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Lunch at Hot Doug’s

2009/08/13

I had been looking forward to this lunch for weeks in advance of my trip to Chicago. It was quite possibly the place I was most looking forward to. Hot Doug’s (“The Sausage Superstore and Encased Meat Emporium”)  is in Avondale, way up on N. California. It’s only open until 4pm and closed Sundays. Yeah they have regular hot dogs, but it’s all about their sausages. And did I mention they do duck fat fries on Fridays and Saturdays? Oh yes … it’s fantastic! There’s a reason why Anthony Bourdain popped in during his No Reservations visit to Chicago and why it’s on his list of 13 Places You Must Eat Before You Die. One caveat: if you want to eat there on Saturday, you better get there very, very early. We arrived at 11:30am and still had to wait in line for two hours (they open at 10:30am). Don’t believe me? Check out this line:

Line at Hot Dougs

Line at Hot Doug's

Before you scoff at waiting in line that long, read on. Because it was totally worth it. The four of us decided on 8 sausages that we would split – a tasting menu of encased meat, if you will. An order of duck fat fries and some beverages, and we were good to go. Check out the spread:

Clockwise from lower right: duck fat fries, Spicy Smoked Alligator Sausage with Cajun Remoulade and St. Petes Blue Cheese, Irish Banger with Goose Island Honkers Ale Mustard and Irish Harp Cheddar Cheese, Jamaican Jerk Pork Sausage with Spicy Mango-Passion Fruit Mayonnaise and Roasted Plantains, Ribeye Steak Sausage with Horseradish Cream Sauce and Crispy Fried Onions.

Clockwise from lower right: duck fat fries, Spicy Smoked Alligator Sausage with Cajun Remoulade and St. Pete's Blue Cheese, Irish Banger with Goose Island Honker's Ale Mustard and Irish Harp Cheddar Cheese, Jamaican Jerk Pork Sausage with Spicy Mango-Passion Fruit Mayonnaise and Roasted Plantains, Ribeye Steak Sausage with Horseradish Cream Sauce and Crispy Fried Onions

Clockwise from upper right: Foie Gras and Sauternes Duck Sausage with Truffle Aioli, Foie Gras Mousse and Sel Gris, Venison and blueberry sausage with brie, Merguez Lamb Sausage with Spicy Harissa and Goat Cheese, Burgundy and Citrus Pork Sausage with Sun-Dried Tomato Mustard and Montsegur Peppercorn Cheese

Clockwise from upper right: Foie Gras and Sauternes Duck Sausage with Truffle Aioli, Foie Gras Mousse and Sel Gris, Venison and blueberry sausage with brie, Merguez Lamb Sausage with Spicy Harissa and Goat Cheese, Burgundy and Citrus Pork Sausage with Sun-Dried Tomato Mustard and Montsegur Peppercorn Cheese

Merguez Lamb Sausage with Spicy Harissa and Goat Cheese

Merguez Lamb Sausage with Spicy Harissa and Goat Cheese

First up, the Merguez sausage with harissa and goat cheese. One of the best sausages we had all day. Nice gaminess from the lamb, well spiced, heightened by the harissa and then cooled off with generous chunks of goat cheese. What’s not to like?

Venison and blueberry sausage with brie

Venison and blueberry sausage with brie

From one of the best, we moved onto one of the least favourites. Venison is tough to turn into a sausage because it’s quite lean. It was not helped by a pretty gross blueberry sauce. Brie didn’t help much. I found it to be a bit of a trainwreck, and a bland one at that.

Foie Gras and Sauternes Duck Sausage with Truffle Aioli, Foie Gras Mousse and Sel Gris

Foie Gras and Sauternes Duck Sausage with Truffle Aioli, Foie Gras Mousse and Sel Gris

We recovered quickly with the single sausage that I was most looking forward to. Foie Gras and Sauternes duck sausage, truffle aioli, healthy slabs of foie gras mousse and a sprinkling of grey salt. When one hypes something up so much, sometimes the actual delivery falls short, leaving a sense of disappointment. This was definitely not the case with the duck sausage. It was amazing! Duck on duck in the bun, chased with more duck in the duck fat fries. Duck cubed? AWESOME. Check out the cross-section:

Foie Gras and Sauternes Duck Sausage with Truffle Aioli, Foie Gras Mousse and Sel Gris

Foie Gras and Sauternes Duck Sausage with Truffle Aioli, Foie Gras Mousse and Sel Gris

Burgundy and Citrus Pork Sausage with Sun-Dried Tomato Mustard and Montsegur Peppercorn Cheese

Burgundy and Citrus Pork Sausage with Sun-Dried Tomato Mustard and Montsegur Peppercorn Cheese

This was a much lighter sausage and I really liked the citrus notes with the pork. The peppercorn cheese punched up the back end and made it really enjoyable. Up there with the best on the day.

Even though we ate them throughout lunch, here’s a blog intermezzo for you – duck fat fries! It was great to see malt vinegar at Doug’s as I find it rare to get any vinegar when visiting the US, let alone malt. So much better!

Duck fat fries

Duck fat fries

Ribeye Steak Sausage with Horseradish Cream Sauce and Crispy Fried Onions

Ribeye Steak Sausage with Horseradish Cream Sauce and Crispy Fried Onions

The steak sausage was pretty tasty. Texturally it was quite different than the other sausages as the grind was more coarse. A little extra horseradish in the sauce would have been nice but it was tasty nonetheless.

Spicy Smoked Alligator Sausage with Cajun Remoulade and St. Petes Blue Cheese

Spicy Smoked Alligator Sausage with Cajun Remoulade and St. Pete's Blue Cheese

Strong flavours were the hallmark of this sausage. Alligator, smoke, lots of spice, and a strong blue cheese. You might think all these flavours would clash and result in a trainwreck but not here. It was fantastic.  Just missed out on a top three selection.

Irish Banger with Goose Island Honkers Ale Mustard and Irish Harp Cheddar Cheese

Irish Banger with Goose Island Honker's Ale Mustard and Irish Harp Cheddar Cheese

Good banger. Very fine grind and a bunch of beer-related condiments – both the mustard and cheese contained it. Would make a good breakfast sausage also!

Jamaican Jerk Pork Sausage with Spicy Mango-Passion Fruit Mayonnaise and Roasted Plantains

Jamaican Jerk Pork Sausage with Spicy Mango-Passion Fruit Mayonnaise and Roasted Plantains

And finally, another unsuccessful sausage. It was better than the venison-blueberry though. When something is going to have jerk spicing, I expect some heat. There wasn’t much at all. The worst part were the “plaintains,” though. They tasted more like banana because of their sweetness and lack of starchiness, and were just downright mushy. Eww.

By the time all the sausages were gone, we were thoroughly stuffed. Dinner was not to be had until very late in the evening as a result. In no particular order, my favourites were the Merguez, duck with foie, and Burgundy citrus sausages. Honourable mention to the smoked alligator. Would I go again? Yes. Would I wait in line for 2 hours again? Yes. Do it. Go. Listen to Tony … eat there before you die!

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