Die-hard fans of the now-closed Hot Doug’s didn’t let the coldest day of the year stop them from standing in line for an hour Monday to re-unite with an exotic, bun-encased sausage and a side of duck fries.
Customers started arriving at 6:15 a.m. Monday at Hot Doug’s one-day pop-up location in Publican Quality Meats, 825 W. Fulton St. Doors opened at 10 a.m.
By 10:30 a.m., 110 people stood outside in a line that wound half-way down the adjacent parking lot. The wind chill? Close to minus 20. Another 10 customers waited inside, cozy and warm, staring at the menu like a long-lost friend.
“It’s worth the wait,’’ explained Katie Mitchell, 30, of the West Loop. “It’s decadent.”
Mitchell donned a furry hat and warm boots to brave her hourlong wait for what turned out to be Hot Doug’s truffle sausage with carmelized onion mustard, goat cheese and truffle oil drizzle.
While outside, to make up for a knee-length coat that left her legs “freezing,” she hopped lightly on the sidewalk.
Abdel Morched used a similar technique to try to stay warm during his wait for Hot Doug’s “amazing” duck fries.
Though outfitted with a Russian-style hat with fur-lined flaps on his head, his feet were another matter. “I do a little dance to keep my feet and toes moving and warm,” said Morched, 27, of Lincoln Park.
Hot Doug’s closed its shop at 3324 N. California in October 2014 after 14 years of offering a lively rotating menu of sausage sandwiches and legendary duck fries. Explained owner Doug Sohn Monday: “It’s a really hard business.”
Though delighted at Monday’s huge pop-up turnout and the chance to visit again with longtime customers, Sohn said, “I don’t want to exist on pop-ups.” He said he is still deciding what his next full-time venture will be.
Monday’s menu at Publican Quality Meats consisted of seven offerings: a lamb and pork belly sausage; an apple-bacon-sage-duck sausage; a truffle sausage; pork au poivre sausage; escargot and guanciale sausage; toulouse sausage; and a mescal pork sausage.
“We got one of each,” said Melissa Gannon, 28, of Humboldt Park, as she and two friends prepared to dig into the first selection — the “Babe Ruth Siegel” pork au poivre sausage.
Most who braved Monday’s frigid temperatures were longtime Hot Doug’s customers. They grabbed a long lunch, took the day off, or even drove in from the suburbs for the rare chance to reconnect with one – or more — of Sohn’s extraordinary sausage fares.
“They come once in a blue moon,” said Bari Ratskoff, 26, who donned long underwear, a heavy coat and ski boots for the rare bite at another Hot Doug. “The hot dogs are amazing.”
The buzz also drew first-time customer Darrell Johnson, 35, of the West Side. Johnson said he didn’t live near Hot Doug’s original location, but works only two blocks from Monday’s pop-up site so he decided to give it a try. By 10:30 a.m., he was roughly the 100th person standing outside.
“It’s supposed to be really good,” Johnson said. “I’ll probably have one of everything.”