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The Hot Doug’s line returns to Daley Plaza for a free slice from Sohn

It was a sight all-too familiar to Doug Sohn, former proprietor of the Avondale sausage superstore and encased meats emporium, Hot Doug’s.

It was a line.

This one stretched from the Washington side of Daley Plaza nearly to the Picasso at its center, everyone waiting for a free slice of Atomic Pizza, a collaboration between Sohn and Piece Brewery and Pizzeria in Wicker Park.

“Sorry, guys. We’re out,” Sohn said.

It was just after 12:09 p.m. Friday.

He and Bill Jacobs of Piece had given away five large pizzas – about 60 slices – in less than 10 minutes.

Doug Sohn handed out five large @piecechicago pizzas — about 150 slices — in less than 10 minutes.

A photo posted by Emily Miller (@emmillerwrites) on Mar 13, 2015 at 10:28am PDT

Erin Karson of Old Irving Park had spotted a post about the giveaway that Sohn had made on Facebook that morning. She then rushed down to Daley Plaza with three of her coworkers from their office near the Willis Tower and nabbed a slice, which she and her coworkers agreed was “delicious.”

Karson has never been to Piece, she said. She’d been too busy: “I was waiting in line at Hot Doug’s,” she said.

The idea for the giveaway was “spontaneous,” according to Jacobs. Piece delivers pizzas to office building in the Loop, he said; why not give some away in Daley Plaza while they were at it?

He emailed Sohn with his idea, and Sohn said yes, which is pretty much how the collaboration between Piece and Chicago’s hot dog folk hero had started.

The pizzeria had collaborated on a pie with Honey Butter Fried Chicken last year that was such a success, Jacobs said, it brought it back again this January. It introduced a pizza created with Girl & the Goat in February and, to round it out, Jacobs sent Sohn an email inviting him to participate in March. He really wasn’t sure how Sohn would respond, he said; after all, he had just retired, closing up shop in October after 15 years.

Sohn immediately agreed.

His creation, available all month at Piece, is Atomic Pizza, a red pizza with pepper jack cheese, caramelized onions and Hot Doug’s Atomic Bomb sausage.

Ten percent of the sales from all Piece’s collaborations goes to Pilot Light, a nonprofit organization bringing chefs into classrooms to ensure children develop a healthy relationship with food. So far, January and February’s pies have raised about $5,000, and “this one is just exploding,” according to Alexandra DeSorbo-Quinn, executive director of Pilot Light.

“It’s great,” Sohn said. “It’s nice to have time – and not time, but energy – to do things like this. Back at the restaurant, my mantra was, ‘If it requires any kind of energy from me to do, then no.’”

And getting outside Friday on a spring day pushing 60 degrees and connecting with old friends he recognized from Hot Doug’s was pretty great, too. Plus, there was the line, he noted, and that was something he knew a thing or two about.

Thanks for the pizza! @hotdougs and @piecechicago #pizza #chicagofood #chicago

A photo posted by @maiworld on Mar 13, 2015 at 11:17am PDT