When word got out last May that Hot Doug’s would shutter its doors FOREVER on October 3, 2014, I knew I had to make a pilgrimage with the Hot Dog Stories “crew.” Since opening in 2001 (it’s been at the 324 N. California Ave. location since early 2005), Hot Doug’s became a Chicago icon.
Internationally recognized as the world’s number one hot dog and sausage emporium, Hot Doug’s gained an almost cult like status amongst lovers of encased meats in Chicago and all over the world. We were in line in front of a family from Paraguay!
Owner Doug Sohn isn’t offering Hot Doug’s for sale – he told us it’s his name on the business and he’d only sell if someone could “change his life.” That kind of money probably isn’t coming his way, so people only have until October 3 to get their fix.
What’s Next for Hot Doug’s?
We spoke to people all over Chicago – the city is practically in mourning about the closure – and there were many people willing to speculate about the post Hot Doug’s era. One guy thought Doug would come back after a several year hiatus (something Sohn is NOT ruling out). A lady told us he’s moving south. Another guy thought he was looking to franchise. Mr. Sohn won’t share his future plans, other than to say folks better get their fill of his fare before the closure date. His plan is to “not own a restaurant anymore.” The overall concensus was Doug was a hard worker and probably just needs a break.
He did hint he might take up interpretive dance after closing down, but he was unwilling to dance for us the day we were there! Hot Doug’s will be gone, but not forgotten – on Thursday, August 28, 2014, the establishment was inducted into the Hot Dog Hall of Fame!
Hot Doug’s Food
Hot Dogs and sausages rule the day at Hot Doug’s. The colorful fast food stand is known for its game sausages, Chicago hot dogs and the french fries fried in duck fat (available on Friday and Saturday only). The Hot Dog Stories crew munched on a Polish Sausage topped in the classic Chicago style; a Bratwurst with spicy mustard, fried onions, and kraut; and an Elk Sausage topped with Anti-Hero beer mustard, Jarlsburg Cheese and crispy fried onions. The Elk sausage was the best sausage I ever had! Even Mrs. Hotdogman, not known for her culinary exultations, proclaimed it “AWESOME!”
Whatever Mr. Sohn does in the future, he can be secure in the knowledge that he’s brought a smile to millions of encased meat fans world-wide. As the sign on the wall says, “There are no two finer words in the English language than ‘encased meats,’ my friend.”
Hot Doug’s Video
We did our standard video during our visit. We were forced to go “old school,” with one hand-held camera and no external microphones or tripod. The place was so jammed, it couldn’t accommodate the full complement of video equipment. It was a fun shoot and a great place to eat. Hot Doug’s will be missed!
Enjoy the video!