Saturday, May 31, 2008

Hot Diggity Doug's (an iconic Chicago field trip)

For months now I've been following with growing, make that great intrigue, the shaggy chic (if not downright haute) North Side neighbor-hood 'foodie' chatter surrounding a certain hot dog stand at the no-mans-land corner of Roscoe and California Avenues in the Avondale section of town. Location, location, location (the ubiquitous Chicago real estate mantra) my arse. I kid you not, dear readers...the joint is in an annexed tract of light manufacturing sprawl where you might still be able to get some land for free if you stake a claim with the City of Chicago and know someone at City Hall. (And yes, as always I exaggerate.)

It's "Hot Doug's this" and "Hot Doug's that...." say they all; at dinner parties, over cocktails at unhappy hours everywhere from the Gold Coast to Rogers Park, in churches all across Chicago (I'm guessing). Everyone's talking about it but nobody I know has actually ever eaten there.

Like Yogi Berra (the Ronnie Santo of the East Coast malapropism) once proclaimed..."Nobody ever eats there...the line is always too long to get in." Ahem.

On two previous occasions I attempted to stop in for a taste of their famous Chicago hot dogs and accompanying 'Duck Fat' Chicago fries, mainstays both. Each time the line to simply get in the joint nearly wrapped around an entire city block. Once inside, an equally tedius wait is in order before you actually get your food.

It was raining farm animals yesterday morning as I awoke and since it was indeed Friday, one of the only two 'Duck Fat Days' (along with Saturday), I figured I stood my best chance of finally sinking my chops into a Hot diggity Doug dog. After all, what other knucklehead would be willing to drive through a torrent in a Mini Cooper for a mere taste of encased meat and shoe string potatoes deep fried in foie gras? Besides me, that is...and about 75 other knuckleheads? (See picture above)

I waited in the rain outside of Hot Doug's for 30 minutes as the gentleman behind me, (pictured left) actually intelligent enough the bring an umbrella to a rain storm, refused to share his shelter...or even make eye contact. I waited another 10 minutes in the vestibule with 12 other people, and when I finally did place my order---a Keira Knightley (super hot...get it?) with 'everything' (in Chicago 'everything' means mustard, neon green relish, grilled onions, tomatoes, pickle, hot peppers and celery salt), an order of Duck Fat Fries, and a Coke Zero (watching the calories, you know)---I waited another 15 minutes for the food.

Also on the menu that day were Alligator Dogs, Parsley Infused Weisswurst Dogs, Chipolte and Cilantro Smoked Chicken Sausage Dogs, and a half dozen other varieties of blended meat Dogs; bratworsts, sausages, and kielbasis. Sadly though, Friday's Special 'Celebrity Sausage' was the Harvey Korman (may his funny soul rest in new found peace)---Sun-Dried Tomato and Basil Chicken Sausage with Vodka-Cream Marinara and Burrata Cheese. Oh yeah, just so we're perfectly clear, only non Duck Fat Fries are served up Mondays through Thursdays.

John Lennon and Yoko stopped in (also pictured above) and ordered two Pete Shelley's (a Vegetarian Dog if you can even Imagine such an animal). 'It's easy if you try...'

Finally my own name was called and I grabbed my satchels of charbroiled snouts with all the trimmings and raced home to my bride to share the feast. My dog met me at the door, already having sniffed the duck fatted vittles from two blocks away. I emptied the food from the greasy brown bags onto white paper plates. The kitchen immediately smelled like duck liver. I almost gagged....

Now I'm not quite sure why I would even fathom liking anything prepared in duck fat, or foie gras, or any kind of liver for that matter. (You ought to see what I've done to my own liver over the years, for crissakes.) I was clearly caught up in the hype. Sure, the dogs were good but all dogs in Chicago are good. Hot Doug's makes a darn good Chicago style hot dog, this much is true. And I suppose if you don't hate ducks and liver then the fries are pretty tasty, as well. But if you ask me, people are just looking for an excuse, any excuse, to stand in a long line to say they've done the new 'In' thing. It was Monkees tickets when I was 10. It was Tickle Me Elmo when my niece was 4. It's my wife and her friends tonight for that whole Sex and the City and Cosmo hoopla. It was me yesterday (along with 75 other zombies) in a torrential downpour....

So I digress. As I was about to finally exit the restaurant, the guy with the umbrella, my fellow line standing follower of the masses, made a snide comment as to my constant picture taking during the previous hour.

"Tourist" he muttered.

"No, blogger," I snapped back.

"I'm a real estate blogger," I wanted to say, but didn't---stopping just short. He simply looked at me with his perfectly dry face without making eye contact; collapsed umbrella in one hand, CTA Bus pass in the other, awaiting his own name to be called. I wanted to add a little something extra about him being a professional duck loving line stander, what with his Bus Pass, premeditated umbrella, and all but I let it slide. It was raining farm animals outside and I had my own real estate challenges awaiting my attention. And as I sped off toward the old homestead and the oily waft from the brown paper satchels filled the interior compartment of my Cooper, I wondered what my dog thought about duck liver, the $13 I just spent on hot dogs, and if I really did look like a tourist...

Geno Petro

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