Archive for the ‘Hot Dogs’ Category

Hot Doug’s – A Pilgrimage.

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Location: Chicago, IL

The Foodie: Strongly Recommends

For those who have never heard of Hot Doug’s, let me just lay down some facts and stats for you:

  • Facebook: 4.7 out of 5 Stars (based on 4,676 ratings)
  • Urban Spoon: 88% Like It (based on 1,442 votes)
  • Yelp: 4.5 out of 5 Stars (based on 3,163 reviews)
  • Google Reviews: 4.6 out of 5 Stars (based on 364 reviews)
  • Zagat: Chicago’s 10 Best Hot Dogs
  • Anthony Bourdain:This is like the greatest thing that ever happened
  • Mario Batali:
  • Aziz Ansari: Approved (Even those who make people laugh do not laugh about the food here). See Here.
  • Book Written About It: True. See Here.
  • Has Its Own Theme Song: Yes, true. See Here.

 Now, a shocking statement:


The good news (for me, at least): I ate here.

The good news for you: I’m going to tell you about it.

I decided that the best way to document my experience would be to walk you through my journey from the end of the famous line to the legendary sausages themselves.


The Hot Doug’s lines are famous. We waited 2 ½ hours (at about 10:30am on a rainy Saturday) from the point depicted below to sausage time. The crazy part is that every minute of the wait is worth it. By about the completion of first meat roll, all memories of the line melt away like shredded fontina on your celebrity sausage.


As the 2 ½ hour climb bore on – we began noting various trail markers along the path to the country’s best encased meats. The first such milestone was the fence and the painted pig.


Down the trail a piece, you come to the infamous window. Spend time here salivating and scoping out the show schedules for various music venues around town.


So close you can smell it. Here one makes nervous small talk and shoots dirty glances at those finally crossing the threshold.


If by now you haven’t ferociously finger-poked the Hot Doug’s menu on your ubiquitous mobile device, this is the time to strategize your order.


Awww Yeah. You reached the “Game of the Week” plaque. We visited when a Pernod-infused pheasant sausage was on the menu. More on that inspiring item later.


At this stage your palms are sweaty, your legs are tired, and butterflies are going ape shit in your tummy. You are unable to think of anything else besides mentally rehearsing your order and any questions you have for Doug.


Your turn. The rest of the world fades to black and burning spotlights beat down upon your one-on-one interaction with the legendary sausage king of Chicago. But soon you realize that Doug is a chummy, down-to-earth dude who proudly stands (literally) behind every order. A 2-minute interview ensued between this food blogger and the Oracle of Meat Pipes.

Nick the Foodie: [Bowing, showing praise]

Doug: “Haha – you got the wrong guy.”

Nick the Foodie: “So what are you going to do after October 4th?”

Doug: “I’m going to take a nap and then I’m going to go out for lunch. A lot of chefs in the city owe me lunch…I heard that people were saying that I would be opening a gourmet restaurant – that is totally untrue.”

Nick the Foodie: “How about a food truck?”

Doug: “I don’t get the economics of it – I don’t know how people make any money.”

Nick the Foodie: “Well, if anyone could pull it off, I bet you could.”

Doug: [Smiling] “I’d rather sell crack to kids.”

Nick the Foodie: “So what do you eat when you aren’t in the restaurant?”

Doug: “Oh, I eat everything. We end up with a lot of extra sauces – so most of the time I cook with those. Spaghetti is one thing that I make with all the leftover tomatoes.”

Nick the Foodie: [Places order, walks away, drools in anticipation]


Our Order:

  • Game of the Week (2) – Pernod-infused pheasant sausage with rhubarb mustard, goat cheese and truffled radishes
  • Celebrity Sausage (1) – Jaymee Tigzenskee (1) – Hungarian smoked pork sausage w/ smoked paprika mustard, fontina cheese, and smoked onion marmalade
  • Hot Doug’s Cassoulet (1): Saucisse de Toulouse with fresh herb mustard, great northern beans, duck confit and black sea salt
  • The Paul Kelly (1) – Bratwurst with everything (mustard, caramelized onions, relish, tomatoes, pickle, celery salt)
  • Duck Fat Fries


There was nothing but silence interspersed with groans of pleasure for the 10 minutes that encompassed taking the initial first bites of each sausage. When I was able to formulate speech and weave together thought fragments again, I came to the following impressions:

  • The pheasant sausage was bursting with flavors and perfect seasonings – totally juicy and perfect in every sense. A sweet and complex rhubarb mustard was the next thing that I noticed – were those black currants in there too? I was then hit with rich waves of  goat cheese and thin wafts of radish atop my meat.
  • The celeb. sausage was insanely good too. I ended up wishing that I had ordered two of these as well. The spicy pork sausage with smoked paprika mustard, cheese, and onions embodied everything that encased meat sandwiches should be.
  • I wanted to sample a bratwurst just to get a sense for how well Doug does a classic, basic sausage in addition to the zany “full meals on a bun” that he creates with his specials. I was glad that I did. The bratwurst was among the best that memory can recall – complete with all the traditional Chicago toppings.
  • Cassoulet: French-style sausage, herby moutarde, beans, confit, and sea salt? What’s not to like? This one was a bit more mild than I had anticipated and I found myself wanting slightly more flavor – but perhaps that’s because I had already eaten 2 lbs of pheasant and Hungarian pork sausage.

