with Halloumi Cheese and Harissa Sauce. Merguez is a spicy lamb sausage that originated in North Africa. Halloumi Cheese is an unripened semi-hard Cypriot cheese similar in texture to fresh mozzarella made with goat and/or sheep's milk and Harissa is a hot pepper sauce that originated in Tunisia. Everything originated in the same region of the world so they went together well. It was spicy, as I had expected it to be, but I also expected it to be fairly gamy as lamb generally is. It did have a different and stronger flavor than pork or beef does, but it wasn't especially gamy and I did enjoy it.
The other sausage was definitely different. It started with an Escargot and Guanciale Sausage (snail with pork jowl) to which was added Parsley-Garlic Goat Butter and Double Cream Brie Cheese. The sausage was a combination I wouldn't have thought of putting together or would have guessed would work. Escargot has an earthy and savory flavor but texturally, I don't know if it would hold a sausage together well. I imagine that this is why the guanciale was used. It has a baconish flavor that is both stronger in flavor and more delicate in texture than regular bacon (kind of similar to Prosciutto). While the color of the sausage wasn't exceptionally appetizing with a grayish flavor which would have come from the escargot, it did taste very good with the escargot and guanciale complementing each other well.. Texturally, the sausage was pretty delicate but the garlic goat butter and the brie added some depth to it. Having said that, I wasn't a huge fan of the how the brie went with the sausage. I think that I would have the sausage again if it wasn't matched with the brie.
I enjoyed my trip to Hot Doug's. The people were friendly, both the people that I met in line, Doug, and the employees, and the food was very creative and good. I will probably visit at least a couple of times before it closes for good in October. Hopefully, I won't have to deal with another 3 hour line.