AVONDALE — The hundreds of people who've waited in line for one of the last Hot Doug's hot dogs in recent weeks have spent their time doing everything from the mundane — chatting with friends, sleeping — to the extreme — selling their spots, getting married.
The owners of Rub's Backcountry Barbecue added their own unique spin Thursday by smoking briskets as they waited in line, one day before the famed hot dog joint is set to close forever.
Ben Woodard says the barbecue folks aren't 100 percent sure it's legal to smoke meat on public sidewalks:
Jared Leonard and his partner in barbecue Gary Wiviott began smoking the briskets around 10 p.m., and by 4 a.m. they had secured the spot in line at the sausage superstore at 3324 N. California Ave. Leonard and Wiviott, who once had a Hot Doug's Sausage named after him, plan to smoke two 15-pound briskets before the shop opens for the second to last time at 10:30 a.m. Thursday.
The inspiration was all the crazy stories about what people were doing in line as they waited, he said.
"I'm a barbecue guy, so when I hear you got 12 hours to do something I think 'We can smoke a brisket," Leonard said Thursday morning.
Being an early riser wasn't enough to secure the first space in line but the crew was happy setting up their barbecue tailgate among the first 30 customers.
"It's what I expected. I was happy with my spot since I have a little room to to work with the garage behind me. It gives me a little space to work," Leonard said.
"This was kind of a last minute audible," he said, revealing that for every hour he waits in line Rub's will donate $500 to Operation BBQ relief, a charity that brings barbecue to communities after natural disasters.
"It's a fun goofy thing but at the same time it's a good time to help people," Leonard said.
He also hoped to the scent might recruit some of the foodies in line to their barbecue festival, the Windy City BBQ Classic, which will be held Oct. 11 in the South Lot at Soldier Field.
Leonard said he is a devout Hot Doug's patron and stops in once a month.
So to pay his respects to Chicago's hot dog king, he cooked up the idea to bring his smoker. When he finally gets to the front of the line, he'll present the 30 pounds of slow-cooked brisket to Sohn and his staff.
"When we get to the front of the line we're going to eat sausage so we're going to give it to Hot Doug and his staff because God knows at the end of the day or his shift he doesn't want to eat sausage. It's a nice little going away present for Hot Doug's."
At the end of the day, Leonard also plans to have Sohn sign the smoker.
"It's great to see someone go out on top," Leonard said of Sohn's exit. "You never want to see someone overstay their welcome. He said, 'Hey, I did my thing, I put in my decade — and I'm going out on top."
Sohn said he was awaiting the brisket when he walked into the restaurant around 8 a.m. Thursday.
"Of course, I'm looking forward to having a brisket. Absolutely, I am," Sohn said rushing inside to prepare for the long work day.
As of 8:30 a.m. the line had grown to about 150 people, stretching several blocks.
The first person in line, Pavel Zlatkin, had been waiting since 6 p.m. Wednesday. Zlatkin spent the more-than-12-hour wait watching movies, relaxing and reading the paper, he said.
Oh, and giving his friends snarky responses when they ask him to bring them some Hot Doug's.
"I'm not a delivery service. Get down here," he texted friends along with other "standard stuff you tell friends to get under their skin."
Zlatkin has been coming to the restaurant for "a better portion" of his life, making the inevitable end of Hot Doug's a bit emotional for him.
"There's a lot of my life in this place. When I was broke and could put a few quarters together to make a dollar. I could get a full meal here. You can't even do that a Taco Bell anymore," Zlatkin said.
About two dozen people came by him as he sat in an orange chair at the front of the line and asked how long he had been there — some nicer than others, he said.
"I'm not here for the sausage," Zlatkin said shaking hands with Sohn as he entered the restaurant. "I could leave now. I've talked to Doug, though not for as long as I wanted, and gave him a handshake."
Zlatkin's last order will be the same as every other order he's made: "Two Chicago dogs: one steamed, one smoked. A Coke and a handshake."
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: