April 21, 2021

Hot Diggity! Hot Doug’s!

Having driven by Hot Doug’s for literally years and seen lines of people waiting to gain admittance, my husband and I finally made a trip to this “encased meat emporium.”
Open Monday through Saturday from 10:30 AM to 4 PM, this is basically an early to late lunch spot. I’m not a big sausage or hot dog fan, but I chose a lamb, goat cheese, raita concoction that I have never seen or tasted anywhere else. Here is a sample of their exotic specials: Ribeye Steak Sausage with Chimichurri, Ardagh Wine Cheese and Fried Onions, Brown Ale and Chipotle Buffalo Sausage with Dark Beer Mustard and Hickory-Smoked Sweet Swiss Cheese, along with Foie Gras and Sauternes Duck Sausage with Truffle Aioli, Foie Gras Mousse and Fleur de Sel. These are definitely not Oscar Meyer recipes. More recognizable “dog” fare is also available.

My husband went whole hog with the Dave Pound, basically a corn dog and an order of cheese fries.The sausage superstore does the fries in duck fat on Fridays and Saturdays, so my husband got to sample this delicacy. I’m not a fan of fried anything, but I must say that I stole a few cheesy potato strips that were pretty delicious. As a nice surprise, we were also able to buy Sioux City Ginger Ale and Mint Cherry sodas.

We opted for the delightful patio to the side of the restaurant. The wait staff brings your food when the order is ready. I couldn’t eat this way every day, but this made an interesting detour from our daily food fare.

Hot Doug’s!
The Sausage Superstore and
Encased Meat Emporium
3324 North California, Chicago, IL 60618
Phone: (773) 279-9550

Lady Gregory’s of Andersonville

At first glance, Lady Gregory’s, a new addition to the Andersonville restaurant scene is an Irish pub with bar food, but the menu lets you know this is no run of the mill list of fried foods. In fact, they bill themselves as a gastropub, the current buzzword in the foodie world. Being a vegetable lover, I was tickled to see side dishes such as cauliflower, beets with goat cheese and sweet potatoes. I ordered a moist broiled salmon entree that came with brussel sprouts that will convert haters of that vegetable.

Intriguing menu items for future visits include the Amish Blue Chips with truffle oil and blue cheese, bourbon-pistachio pate, Guinness shepherd’s pie and the Gastro Burger with fried onions and roasted tomato. Being allergic to shellfish, I shall let my husband enjoy the lobster mac and cheese, one of the restaurant’s bestsellers.

Before opening, Lady Gregory’s had a fire in March which gave new meaning to the term “char-broiled,” but there is no evidence of the previous damage. I’m not a whiskey drinker, but they supposedly carry 300 different varieties of that hard liquor plus 100 beer varieties including one called Banana Bread beer. This should give Hopleaf down the street a run for its money. Sidewalk dining provides fun people-watching.

5260 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60640-2102
(773) 271-5050

Acre in Andersonville

I finally got to try Acre, previously Charlie’s Ale House in Andersonville and was pleasantly surprised with the metamorphosis.

The menu still has comfort food, but the kitchen exhibits a bit more culinary flair. While beef burgers can be ordered, we were more intrigued by the pork burger with strawberry jam. Mac and cheese was decorated with bacon. A chicken sandwich came with sorrel mayo. The stand-out dish was an appetizer of deviled eggs, each half with a small finger of smoked trout draped with a red pimiento. I felt my cholesterol levels rising with each delicious bite.

Mike, our fantastic waiter highly recommended the chocolate cake with stout frosting. That’s right, a beer dessert. To be consumed next time.

5308 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60640-2114
(773) 334-7600

Paul Newman and Erik Satie

Speaking of Paul Newman, he takes my top honor for a celebrity who still tried to be just a plain old human being. While shooting “The Color of Money” in Chicago, Newman came in the first time to Convito Italiano with Tom Cruise. The hostess was like a deer in the headlights as Newman lowered his sunglasses to flash his baby blues. When she discovered Cruise standing next to him, it became debatable whether we should have instigated CPR. This was the first of many visits for Newman, being an aficionado of interesting Italian food and in the midst of building his business featuring spaghetti sauce and salad dressing.

My shining moment came when Mr. Newman tipped me to play Erik Satie’s “Gymnopedie” and I actually knew the piece from memory (along with “Clair de Lune.”) Another evening, Gene Siskel interviewed Newman over dinner and I again played the Satie piece. As a result, Newman’s love of classical music made it into the article.

One incident stuck with me. Newman was sitting at the bar when a middle-aged lady asked for his autograph. He said in a very polite manner, “I’m sorry, but I don’t give autographs.” She was initially silent, then let him know in no uncertain terms that she thought he was arrogant and huffed off. Having just finished the engaging memoir of A. E. Hotchner, “Paul and Me” about his decades long friendship with Newman, I was reminded of that autograph scene.

Paul believed that he was just a regular guy who had gotten incredibly lucky and giving autographs gave the impression that he was somehow different and better than other people. Whenever possible, he tried to take off the cloak of celebrity and don a race car jacket or a T-shirt. The book is a fascinating account of his acting career, his car-racing, his accidental food empire and his charitable giving including the creation of the “Hole In the Wall Gang” camps across the globe. A heartily recommended book about a really stand-up guy.

Remembering Peter Falk

Peter Falk’s recent passing made me think of his visits to Convito Italiano, the long-gone* and charming Chicago restaurant at Chestnut and State at which I played (ahem) some years back. As luck would have it, Paul Newman was dining the night that Mr. Falk arrived. Falk, in town for a live theater performance, did indeed have poor eye sight and was trying to see if this was really his friend Newman in the dining room. Our manager had been an Australian cattle dog of sorts for errant fans trying to disturb celebrity diners so he initially tried to shepherd Falk away from Newman until it became obvious that they did indeed know one another.

Falk returned an hour after his dinner, wearing a rumpled coat, displaying the absent-minded demeanor of his Columbo character as he tried to find a misplaced play script. He was truly a courteous, lovable man, but I kept expecting him to uncover some crime heretofore undetected. And one final question: Peter, did you ever find that play script?

For continuation of the Convito story with Paul Newman Click Here.

*I should also note that there is still the wonderful original Convito Italiano restaurant at Plaza del Lago in Wilmette.
1515 Sheridan Rd # 24
Wilmette, IL 60091-1828
(847) 251-3654