Monday, July 20, 2009
This is Chicago, not Communist Russia
In the 3+ years I've lived in Chicago, I've eaten at Hot Doug's ONCE. That's because it's always either CLOSED at the owner's whim, or the line looks like the photo above.
To the unacquainted, Hot Doug's is sort of a Chicago Legend- they serve traditional Chicago style hot dogs, but also fancy stuff like $8 elk sausage topped with port derby cheese or fois gras or whatever, and duck fat fries (which didn't impress me to be honest- they tasted like regular fries to me). The one time I ate there it was pretty good, but the bottom line, for me, is that it's a hot dog, not the second coming of Christ.
I am personally of the opinion that the Chicago food scene is not as great as it thinks it is (certainly not compared to the coasts or New Orleans), comfort food and ethnic hole in the walls tends to be the strong suit here. And so, Hot Doug's has perfected the hot dog, which is fantastic- and I realize that having weird hours and a line around the block keeps the hype hot and helps people feel like they're having an exclusive experience- it's good for business. And Kuma's (the best burgers in town) operates on a similar principal- you wait an hour for your table and another hour for your burger.
The thing than annoys me about this, though, is it's treating hamburgers and hot dogs like this elite privilege- and seriously...no. Just, no. Thank you, Hot Doug's and Kuma's for raising hot dogs and hamburgers to an art form, but would it kill you to have a slightly bigger dining room or a second location? There's a dearth of really good quality, cheap food in this city, so there's no need to contribute to the issue of accessibility.
Confession: I decided not to wait in this line, and got a chicken sandwich at Wendy's instead, which is maybe a once a year indulgence. I'm not proud of this, but on the other hand I didn't have to wait an hour for a hot dog, either.