Saturday, June 21, 2008

Hot Doug's Encased Meat Emporium

3324 N. California Ave., Chicago, IL 60618. 773-279-9550.

Easily the hippest pups in town. This dinky but colorful joint says on its sign that it is the "Sausage Superstore" and even has it's own theme song for which there are rock, techno, and other mixes. Proprietor Doug Sohn serves the classic Chicago Hot Dog of course, the obligatory Polies, but then there are the rabbit, boar, pheasant, duck, and kangaroo sausages. How about a venison sausage with sweet and spicy mustard and red wine soaked dried blueberries for $5.50. All the sandwiches are served in a cardboard boat so the bun is fluffy and the contents are not squished.

You can get your Vienna Beef dog boiled or grilled, and their standard prep includes onions caramelized in butter for 90 minutes. Doug says "You can't go wrong adding butter to anything." Don't skip the very nice golden brown crispy fries, which, on Fridays and Saturdays are fried in flavorful duck fat.

The gregarious Doug is often working the counter. A pleasant erudite character who, in a former life was a cookbook editor, he is also a bit of a rebel. When the City of Chicago banned foie gras, he continued to serve it until they served him with the City's first foie gras summons.

He has outfitted his small dining room with colorful chairs, Elvis memorabilia, and loopy signs and wall hangings. Certainly one of the most fun hot dog stands in town. Unfortunately it closes at 4 p.m.

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