It looks like Hot Doug's, the holy temple of hot dogs located in Avondale, is closing.
Hot Doug's has risen to Chicago fame in the hearts of many and is regarded as the best hot dog spot in the city. With daily lines around the door, people are willing to wait an ungodly amount of time to get a bite at the "Sausage Superstore and Encased Meat Emporium." It's not unusual to see someone even wearing a Hot Doug's shirt as you trek around the city -- I've even seen people with Hot Doug's tattoos.
So, for people who eat food (which is all of us, right?), this is sort of a big deal.
If you go to the Hot Doug's website, you'll see an ominous note on their front page: "... permanent vacation begins Saturday, October 4."
According to Doug "Hot Doug" Sohn himself, who spoke to DNA Info this morning, "it's time to do something else." So yes, they will be closing "for good" in October.
"There really is no overwhelming reason other than it's time to go do something else," Doug told DNA Info. "The plan is not to own a restaurant anymore."
On a personal note, it feels like my significant other just said, "It's not you, it's me," before breaking up with me. It stings.
With a constant rotation of exotic sausages, Hot Doug's easily earns the "Sausage Superstore and Encased Meat Emporium" title the restaurant has given itself. In a town ruled by Vienna Beef, it's impressive that a joint selling andouille and thuringer sausages (or the Malin Akerman and Bo Derek, as the restaurant currently calls them) could rise to the top of the Chicago food chain. Not to say Chicagoans don't like their sausages, they love their sausages, but when it comes to hot dog restaurants, Chicagoans tend to prefer their personal neighborhood joint, the one that gives them a Vienna dog on a poppy seed bun with way too much mustard (I bet that place doesn't even have duck fat fries).
Here's the key though: Hot Doug's thoroughly feels like a neighborhood joint (well, it is). It's small, the staff is nice and will act like they've known ya forever -- even if it's your first time there -- and it definitely lacks the pretension Chicago's recent "gastropubs" have brought to the city.
And soon, Hot Doug's will be gone. Closed. Kaput.
Is all hope lost? Who knows. Maybe Hot Doug's and I will run into each other years from now. Maybe on a trek to Paris, or as I walk down the street of whatever Chicago neighborhood I've decided to raise my family in. Maybe we'll meet eyes. Sure, we'll both have moved on, but for a split second we'll share the fiery love we'd had years before.
I'll go in for a hot dog. Not to try and get back the good ol' days, but just for old times' sake. A nod to a memory, an homage to our lost love.
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