The secret was, of course, that the unassuming-looking new hot dog joint in Uptown is owned and operated by Juan Carlos and Octavio Garcia, two brothers who worked on the line at the Hot Doug's for nearly its entire existence and, after it closed last fall, received Doug Sohn's blessing to carry on his legacy in their own place—including the specialty sausages and duck-fat fries.
Such a blessing could easily turn into a burden. On one hand, there's a built-in base of customers who loved and still miss Hot Doug's. On the other, that does set the bar ridiculously high.
The good news is that Hot "G" Dog is a worthy successor to Hot Doug's. The hot dogs, it's true, are not quite the same, even if you allow that your taste memory may be tricking you into thinking that Hot Doug's was better than it actually was. (Could that be possible?) The classic Chicago dog seems smaller and overwhelmed by its toppings, and the filling feels looser in the mouth. And the casing on the thuringer doesn't have quite the same snap.
I feel like an ungrateful wretch for complaining about this, by the way, especially since, until I read the DNAinfo article a few weeks ago, I was in mourning for the juicy, garlicky Hot Doug's thuringer, sure that I would never taste its like again. (The one at the Brauhaus just does not compare.) So let it be known that, even with a less snappy casing, Hot "G" Dog's thuringer is still great and has assumed the Hot Doug's thuringer's place at the top of my list of favorite hot dogs.
I'm a blank slate where the specialty sausages and duck-fat fries are concerned (I was too in love with the thuringer and too intimidated by the weekend lines), so I can't tell you how the versions here compare, but taken on their own merits, they're fantastic. The bacon brat with Swiss, which arrived under a blanket of cheese sauce, mozzarella, lettuce, and tomato, was a perfect mess of contrasts: hot and cold, juicy and dry. The duck sausage, served with slices of foie gras and truffle aioli, has a rich and elegant flavor and should be given to anyone who has the nerve to argue that there's no need to make a fuss over a hot dog. For those who miss the more exotic Hot Doug's offerings, be advised that at Hot "G" Dog, they are currently offering kangaroo.
As for the duck-fat fries: they are crisp on the outside, pillowy on the inside, and magnificent all over.
Going to Hot "G" Dog is not quite the experience going to Hot Doug's was. For one thing, Hot "G" Dog is open till 8 PM Monday through Saturday and till 4 PM on Sundays, so there isn't the same level of time supply-and-demand urgency. Octavio Garcia's son, also named Octavio, who mans the (cash-only) register, has not yet developed a Sohnesque style of banter and showmanship. However, none of these things are necessarily bad. What they amount to is: you can get some of the best hot dogs and fries in the city without having to wait nine hours in line.
Hot "G" Dog, 5009 N. Clark, 773-209-3360, hotgdog.com.