Thursday, February 26, 2009

Standing in Line at Hot Doug's

Last weekend we were in Chicago for a wine conference. Now, if you know us, you know that everything we do is done in the context of food. Our day's schedule, our visits with friends and family, and especially our travel is all related to food. So of course it is no surprise that far in advance I began my research of the foodie world in Chicago so we would not miss out on a unique experience.

Did I say unique? You might have caught Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations show about Chicago. I did, and was intrigued by this little corner restaurant with the funny play-on-words name that offered French fries cooked in duck fat on Fridays and Saturdays. Oh, and this is a "sausage emporium" and offers every kind of sausage from foie gras to elk to traditional red hots. I just HAD to get there to try this popular Chicago eatery. Did I mention that there is always a line waiting to get in? See the expression on Bob's face. I guess I forgot to tell him.

It wouldn't have been a bad thing to stand outside for an hour waiting to get a hot dog and fries, but we're talking Chicago in February. Mother Nature was kind to us; it could have been colder. Actual temp was 20 degrees, snow, and 20+ mph winds...I figure the wind chill with the snow thrown in made it about 50 below. Did I mention that Chicago is known as the "windy city?"

For as long as we stood in line, the line never got shorter. The brick wall provided some relief from the wind, but I came to the conlusion that we were pretty much insane. At least we were in good company of other insane hot-dog-duck-fry starved people.

From time to time, the door would open, small groups of satiated diners would spill out, and then from the frozen masses in line there would be an audible inhalation of slightly warmer air laced with droplets of duck fat, our promise of warmth and salty, greasy deliciousness to come. Of course, I wasn't worried about the thousands of calories and grams of fat to come because I had shivered for at least 45 minutes. Doesn't that burn 137 calories a minute? (Well, something like that, I'm sure.)
The Legendary Duck Fries!

And this is why I almost sacrificed the little finger of my right hand to frost bite. (It was ivory and without feeling for at least 30 minutes while its companion digits were rosy.) Here, in this wonderful photo below, is a traditional Chicago Dog with Everything. Everything being caramelized onions, mustard, neon green relish, celery salt, sliced tomato, and a long pickle spear. The hot dog was my favorite part. The fries were good, but not good enough to stand in line for an hour for again. I'm glad I did it once, though.

And I'm sure that Anthony Bourdain was lying on a beach in some warm clime laughing at all his insane fans who risk life and limb to follow his lead. I think I'll draw the line, though, at some of the "nasty bits" he claims are so delicious.

Bon App├ętit!
Chef Debbie

1 comment:

Lisa Brisch said...

I LOVE Chicago hot dogs. I grew up in a suburb of Chicagoland so that's all I knew until I moved.

I don't envy your Chicago in February trip though. The last time I was there in the winter was 1984. Never again. Of course, I was living in Arizona at the time so perhaps I was a bit spoiled.