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Chicago Wrap Up (Hot Dougs and Publican Review)


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So we went to Chicago this past weekend for a friend's wedding. Not only did we get to play with two of my nieces, but we also pigged out. Seriously, I must have gained 15 pounds this weekend.

Hot Dougs

I'm slightly hesitant to like a Chicago Style Hot Dog. I like my hot dogs plain, from dirty hot water or on a grill with relish and mustard. Sometimes with saurerkraut. A Chicago style dog has everything on it, including a long pickle slice. Then I saw Bourdain go to Hot Dougs on his show and I knew I had to go there. Even my foodie sister and brother-in-law have not been there yet, mainly because they did not want to wait in the famously long line. Abby and I weren't to be turned away. We were willing to wait 2 hours or more for these famous dogs, not to mention the duck fat french fries. (Yes, I did say duck fat!) Just like when we went to Pink's in LA, we must have had the hot dog gods smiling on us, because the line was not that bad. We had to wait about 30 minutes from once we got into the line outside the restaurant to ordering the food from the owner, Doug Sohn, himself. (He was extremely nice and made it feel like it was an honor for him to be taking our order instead of the other way around. He did this with everyone in line and made sure he told everyone to have a good weekend.) We had two orders, one for us to eat right then and there, and the other to take home for my sisters and niece. Doug was kind enough to hold out on the other order until we were done eating to make sure it's nice and warm.

Our order consisted of: 1 Hot Doug with everything on it, including chili and cheese, 1 Hot Doug with everything on it, 1 corn dog, and 1 duck sausage with foie gras. Also one order of the duck fat french fries.

Let me say this off the bat: I am no longer a hater of Chicago styled hot dogs. Holy smokes were these things fan-freaking-tastic! The hot doug with everything on it and with chili and cheese was the greatest example of the perfect hot dog I have ever known and eaten. The hot dog had the perfect snap once you bit into it and all the condiments worked perfectly together. The chili could have been eaten on it's own with some bread or crackers. The pickle was a real pickle (unlike those New England ones I've been bitching about lately). The bright neon green relish tasted fresh and you knew did not come out of one of those plastic containers that you get at most hot dog stands. And the price! Starting at $1.75, this is a steal!

The corn dog was equally fantastic and delicious. I love corn dogs, and I think the best ones are the foot longs that you get at carnivals and state fairs. This corn dog lived up to those expectations. (However, there was one fault I will talk about in a bit.) The batter was so good, you probably could have made corn bread with it alone and had it with pulled pork. I had mustard and ketchup on the side, but I didn't need that much of either because the corn dog was perfect on it's own.

Now we get to the "gilding the lily" portion of our meal: The duck sausage with foie gras hot dog. Ok, the sausage was perfect on it's own, moist and tender with amazing flavors and the casing added that crunch one needs in a hot dog. The addition of the foie gras...well you don't necessarily have to have it, but you definitely won't complain that it's there. It melts perfectly in your mouth with every bite and the home made mustard that was put in the bun with the duck sausage was a marriage of unbelievable taste. I wish I could say more about this, but Abby only let me have two bites because she was so in love with it. If you go to Hot Doug's, please get this duck sausage and give it a try. This duck sausage should have it's own Michelin star (or 3).

The duck fat french fries stole our hearts when we saw it on the Bourdain show. And we had to get them. And while they were good, I honestly couldn't tell the difference between regular fries. There were some hints of duck flavor on some bites, but I guess I just assumed that the fries were going to taste like crispy duck skin. They weren't bad fries at all, actually they were really good. I just didn't see the magic of the duck fat.

Now onto my only complaint: The bottom of the corn dog. Any corn dog aficionado will tell you the greatest part of the corn dog is the little bit of batter at the end of the hot dog weiner that got fried onto the stick.

When done right, this little piece of heaven is sweet and crunchy. I have no idea what makes it so good, but for some reason most carnivals and state fair corn dogs do it perfectly. At Hot Doug's...well, it tasted just like the rest of the batter. Which was lovely and tasty on it's own, but for a true corn dog to be the perfect meat on a stick, it has to make this little part 1000% better than the rest of the corn dog.

As you can see, Hot Doug's did not disappoint at all. Our to-go order consisted of another order of duck fat fries, a corn dog for my niece and a Salma Hayek (spicy sausage) with chili and cheese. A drink each for Abby and me, and our total for it all was only $30!!!! Yes, you read that correctly. Hot Doug's is a freaking steal and gets a 5 out of 5!

Hot Doug's on Urbanspoon


Describing our meal here at the grastropub of Paul Kahan (others are involved as well, I just happen to remember Paul's name the easiest) would be a difficult task. While all the plates ordered were hits, some were home runs while others just singles or doubles. Meaning we did not have a bad dish amongst the many that we ordered, but there were definitely some memorable ones that will have me drooling in Boston as I think about them whenever I get a pork craving.

