Saturday, best fest buddy Tom and I were going to hit Hot Doug’s (www.facebook.com/hotdougs) before making our annual trek to the Chicago Beer Society picnic.
See, we’re both reverse anorexics, and when either of us looks in a mirror, we think we’re thin and need to eat. Odd thing is when I look at him or he looks at me, the effect is not the same.
Anyway, on our quest for sausage, Tom figured leaving at 9 a.m. for a place that opens at 10:30 a.m. would work.
First, the roulette you play when you take a drive from the northwest suburbs to the city follows no known rules from any discipline of study. Pretty much any time of day can mean a traffic jam, with the traffic volume near Cumberland el stop usually the sign if you’re screwed or not.
This time, though, the snarl didn’t happen for another mile or so inbound.
Still, we got to Hot Doug’s before 10:30 – only to find the line several hundred people long. We opted out. In past lives we both were Russian peasants and this reminded us of having to wait for borscht under Stalin’s iron rule.
As for Hot Doug’s, the place in the Avondale neighborhood usually has a long line on weekends, but making it longer still was that the joint is closing for good Oct. 3. Owner and Hot Dog Hall of Fame inductee Doug Sohn has said he wants to move on to other things – though he hasn’t sold the business, either.
We’ve been once before, and waited about 90 minutes to feast on french fries deep fried in duck fat and casings filled with wild game, foie gras, other exotic meats, and even a regular Vienna Beef Chicago-style dog.
The line is marketing genius, as you work up an appetite waiting in anticipation, then order aplenty. It’s also a cash-only business, which is so Chicago.
This past Saturday I scoped the line before heading to the picnic, and by sheer dumb luck the people I started talking to had an Irish connection.
Erin McMahon was there with family members, and the group had arrived after 9 a.m. McMahon said those who were first said they had been waiting since 7:30 a.m.
They wound up waiting. We waited 3 and ½ hours to place their order – and they were only about a quarter into the line!
Erin said this was her third visit to Hot Doug’s.
“The first two were due to (her husband’s) family coming in from Ireland wanting to experience this famous place they had heard of,” she said. “The third time (Saturday) was because my mom (age 71) wanted to go before it closed.”
While Erin said the spot has great food and the owner is incredibly friendly, she added, “I do not think it is worth the insane wait. Had it not been for family that wanted to go I would not ever have gone.”
You ain’t gonna hear that on Check, Please!
I would have been really crabby waiting that long and may have turned cannibal – or at the very least thrown things at the street musicians setting up across the street from Hot Doug’s. It would have taken a beatific nun to remind me that this was a first world problem – that there are still places where people wait hours to get potable water.
Still, this was not our last bout with traffic jams of any sort for the day.
Tom was in his own car, and I was a passenger with another buddy, who was going to be leaving the picnic early.
I’m usually not the one you want navigating. But this time, breaking from what Google told me to do, I remembered that Addison ran back into the Kennedy – and at the last possible second I remembered Foster would be just past the split of 90 and 94 on the 94 side. Next thing you know, we’re at LaBagh Woods and the picnic – with me so proud for not getting lost.
Meanwhile, Tom wound up at North and Cicero, a good distance south of his intended destination.
He finally arrived in time to serve his meat popsicles, which is what he was calling his pinwheel wraps made with prosciutto and pesto.
See, along with serving 20 or more craft beers, the picnic always involves competitions in five food categories, from ribs to desserts.
The wraps were tasty, but Tom needed to work on his backstory. The prosciutto needed to come from free range pigs. The tortillas should have been handmade by his Guatemalan grandmother. The organic pesto recipe should have come from George Clooney’s wife’s aunt.
Tom needed either to get some lugs to gather votes, hire a hot waitress to serve them, or fill out people’s ballots for them before giving them any of his grub.
But nothing is a loss on a beautiful afternoon sampling food and drinking high-end beer.
With the reverse anorexia getting in full gear, on the way home we stopped at Maria’s in Rosemont for the delicious ceviche they only serve on weekends. The wait there for a table was about a half hour. Valet parking free. And make your own raw seafood joke here.
Maria’s also had Oprah fish on special. It makes you feel empowered, and there’s always a gift underneath the plate. Or maybe it was opah, which is moonfish, which is the size of Oprah’s ass
Or my ass. Or Tom’s ass. And there is a guy out in the nw burbs named Tom Sass.
But I digress.
Our bellies finally filled, on the ride home we got stuck in the morass that was traffic heading to the Garth Brooks concert. What genius decided allowing a 6 p.m. show and a 10 p.m. show would provide enough time in between to clear out a sports arena parking lot, then have the lot fill up again in time for the second show?
If you’re gonna have a matinee, make it 2 p.m. so the old folks can make it to the buffet. Blame it all on Garth’s freaking roots, I guess.
Which is to say, we wound up stuck behind way too many SUVs, trucks, and other vehicles with Indiana license plates – and listening to useless radio traffic reports making nary a mention of our predicament, or the public safety vehicles heading to an accident.
As my revenge, I’m buying a Stetson or a baseball cap with a “G” on it, putting on my too-tight jeans from the 90s, and heading places to hold up lines while being overly enthusiastic. Maybe I will start at Hot Doug’s – if only it didn’t involve getting up at 5 a.m. on a Saturday.