I came, I saw, and I conquered the trek to experience an iconic American restaurant before closing. After eating here, I can fully understand why Hot Doug’s has spawned such a fervent cult following and I, too, have joined the ranks of loyal followers.

Shake Shack – First Madison Square Park, Then the World!

Monday, July 8th, 2013

Location: Chestnut Hill, MA

The Foodie Say: Cosi-Cosi

My curiosity was piqued as I strolled through Madison Square Park and saw an extraordinarily long line snaking its way from a petite steel cottage, or “shack” if you will.

“What on earth are they serving from that little stand?!?,” I thought.

  • Turns out it was burgers, fries, hot dogs, and custard being vended,
  • The shack was not a shack at’all but a singular outpost representing a much larger string of burger joints across Manhattan…and that chain was again part of a larger entity – the Union Square Hospitality Group of Danny Meyer fame.

I was intrigued by this stealth operation that appeared to be growing quite rapidly.

>>>>Fast Forward to May 2013>>>>>>

…and grow they did – with locations up and down the Eastern Seaboard from Florida to, yes my dear friends, our very own land of the pilgrims – Boston.

It appears that the ‘shack ain’t stoppin’ there either – there have been sightings in London, JFK airport, and the Saratoga Race Course.

But, fellow Bostonians, Somervillains, and Cantabridgians – you’re most interested in your neighborhood Shake Shack located in Chestnut Hill, aren’t ya?

So let’s cut to the chase – how was the burger?

DISCLAIMER: Burger reviews are a highly personal affair. One woman’s precious meat heaven is another woman’s mickey D’s. So know that this food blogger (a man, it turns out) likes his burgers thick, medium rare to rare, well-seasoned, and usually pretty traditional – with some flair welcome. The following discussion is based upon this set of preferences.


My heart was racing, mouth salivating, hands clammy, and tummy full of butterflies as we waited for our little order status thing-y to vibrate and light-up.

The Shack had us in its clutches, as our existing hype around the place had been amplified by a 20-minute line to order (a short one for Shack standards I’m told) and then another 15 minutes awaiting our just reward.

But finally our piece of plastic lit up along with my heart as I triumphantly retrieved our tray of two standard “Shack Burgers”, two orders of “Shack Fries,” and one Frozen Custard “Hand-Spun” Vanilla Shake.

This is what our prize looked like:

Shack Snack

As I began the burger tasting, I swore to myself that I would not utter a single judgment about the sandwich until the whole thing had been eaten.

  • Munch
  • Munch
  • Munch

At the end of the experience I thought: “That was a mighty-fine burger patty with good texture and a beautiful soft little bun – but all I tasted was the cheese?”


It’s true – this is a decent burger, people. Do not get me wrong. And it is a fun location with a careful eye for marketing and design. But I was disappointed by the poor seasoning of the burger patties and the very flavorless “Shack Sauce” that promised to magically sweep me away to a land of plenty but left me wanting.

I do applaud the ‘Shack for rekindling our love affair with the simple fare you used to be able to trust from your local street cart and burger cottage before the behemoth burger chains pumped evil into their food with no shame….I’m happy that I can now walk through Terminal 4 at JFK and choose a trustworthy, made-to-order burger that was not freeze-dried before it was defrosted in a nuclear pressure chamber.

… and that is where the whole value of Shake Shack comes in.

They ARE NOT McDonalds, Burger King, or Wendy’s. They are making it OK again to eat simple burgers and fries in a casual setting without worrying that you’ll wake up with a badonkadonk and diabetes the next morning. Words like “all-natural,” “100%,” “Angus Beef,” “no trans fats,” and “no hormones and antibiotics ever” are found plastered all over the menu to reassure us. The burgers are in-fact hand-pressed from ball form into thin patties using large metal pressers with handles.

It was refreshing to see a grill being operated again in the kitchen of a burger chain.

…For that, I applaud the ‘Shack and wish them well in their quest to quickly rise to glory and steal large chunks of market share from Jack in the Box…

So I say “bravo” with two hand-claps and a strong nod to the ‘Shack for it’s mission and vision, but when it comes down to flavor – I’ll stick with my local favorites.

Trina’s Starlite Lounge – Bring Dollars for Dogs

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

Location: Cambridge, MA

The Foodie: Recommends

In a few words: No, it’s not a strip club.

Though it looks possible from the outside, Trina’s Starlite Lounge is not filled with pole-dancers and dollar bills.

Instead, it’s a hot dog fest. In a good way guys. We’re talking about the following:

  • Best corn dog in Boston. Hands-down. Amazingly-fluffy “corn,” all-beef beautiful dog. Nothing bad at all to say about this bad boy.
  • Dog of the day: Last time I was here, it was an amazing dog stuffed inside a puff pastry and topped with legit grain mustard.

Beyond the dogs, they’ve got a mac ‘n cheese that is made with love and ends up being about as good as a lap dance. I don’t know how they do it, but American Cheese, cream, huge pasta shells and crumbled Ritz crackers never tasted so decadent. One of the best mac’s in the region folks. Straight-up.

Come to Trina’s to eat devilishly. Gorge on hot dogs, eat a heart-attack “mac,” enjoy legit micro-brews, and live life.

I’d share pictures, but it was too dark inside. Ha.