Hot Doug’s Chicago Closing: Owner Doug Sohn Doing it His Way

Hot Doug’s Chicago Closing: Owner Doug Sohn Doing it His Way
Hot Doug's customers flock to the restaurant after hearing of the closing — Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune, May 6, 2014

We don’t relish the thought, but after 13 years of providing Chicago’s every man and woman with their sausage fantasies, Hot Doug' s will be closing--creating a big death in Chicago's food scene.

Word leaked out yesterday--shocking loyal fans as well as most of Chicago's media--that the cult sausage stand would soon be no more.

The announcement on the Hot Doug's website was casually mentioned, almost as an afterthought, and could have been easily missed. It said in large uppercase letters:

"HOT DOUG'S WILL BE CLOSED FOR MEMORIAL DAY(S)MONDAY, MAY 26 THROUGH WEDNESDAY, MAY 28
We will re-open Thursday, May 29"

Underneath that in lower case was this:

Oh by the way, permanent vacation begins Saturday, October 4.

Of course, it didn't take long before the whole world was informed, thanks to social media tweets from celebrities to loyal customers--and then the lines began to form.

hot1dougs

Sohn behind the counter—Nancy Stone / Chicago Tribune

As to why owner Doug Sohn decided to call it quits while his restaurant was still at the "top of the heap," he claims that he is “not burnt out” but that “It’s just time.”

Whether Hot Doug's truly had Chicago's best hot dogs and sausages is up for debate but Sohn's dynamic personality made him as beloved as his encased meats.

He is definitely a man who does it his way--open only for five-and-a-half hours, six days a week--Sohn works hard at the counter from 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Mondays through Saturdays, with evenings free to do as he pleases.  He also knows how to take a break--with his website posting this warning: "We also take a whole bunch of holidays off, so give us a call to make sure we're open (if it's a holiday)."

In a town that takes their hot dogs seriously, no hamburgers here--what makes Hot Doug's stand out from the rest? In a word, it's Sohn. His creative genius, marketing savvy (free hot dogs for life for those with Hot Doug's tattoos), dynamic personality and menu are the ingredients that add up to its recipe for success.

This success has won--the little "hot dog stand" that could, can and does--national recognition from the likes of television's Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” to "best of" lists from USA Today to the recently announced Daily Meal's list of the “50 Best Casual Restaurants in America."  Hot Doug's was one of only three Chicago restaurants on the DM list--coming in at number 5 besting the other two Chicago spots--Stephanie Izard's Little Goat and Avondale's Kuma’s Corner--by a long shot.

Credit: Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune

Credit: Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune

Beyond all that, Hot Doug's is fun and the food is inexpensive and delicious. You can get a Chicago-Style Hot Dog with all the trimmings for $2.50. Or step up to the most expensive offering on the daily menu, the $5.00, Bo Derek (formerly the Brigitte Bardot, the Salma Hayek, the Madonna, the Raquel Welch and the Ann-Margret) which features Andouille Sausage that is "Mighty, mighty, mighty hot!"  For $10.00, you can go gourmet on the "daily specials" menu with Foie Gras and Sauternes Duck Sausage with Truffle Aioli, Foie Gras Mousse and Fleur de Sel.  And, of course, you'll want to try their famous $4.00 Duck Fat Fries, available only on Fridays and Saturdays.  But hurry, as you only have until 4 p.m. on October 3, 2014.

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Filed under: Chicago Food

Tags: Hot Dogs, Hot Doug's

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