When Fluitt and I used to travel on business together, we sought out the reptilian, the amphibious, and various forms of aquatic vertebrates for dinner. We went for alligator in Texas, frog legs in France, what we could only semi-translate as “pot-of-fish” in a tiny, dark, Korean restaurant off the Champs-Elysee; and something that looked like a half-fish-half-Kimodo-dragon, perhaps more suited to an evolutionary exhibit than used as culinary enticement, that pulled us in off the street in a back alley walk up in Hong Kong.
And it’s not like we went searching for the weird or for the “authentic” (whatever that might mean in a global, post-everything, world). It’s just that we happened to run into that kind of food!.a lot.
When Shenk and I travel together, we go for barbeque or encased meats. The Shenk is, in his own words, one serious pork-loving Jew. We once ate for a few straight days at 17th Street Barbeque in Murphysboro, Illinois, a place so good (we were told by some locals) that Clinton landed Air Force One at a nearby rural airfield and called in an order.
So I wasn’t surprised when my phone rang while I was in downtown Chicago and it was the Shenk telling me I had to try Hot Doug’s (The Sausage Superstore and Encased Meat Emporium) on the city’s north side.
Usually, when in Chicago, I crave the usual Chicago fare: Italian Beef with giardiniera still hasn’t hit Eastern Montana, or if it has, someone is keeping it from me. I hit the usual places, like Mr. Beef on Orleans, and rarely deviate, making excuses not to eat with clients so I can skip out and get “beef, dipped, hot, provolone” (and yes, I’m talking about food).
Finding myself with a few hours before my flight, I headed for the corner of California and Roscoe. I arrived early enough that the place wasn’t packed. I ordered a traditional Vienna Beef Chicago Style hot dog with everything and one of the daily specials, with ranged from “Uber Garlic Pork Sausage with Chipotle Dijonnaise, Smoked Gouda Cheese and Roasted Garlic Cloves”to “Brandy and Pork Portuguese Chorizo with Chevre-Piquillo Pesto and Almond-Apricot Moondara Cheese.”
Normally, I snub my nose at the implicit pretension of anything at a restaurant, much less a HOT DOG STAND, that has the word “chevre” in it, or touts multiple country of origin ingredients. For me, it’s cloying and over-reaching. I get that there are many, many goat dairies in the U.S. – quite a few in Montana in fact. It’s just that I feel about food the way my Chicago-buddy DQ feels about politicians – he’s suspicious of their motives. It why he likes Richie Daley. “The thing I like about Daley,” DQ told me the night before over beers in the loop, “is that he wants to be Mayor of Chicago. Nothing more. He’s not just angling for something else, something “bigger.” You just get the sense that he’s home right where he is.”
In defense of Hot Doug’s: they don’t have the same hang ups about food that I do. Good thing. The encased meats are spectacular.
I can’t wait to get back, chevre or no chevre. I notice today that they have “Game of the Week”  and it’s Bacon and Cheddar Elk Sausage with Rosemary-Garlic Mustard and Applewood-Smoked Cheddar Cheese.” That’s enough to make a grown Montanan weep with delight.
 Having grown up in the burbs of Chicago, even I read “Game of the Week” as a reference to the Hawks Western Conference vicotry on Monday night.
note: all these photos are from Flickr because (1) I wasn’t carrying a camera, and (2) there are over 1500 photos of Hot Doug’s on Flickr. Roll over any of the photos to see their respective rights and click on any of them to be taking to that photo on Flickr.