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Hot Doug's Closing Leaves Big Buns to Fill on Chicago Hot Dog Scene

By DNAinfo Staff on May 7, 2014 7:30am

 Hot dog restaurants throughout the city reacted to news that Hot Doug's in Avondale will close in October.
Hot Doug's Closing
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CHICAGO — Don't worry, Chicago. There are still lots of places to get hot dogs.

But there will be big buns to fill after Hot Doug's, the beloved Avondale hot dog spot, announced it will be closing permanently on Oct. 3.

Hot dog joint employees across the city paid homage to the Avondale restaurant, known for its inventive use of meats and toppings, as well as its owner, Doug Sohn, who has taken every order at the restaurant's counter since it opened at its original Roscoe Village location in 2001.

"He inspires a lot of people in terms of combining things that are unique and different than a normal hot dog," said Cary Michael, an owner of the recently opened Links Taproom in Wicker Park. "He's definitely an innovator. He paved the way."

"Much of our inspiration came from a small sausage shop that was located on Roscoe," Links posted on Facebook, referring to Hot Doug's original location that closed because of a fire.

Links is one of several hot dog restaurants to open in recent years that take Hot Doug's approach to selling sausages. Representatives of Links and other similar sausage restaurants say they owe much to Sohn.

Rich Levy, owner of Haute Sausage in the Loop, learned of the closing the same morning he found out his grandfather died.

"It was equally as shocking for me," Levy said about both pieces of news. "Doug has been a giant in the industry, the local restaurant industry, but more specifically the encased meat space."

Haute Sausage wouldn't have started as a food truck selling African-fusion sausages had Hot Doug's not done it first, Levy said.

"I would never have had the [guts] to do what I had done had Doug not shown us how to do it," he said.

Tanveer Ali joins DNAinfo Radio to chat about the reaction some culinary colleagues are having to Hot Doug's closing:

But even if gourmet dogs aren't on their menus, classic hot dog joints acknowledged that Sohn's restaurant has played a huge part in developing Chicago's love of frankfurters.

"Hot Doug's has played an important role in elevating the Chicago hot dog scene, and his presence will be missed," said Scott Berman, owner of Superdawg in Norwood Park.

Though she's never been to Hot Doug's herself, Jinger O'Malley, owner of Morrie O'Malley's Hot Dogs in Bridgeport, acknowledged the significance of the Avondale restaurant.

"The kind of hot dog stand we are, and the kind of hot dog stand they are, is like comparing apples to oranges," O'Malley said. "But I think it's great they've put out a good, unique product and they are very popular."

While several owners and managers of Chicago hot dog restaurants said Hot Doug's will definitely be missed, they said many hot dog joints in the city are using it as their model.

"I definitely think Hot Doug's opened up the market for gourmet sausages," said J.D. McCormick, manager of Chicago's Dog House in Lincoln Park, which has sold sausages made of lamb, elk and alligator since 2009. "He may feel he can close now because a lot of places can fill his void."