First, let me talk about the service. Our server (the one that we had for dinner and not the one at the bar) was great. She was funny and enjoyed our stupid jokes. The bus boys refilled our water glasses constantly. Apologizing each time to reach over us to fill the glasses. The food runners brought out each dish with perfect knowledge of what was on the plates. Even during a mishap of bringing us mussels we did not order was fine. No harm, no foul. For this, I give the service a huge A+. However, I cannot forget the horribly slow service at the bar. While waiting for our table, we were 15 minutes early, we stood in the middle of the dining room at the "bar area" and waited for what seemed like forever to order and receive our drinks. In fact, our table was ready before our drinks were ever brought to us. The fact that we had to wait and close out our tab with the bar waiter before being seated seemed a little odd. Couldn't that waiter bring our beers over to our table and also the tap? I guess not. So we had to stand there knowing our table was ready and our beers were still not in our hands. To make matters worse, I see 4 glasses waiting patiently at the bar to be picked up while our waiter was chatting it up with friends or whoever not even acknowledging us. For this, service at Publican gets knocked down to a B-.

The layout of Publican is very different than what I was expecting. In my mind, I was thinking it was going to be like my favorite gastropub, The Spotted Pig. How wrong could I be. Located in what seems like the meat packaging district of Chicago, the restaurant is in a huge open space with large glass ball lights coming down from the ceiling every foot or so. There are large communal tables lining the entire central dining area, with a standing area for the bar patrons in the center of it all. Lined around it all along the wall are booths that have half doors on them. We were lucky enough to eat in one of these, though they were a bit confining and felt like veal pens. And just like veal, we were fed unbelievably well.

We were going to order the 1/2 suckling pig but were told that it was already sold out, Paul Kahan only having 2 pigs for the entire night and was just trying out the item on the menu. Seeing as we weren't the only ones scared off by the $75 price tag, it looks like Paul will more than likely have more in stock for next Friday night. We made up for the fact of no suckling pig by ordering basically the entire pig along with some other tasty bits. Our nice server mentioned that we had no vegetables ordered, but we told her we did order the pickles...

There was too much food, though we ate about 98% of all of it, to talk about, but I'll give a quick run down with the pics.

Oysters: The kumamatos were as good as always and the other oysters were good as well, but there was one type that was muddy and "tasted like poop" as my sister said.

Pickles: Our veggies for the evening...the cauliflower was surprisingly good.

Sardines: This was a great plate. I really like sardines and think they are underused at restaurants.

Spicy Pork Rinds: The single greatest reason to go to Publican! These were the greatest snacks ever. I love pork rinds and I have no hesitation to call these the greatest pork rings in all the known universe. We ordered 2 more of these as the night went on.

Bone Marrow: We were told we got the last order of bone marrow for the night. Not sure if this was true or not, if this was to make us feel better that we didn't get the suckling pig, either way, I'm so glad we got this. Bone marrow is sooooo freaking good! People, please do not be scared off by bone marrow, if you are then you are missing one of the greatest tasting parts of an animal. This bone marrow was buttery and spread onto the bread easily. Even the bread on this plate was unbelievably delicious.

Steak Tartare: Not the greatest steak tartare I've ever had, but not bad in the slightest. The fries were nothing special either.

Charcuterie: This plate consisted of head cheese, duck and foie gras terrine, pork pie, morteau, pickles and mustard. Some good like the pork pie and the mustard, but mainly just ok. The head cheese was surprisingly tastier than the terrine.

Pork Belly: If you don't get the pork rinds and the pork belly when you come to Publican, please remove yourself from the human race. It's dishes like these that I'm glad I'm not part of a religion or a family that has beliefs like "Do not eat pork" because a life without pork belly has got to be freaking tough.

Potee and Ham Chop: These dishes were good, but paled in comparison of the other dishes. Well done, but I just didn't find them as interesting or as tasty as the rest of the meal.

This was how our table looked at one point. We got dessert as well, some chocolate caramel thing that wasn't that great. It was suppose to come with olive oil gelato, but came with caramel ice cream instead. We did get to try to olive oil gelato...not that great.

Publican is a must try if you live in Chicago. Go get the pork rinds and pork belly for sure. There are tons of specialty beers too here, but the beer takes a big back seat to the food in my eyes. Overall, I give Publican a 4 out of 5. I'd go back just for the pork rinds alone. The service in the bar area needs some work though as well as the desserts.

Publican on Urbanspoon

All that food, from Hot Doug's to Publican, in one day. I've said this once if I've said it a million times: This is why we are fat.


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