If you’re looking at the number of Covid-19 cases increasing daily (50,000 at latest count) and you’re pining away for your annual Fourth of July family get-together, I stumbled across something that might just help.
Remember Hot Doug Sohn – the affable and amiable proprietor of Hot Doug’s in Chicago, with his wild boar and pate and elk sausage hot dogs and his scrumptious duck fat fries? He’s back! Well, kind of. He’s on the big screen (well, on whatever size TV screen you have) in “Hot Doug: The Movie.”
These days, the real experience has been gone for six years, and the movie theaters are closed, so we must work with what we have left. Instead of a fireworks display, get a box of sparklers.
But if you’re thinking of grilling up some quality dogs with your significant other or kids or whatever close-knit home arrangement you have with someone this weekend, or even if you’re flying solo these days, you could do worse than relive the great social experience that a visit to Hot Doug’s was.
What you will be taken with right away is the social connections that happened there. There he is, Hot Doug himself, behind the counter, joking with his customers with the incredible ease of a buddy, which is what he was to his legion of followers. Somebody sidles up shyly and asks to shake his hand – he offers it up tentatively with a joke and a big laugh, and then gives her a bear hug, all while keeping the orders expedited.
To be in line felt like you were awaiting a book signing by a celebrated author, and once you got to the counter, you were pleased to see that Hot Doug was such a nice guy – a real down-to-earth mensch with an easy laugh and a jocular manner. You have arrived – and you would soon experience the best encased meat you’ve ever had.
Calling his creations hot dogs never seemed appropriate. That’s why he was never in the running for Golden Weenie, our annual prize awarded to the best Chicago Style Hot Dog in the city.
Apart from the Chicago Dog (which was outstanding), there was the Sal Tessio Italian Sausage, the Anna Kendrick (self-explanatory), the Ale and Chipotle Buffalo Sausage with Smokey Bacon Sauce and Sage Derby Cheese, the Spinach and Feta-Stuffed Pork Loukaniko with Artichoke Raita, Kalamata Olives and Feta Cheese, the Foie Gras and Sauternes Duck Sausage with Truffle Aioli, Foie Gras Mousse and Fleur de Sel, and the Ribeye Steak Sausage with Horseradish Cream, Maple-Smoked Cheddar Cheese and Crispy Fried Onions (which I can also vouch for).
It all sounds pretty frou-frou, and I was a skeptic before I was invited there once by Hot-C. First time out, I got the Chicago Style Dog. No judgment from Hot Doug, other than perhaps a remark from him about being a straight-up, no-frills kind of guy, and his apology to Hot-C for that. I liked him immediately. Everybody did. Seeing him in the movie was a treat.
You’ll see a collection of devotees paying homage to Hot Doug, his wife, expressing disbelief in people waiting five hours in line for a hot dog, folks with Hot Doug tattoos (for a gallery, here is a previous blog), and his employees, many of whom were with him for more than a decade in some cases, and who decided to stay until the end, which came about on a chilly October day.
In these times, on this holiday, crack open a cold one or six, get some decent sausages, order up the movie, (free on Amazon Prime) and hope for better days when we can all hang out together again.
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