You hear about the glory of Hot Doug's and decide to go check it out. (You should.) Just prepare yourself. It doesn't matter whether you're from out of town or just from another neighborhood in the city, unless you live in the northwest neighborhood of Avondale you're going to have to exert some effort to get there. The closest L stop, the Belmont Blue Line stop, is a mile away, and the California bus runs -- how should I say this? -- inconsistently. Regardless, you solider on determined to taste sausage perfection.
And it is closed.
Though Hot Doug's is the most acclaimed hot dog stand in the city, and perhaps the world, owner Doug Sohn keeps hours that would make most bankers blush. His self-described "Sausage Superstore and Encased Meat Emporium" is open only from 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday. But he also likes to take time off to celebrate just about any holiday that could be construed as one. At least Sohn is honest about the practice; a message on the Hot Doug's website reads: "We also take a whole bunch of holidays off, so give us a call to make sure we're open (if it's a holiday)."
Which is all a way of saying that no matter how careful you are, undoubtedly you will go to Hot Doug's only to find it closed. It will break your heart. It has broken mine. But the best thing to do is pay your respects for a few seconds and move on. Hot Doug's is a treasure, and whatever Mr. Sohn needs to do to keep his sanity, he should be able to do it. Luckily, there are alternatives.
While there is nothing that quite equals the shining brilliance of Hot Doug's -- not many places do -- a surprising number of great restaurants are located nearby. In fact, there are enough choices that there some alternatives to the alternatives. Of course, not all of the options worked so well. Locating a decent hot dog turned out to be a nearly impossible task.
If you're in need of a quick answer, the quickest way to sort through all this is by consulting the flowchart above (click here to make it bigger). Hopefully it will provide the right alternative for you.
If you have more time, then you should instead check out the slideshow above, which examines the numerous options around the area. Of course, though I tried to be as thorough as possible, I'm sure I missed a place or two. Let me know!