Where to Eat if Hot Doug's Is Closed
No matter how well you plan, you'll occasionally walk up to the Avondale "Encased Meats Emporium and Sausage Superstore" only to find it mysteriously closed. It is tragic, but do not panic. There are all kinds of options around the area. You just need to figure out what you want.
No Hot Dogs for You
You'd think some bright person would open an adequate hot dog stand nearby to poach off of Hot Doug's long lines and bad hours. That is not the case. The hot dog options in the immediate vicinity are almost laughably bad. At S&S Deli, the closest hot dog option, I actually watched someone wrap a cold, skinless hot dog in parchment paper and then MICROWAVE it. At In & Out Fast Food a worker honestly apologized for the inferior hot dog while he was handing it over to me. (He was right.) Much better was Munchies, which at least had the courtesy to properly cook its skinless dogs. That kind of made up for the lack of a poppy seed bun and celery salt. Still, if you just had your heart broken by a closed Hot Doug's, all of these options will only serve to break it a little more.
S & S Deli, 3290 North Elston Avenue, Chicago, IL 60618; 773-267-4315
In & Out Fast Food, 2815 W Diversey Ave, Chicago, IL 60618
Munchies Gyros & Pizza, 3678 North Elston Avenue, Chicago, IL 60618; 773-583-7882
...Okay But You Still Want a Hot Dog?
If you absolutely must have a great hot dog, then you'll need to leave Avondale completely. No one individual stand hits all the same sweet spots as Hot Doug's in one go, but there are options that can satisfy specific cravings. If it's housemade sausages with inventive toppings you're after, check out Frank 'N' Dawgs (3.2 miles). Only craving a properly made Chicago-style hot dog? The cafeteria at the Vienna Beef Factory (1.7 miles) is the closest option, though Murphy's Red Hots (2.2 miles) is a better option if you value atmosphere. If you're looking for the exact opposite of Hot Doug's, the delicious minimalist dogs at Redhot Ranch (1.9 miles) are served in the plainest of rooms until very late.
Frank 'N' Dawgs, 1863 N Clybourn Avenue, Chicago, IL; 312-281-5187 franksndawgs.com
Vienna Beef Factory, 2501 North Damen Avenue, Chicago, IL 60647; 773-278-7800 viennabeef.com
Redhot Ranch, 2072 North Western Avenue, Chicago, IL; 773-772-6020
Destination #1: Kuma's Corner
If you leave the sausages behind, Avondale happens to have two other destination-worthy restaurants. In fact, the city's most famous burger joint, at least for the moment, is located just a few blocks away. The line is often equally as long as at Hot Doug's, but Kuma's Corner has much, much better hours. Hell, you can even eat there for dinner! Of course, enjoyment of the enormous burgers may hinge on your tolerance for very loud heavy metal.
Kuma's Corner, 2900 West Belmont Avenue, Chicago, IL; 773-604-8769 kumascorner.com
Destination #2: Urban Belly
Avondale is also home to Bill Kim's Urban Belly, which is one of the city's most acclaimed noodle shops. What sets this one apart is that all of the dishes are given an inventive twist. I'm a sucker for the ramen with the pho broth, though the udon with sweet chili lime broth (pictured) is also stunning. Just don't forget a side of dumplings, especially the lamb and brandy ones.
Urban Belly, 3053 N California Ave, Chicago, IL; 773-583-0500 urbanbellychicago.com
Neighborhood Worthy: The Pork Shoppe
Though there are better barbecue joints around town, including a couple within two miles or so, The Pork Shoppe is a totally solid neighborhood option. The traditional offerings range from very good (ribs, pulled pork) to slightly underwhelming (brisket). Luckily, the restaurant has one classic with the pork belly pastrami. Plus, I've never been disappointed with the side dishes.
Pork Shoppe, 2755 West Belmont Avenue, Chicago, IL; 773-961-7654 porkshoppechicago.com
The Vegetarian Option: The Dragon Lady Lounge
If you'd rather go vegetarian than waste precious sausage calories at any place besides Hot Doug's, take solace at The Dragon Lady Lounge. Famous for its monthly vegan Korean buffet, the lounge also has a dedicated vegetarian menu available daily. I had some totally decent kimchi steamed buns, though the staff seems prouder of the housemade veggie dogs and burgers.
Dragon Lady Lounge, 3188 North Elston Avenue, Chicago, IL 60618; 773-267-1970
The Mexican Option: Taqueria Traspasada
I tried a bunch of taquerias around the area, and while there were no absolute knockouts, there are some decent options in the immediate vicinity. My favorite is Taqueria Traspasada, which is just a little more than a block away. Everything seems to be a step above the average taqueria. I particularly liked the roasted salsa and the free bowl of birria served with each meal. Though fiercely hot, the torta ahogada is worth the pain for the wonderful roasted pork filling.
Taqueria Traspasada, 3144 North California Avenue, Chicago, IL 60618; 773-539-4533
The Mexican Option: The Leftovers
The lunch counter inside Carniceria Guanajuato is solid if you're in the mood for a quick order of tacos. I liked the cecina more than the carne asada, but I'd have to admit that the carnitas are probably the way to go. (I'd like to try a torta next time I go.) Though it's really inconsistent, if you walk into Taqueria La Zacatecana at exactly the moment the carne asada comes off the grill, you should order it.
Carniceria Guanajuato, 3140 N California Ave, Chicago, Illinois 60618; 773-267-7739
Taqueria La Zacatecana, 3024 N California Ave., Chicago, IL 60618; 773-279-8260