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The REAL Sausage King of Chicago (Live in Chicago Pt. 1)

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Aug 03, 2015
The REAL Sausage King of Chicago (Live in Chicago Pt. 1)

This week's episode of The Sporkful podcast is up! Listen through the player or iTunes/Podcasts app. (And please subscribe!)

There’s Abe Froman, the Sausage King of Chicago in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” and then there’s the real Sausage King of Chicago: Hot Doug.

Live from Chicago, it’s a special edition of The Sporkful! This week and next, it's our hour-long show taped in front of a live audience at the 35th annual Taste of Chicago.

First up: World-renowned chef Curtis Duffy, filmmaker and food writer Kevin Pang, and Doug Sohn, the Chicago-based chef behind Hot Doug's, the beloved sausage shop in Roscoe Village:

02 Hot Doug himself copy

When Doug closed up shop last fall, after more than a decade in business, his diehard customers freaked out. They were camping out for one last taste.

I was there in those final day to tape The Sporkful's Hot Doug's episode, and I remember the insanity and the utter grief. This woman ate there for free whenever she liked, thanks to her tattoo:

03 Judy, who arrived two hours before opening to be first in line - Her tattoo entitles her to eat free for life, or until the restaurant closes copy


People walked into Hot Doug's and offered Doug a million dollars on the spot just to stay open.

But he remained resolute.

“If it was enough that I never had to work a day again the rest of my life -- sure,” he told me. “I can be bought, it’s just that I’m not cheap.”

Doug couldn’t stay away forever. Earlier this year, he joined the ranks of podcasters with the launch of his new show, “The Untitled Hour” on the Radio Misfits network.

And his amazing sausages are back, too:


Last month he opened a new sausage stand at his beloved Wrigley Field -- a business move that gives Doug unlimited entry to all Cubs games.

“I was holding out for the right offer,” Doug says, only half joking.

The new sausage stand at Wrigley features a rotating menu, with each sausage named for a Cubs player. (The “Dave Kingman,” for instance, is a bacon-cheeseburger sausage with a cola-based BBQ sauce.)

When we met onstage at the Taste of Chicago, I couldn’t resist pitching Doug some ideas for new sausages -- including one named for the Chicago folk singer-songwriter Steve Goodman.


As you'll hear in the episode, I was surprised to learn that Doug has a special connection to Steve Goodman.

Listen in to the full episode for that big reveal. And look for the “Steve Goodman” sausage at Hot Doug’s in Wrigley field -- no doubt, it’s coming soon. (Also, for more on Goodman, check out this piece I did on NPR back in 2008.)

Later in the show, another Chicago culinary legend drops by for an interview onstage at the Taste of Chicago: Chef Curtis Duffy of Grace -- one of only 12 restaurants in the U.S. with three Michelin stars.


Chef Curtis (above, far left, in the kitchen) sacrificed almost everything in his personal life to build his culinary career, culminating in the opening of Grace, his first restaurant, in 2012.

“I sacrificed so much…to make greatness in what I do in the food world,” Chef Curtis told me. “I think it was worth it.”

Chicago Tribune food writer Kevin Pang (below) profiled Chef Curtis and the creation of Grace restaurant in his recent documentary film “For Grace.”


Kevin also joined us onstage at the Taste to talk about what it takes to make it in to the top of the food world. According to Kevin, the secret is being attentive to every little detail -- from the kitchen to the dining room to the bathrooms.

“Just to give you a sense of the type of obsession of these guys…just the chair furnishing alone cost $100,000,” Kevin said. “Those chairs are the most comfortable chairs I’ve ever sat on. Go to the restaurant just to sit on those chairs.”


Stay tuned for Part 2 of our “Live from Chicago” show next week. An opera singer turned donut maker performs an aria about donuts, and I ask members of the band Spoon how they feel about forks.

Plus, a mathematician makes a Mobius strip out of a bagel. (If you want to see how to do that, check out my post on Digg.) Can math make my bagel more delicious? Listen in next week to find out.

This week's episode of The Sporkful podcast is up! Listen through the player or iTunes/Podcasts app. (And please subscribe!)

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Photos: Dan Pashman, courtesy of, and via Flickr/CC.

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