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Chicagoist's Top Stories Of 2014: Hot Doug's Closes

By Lisa White in Food on Dec 31, 2014 8:00PM

(Hot Doug's by Tim Pigott)

Chicagoans are an opinionated bunch and we love to argue: over dibs, politics and even the best toppings for our hot dogs. So when the news broke that beloved emporium of encased meats, Hot Doug's, would officially close their doors permanently on Oct. 4, the Internet lit up with many an opinion, speculation and shrieks of "Noooooo!" across the land. With a little under five months left to consume Hot Doug's, Chicago quickly fell into the encased meat loss stages of grief.

First we became nostalgic and sentimental. We passed around our favorite Hot Doug's memories from the past, Anthony Bourdain chomping down in the window on foie gras dogs that we thought would never end. Speaking of foie gras, we fondly remembered Doug's "fuck it" attitude towards the city's attempt at banning the delicious and sometimes controversial ingredient. We revisited the time our friends at Serious Eats Chicago ate the whole menu at Doug's, sighing as we realized the menu would soon be no longer.

Then panic set it. A Hot Doug's countdown was created so we were able to know just how many seconds were left before doors closed one final time. Fans started breaking down the optimal days and times to visit to minimize waiting in line.

Oh, the lines. Hot Doug's was infamous before announcing their closure for having lines down the block, hungry fans waiting for hours especially on weekends and holidays. After the announcement that Doug's was closing, things got a bit extreme. Not at first. As we mentioned in our post about our last visit, which happened in August on a weekday, our wait wasn't that long.

But as weeks passed by, FOMO sat in. Lines were capped in the early morning, already at capacity just after the shop opened. Some sleazy opportunist offered to stand in line for those unable to at top dollar (Doug quickly asked for that practice to cease). And people were quick to ridicule those who camped out overnight to snag a spot. We examined the idea that hey, maybe humans like standing in lines! And in the end we simply suggested that at Hot Doug's it wasn't really about the actual wait at all.

Finally the day came and we had to accept the fact that we would no longer be greeted at the counter by a cheery smile and hello from Doug Sohn. We were a little sad but at the same time happy for Doug (if anyone in hot dog land deserved a vacation, it was this guy). We made peace, remembered fondly our meals and good times and said goodbye.

Since then many have mourned in their own way. A restaurant closing isn't always about the food, and that for sure was the case with Hot Doug's. A Chicago institution shutting its doors, the stepping down of a genuine, nice local business owner and the closing of a place that held so many memories for many, from leisurely lunches with friends to weddings and proposals. Life moves on, new businesses move in, dishes created to pay honor to our favorites and Doug keeps on doing good, like helping to raise money for a great cause by serving up chili and auctioning off Hot Doug's memorabilia.

In 2015 Hot Doug's might be gone, but it surely won't be forgotten.