It was pretty chilly on the day I drove from Madison to Chicago. Walking to the car I encountered something that I don't see very often here in San Diego...... that would be frost.
I'm also not quite used to temperatures in the 30's either.
Instead of the usual rest stops like we have in SoCal, there are stops above the highway that looks like an overpass. These are called Oasis and contain various fast food shops, restrooms, ATMs, and Gas Stations.
My curiosity finally got the better of me, and I stopped at the Belvedere Oasis. The place was very clean, and also had a nice view of the I-90.
As another tidbit; did you know the Federal Regulations forbid commercial development of rest areas? Other than a few rest stops that were "grandfathered in", only toll road can offer these type of services. (23 CFR Part 752.5)
I had decided to spend an extra day in Chicago for one main reason...... to eat of course! And there was one place that was a "must try" on my list...... Hot Dougs. Admittedly, I really wandered if Hot Doug's would deliver. My luck really hasn't been that good with places generating so much attention and hyperbole...... the Kogi Taco Truck comes to mind. But after seeing the place for the umpteenth time on No Reservations, and reading numerous reviews and posts (like Passionate Eater's) on the place, even from a couple of San Diego based Food Bloggers like Canine Cologne (read her post here) and Liz of Fooding 411 (her post here), it was without a doubt on my list. Which is why I started driving from Madison at 745 am on a Friday morning. My intention was to arrive at Hot Doug's a couple of minutes before opening........ well Doug's opens at 1030, and I finally found my way there, found parking on the street, and saw a line had already formed out the door at Hot Doug's.
Stepping into line and overhearing conversations, it seemed that at least half the crowd were not from Chicago. As for the line, a suited gentleman in front of me, who had a page from a legal pad full of "orders" told the couple in back of him that, "this is nothing....it seems to be a pretty slow day."
So, on this slow day, I made it to the second set of front doors by 1045, and actually into the shop proper at 1050.
Having a couple minutes to read the menu and check out the dining area, something struck me. First off, you can't grab a table or seat until you place your order and pay. Second, Doug Sohn, manning the front counter moves at an unhurried pace. This combined with the fact that folks are eating sausages mean that the dining area turns over very quickly, and it seems that most everyone gets a seat.
Now as to what I came here to eat...... well there were just two things......
Of course I was going to have the Foie Gras and Sauternes Duck Sausage ($9). When Doug asked me how I wanted these; I asked him to make it the way he eats it. Doug replied with a smile, and a simple "ok, very good....." Yes...... it was very good indeed.
I thought that perhaps the truffle aioli would just overpower everything; but this was wonderfully rich... decadent.....I felt like I needed a shower afterwards. The sausage with its mild sweetness was no slouch, and the Foie Gras Mousse with a light sprinkle of sea salt. was pure fatty joy.
I've had Duck Fat Fries before, but wanted to try the version here ($3.50 - Fridays and Saturdays only). These were typically Chicago "Natural" style fries, skin on.
These were nice and rich.....the duck fat doesn't really add too much flavor; mainly an additional richness to the fries. They also don't hold up for very long and seem to start getting a bit greasy fairly quickly.
I had intended to hitting XOCO for dinner, but my failure was based on the most basic item on Hot Doug's menu..... the simple Chicago Style Hot Dog ($1.75):
Yes, this was my downfall..... Overall a nice, though not amazing Chicago Dog. The dog didn't have quite the snap I like. For once I had enough celery salt on my Chicago Dog... but man, after eating this I was beyond stuffed; I was cross-eyed stuffed and really needed a nap. When I awoke, I just couldn't muster the energy to drive from Arlington Heights, back into Chicago proper.... such is the power of the encased meats at Hot Doug's.
As I left, about 1130, the line outside Hot Doug's stretched down the street.
3324 North California Ave.
Chicago, IL 60618
Open Monday - Saturday 10:30 am - 4:00 pm