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In Chicago, A Long Farewell To Famed 'Hot Dougs'

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

There's really nothing like a good Chicago hot dog. That's what hundreds of aficionados will tell you, hundreds who've been lining up outside a restaurant on the city's Northwest-side for weeks. They wanted one last taste and don't forget the duck fat fries. The place is called Hot Doug's, a self-proclaimed sausage superstore and encased meat emporium. NPR's Cheryl Corley visited Hot Doug's today, before it closed its doors for good.

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: There's a sign outside the restaurant that says, the fries are good, the sausage is great, but our friend Doug is why we wait. And there are hundreds lined up around the restaurant today, even though it started out rainy and cold.

MICHAEL ALVAREZ: Anytime I head to Chicago, if I get here early enough I got to make it to Doug's.

CORLEY: Michael Alvarez (Ph) who made the trip from Wisconsin has been in the line since eight last night. Chicago is serious about it's hot dogs and Hot Doug's elevated the sausage to superstar status. Stuffing it with exotic ingredients like escargot, parsley-garlic-butter and more. Neighborhood residents Ashley (Ph) and Amanda Moore (Ph) have been in line for 11 hours and Ashley knew what she wanted.

ASHLEY MOORE: My favorite is the Paul Kelly. Which is a bratwurst and I'm going to get sauerkraut and caramelized onions.

CORLEY: It's been a big scene the last few weeks. One couple got married during the wait. Yesterday the owner of a rib joint brought a grill and put on some brisket. Will Hal (Ph) and Jeannie Tie (Ph), who met up with a group of friends at five in the morning say they've just been hanging out and having fun.

WILL HAL: As much as we can muster (laughter) at five a.m.

CORLEY: And what are you going to get today?

JEANNIE TIE: Every flavor and (unintelligible)

CORLEY: Louise Ahrendt, who's painted murals in the restaurant, is making the rounds with buster, the mascot dog, of course, dressed like a hot dog.

LOUISE AHRENDT: He's the only hotdog fan that's not allowed inside - darn health department.

CORLEY: To make the scene manageable and fair, Hot Doug's has been putting up a closed sign to cut off the line, this morning that happen at 6:45, hours before the restaurant even opened. Monet Klen (Ph) an actor just on the other side of the side was holding out hope.

MONET KLEN: I'm from Tennessee, I love corndogs. I had to get corndogs. So I said, you know, what? I got some time and I've got some faith and I'm hoping on some compassion.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN # 1: You never been here before?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN # 2: No, I've been here a few times.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN # 3: All right, I was going to yell at you.

CORLEY: Inside Hot Doug's the smell of grilled meat and onions wafts through the air. Owner Doug Sohn is taking orders at the counter. He says he's proud of the business he's run for nearly 14 years.

DOUG SOHN: I wanted a good Chicago hot dog, which I thought was harder and harder to find. And I wanted a place where you could get different kinds of sausages and it sold only sausages.

CORLEY: Andy Myery (Ph), a university librarian, says he's been very appreciative. He's been coming since 2006.

ANDY MYERY: Today I had the fire dog, the wild boar sausage and the bacon cheeseburger.

CORLEY: Oh and yes, the duck fat fries. Doug Sohn says it's been a good ride. He's loved the crowds but now...

SOHN: It's just time to do something else, time to close down. This has been perfect.

CORLEY: And hotdog lovers looking for a good Chicago dog will have to make their way elsewhere. Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Cheryl Corley is a Chicago-based NPR correspondent who works for the National Desk. She primarily covers criminal justice issues as well as breaking news in the Midwest and across the country.

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