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Chicago's Sausage King Has Left the Building — Hot Doug's is Closed

200 customers, a politician, an E-list celebrity as the last customer, and champagne made it into Chicago's most beloved hot dog stand on its last day.

Doug Sohn placing the final order
Doug Sohn placing the final order
Ashok Selvam

The lights powered down and friends uncorked champagne as a disco ball whirled over the cashier's counter, signifying the end of the line for Chicago's famous Hot Doug's.

Around 6:35 p.m., owner Doug Sohn himself made the final order, doing his best impression of his most clueless customers over the restaurant's 11 years.

"Is the 'Atomic Bomb' spicy?" Sohn jokingly asked friend Paul Kelly, who assumed Sohn's customary position behind the counter.

"It's very mild," Kelly retorted, doing his best impression of his friend. Of course, the Atomic Bomb sausage is infamously spicy.

When Sohn eventually settled on a char dog, the staff in back—the ones doing the actual work—had a response for their boss.

"We're all out of char dogs," one of the cooks yelled back.

So while some customers left in tears, the staff at Hot Doug's made sure customers heard plenty of quick-witted banter on this last day. It's the kind of signature chatter that has endeared Sohn to so many over the years.

Doug's Final

Sohn even joked about the foie gras, the beloved yet controversial ingredient that earned him a fine in 2007 when Chicago banned the ingredient.

"It's actually not the most expensive," Sohn said. "It's the profit margin."

Everyone in line was served, and the only thing they ran out of on Friday was the chili.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan even stopped by and hugged Sohn's girlfriend Barbara Tyksinski. Apparently the Madigan family, including Lisa's father, Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, have been patrons since Doug first started slinging sausage at the old Roscoe Village location. Don't worry, Lisa Madigan didn't throw around any of her family's famous political clout to circumvent the line. She left without any food.

While Sohn may have made the final order, Joe Hehl was the last in line, entering the queue at 6:42 a.m. Three minutes later staff cut the line off. For this final day, Sohn wanted to limit service to 200 customers. He didn't want to stretch into the night when some customers may be a little tired or boozy. And, oh yes, those waiting in line had a few drinks.

Hehl, who was suffering form a sore throat while waiting out in the damp and cold conditions, said he wasn't nervous about bearing the responsibility of being the last customer. Kelly told him he was a celebrity.

"You're more of an ‘E-List' celebrity now," said Kelly, who Sohn named the menu's bratwurst after: It's "soaked in beer, kind of like Paul."

Doug's dining room was more empty than usual, as most customers made mass carry out orders. Sohn said the average customer order was about $60.

Sohn and Tyksinski have a road trip planned next week, but Sohn surprised her by naming Friday's "Celebrity Sausage" after her. The celebrity rotates in name and ingredients, and Tyksinski was moved by the gesture.

Doug's Champagne

After the lights dimmed, staff served champagne to customers as a thank you. Eventually, everyone raised a toast to Sohn. Staff planned to put up paper over the windows for privacy and celebrate through the night.

"L'chaim," Sohn said with a wry smile, displaying the same look of content his customers have shown through the years after a meal at Hot Doug's.

—Ashok Selvam

Hot Doug's

3324 North California Avenue, Chicago, IL 60618 Visit Website

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