Wednesday, January 10, 2007 

Portillo's vs. Hot Doug's

This is NOT a review of the differences in quality between the two Chicago-based joints. One is a hugely successful, multi-unit juggernaut with spin-off businesses, while the other has only one location (albeit with a line out the door almost every time I've driven by it). This story is about one company making things easy to give them some $ and make a client happy, and the other being a frustrating pain to do the same thing. Here we go:

Jim Smith is the main owner of the Liberty Theatre in Ft. Scott, KS, and hails from the Chicago area; he always speaks in sentimental tones about his early days here. He's also let it be known he's had his pilot fly him in his private jet to Chicago once, just to get a fix of Portillo's hot dogs. Did I mention he's a great client to have?

Knowing this story, I stopped by Hot Doug's before our trip to Ft. Scott for our New Year's Eve show, hoping to get a few goodies to take with - no cigar. The place was closed for several days around the holidays, dead end.

Fast forward... sure enough, the minute I see Jim in Kansas, the first thing out of his mouth: "Did you bring me any hot dogs?" Damn again.

Riding the wave of a great New Year's Eve party, I wanted to send Jim some dogs from Chicago; my first choice was Hot Doug's, as it's more of a non-touristy, insider's choice than Portillo's. And his duck-fat french fries (Fridays only) are supposed to be truly killer.

So I spoke with Doug (Sahm?) at Hot Doug's, who've I'd met before while eating there; although I did my best to coerce him into sending something to Kansas, he explained to me his extreme disinterest in attempting it (said he'd tried it once), expressed how he wasn't even licensed for sending food, etc. Obviously, if Portillo's can figure it out, so can he; While I have no problem with someone being set in their business ways, I do have a problem with those who make it hard for me to promote their business AND give them some money. Nuff said. And so, I moved on to the Portillo's website, where the experience was the complete opposite.
Real sharp website, easy to navigate & find what I was looking for; For just under $50, they offered to ship the following via UPS in 2 days, which I did:

Hotdogs - 10 pack 10 of Portillo?s beef hot dogs shipped to you or a friend, with all the fixings. Everything you need to create an authentic Portillo's style hot dog with everything is included, 10 hot dogs in a cryovac pouch, 10 poppy seed buns, mustard, relish, 1 fresh onion, 2 red ripe tomatoes, 2 whole kosher pickles, sport peppers & Portillo?s hot dog seasoning. All products are safely packaged to preserve quality and freshness, and then shipped via UPS. Prices include standard 2 day shipping. Additional fees for Standard Overnight and Priority Overnight Shipping

I'll give Mr. Smith a call this week, make sure he got the package, see what he thought about the quality, etc.

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Thursday, January 04, 2007 

The Calico New Year's Eve Kitty

Our CCR tribute band rang in the New Year at the Liberty Theatre in Ft. Scott, KS (I'll be posting content here when the video footage gets edited). Jim Smith, the venue's owner, really went all out, and pieced together a custom "bayou" stage for the night, complete with boat-dock extension. Beyond that, one thing that always captures my interest is not just the musical stuff, but the related stories that seem to occur; things that wouldn't have happened unless there was a show and gathering of different people & circumstances. In this case, I have some cousins from around southeastern Kansas and Oklahoma who came to Ft. Scott for the show. In addition to them saying they hadn't had that much fun in years (it really was that kind of night), one part of it was the appearance of a tiny, feisty calico alley cat who joined us in the band trailer after the show. I'm really not a "cat person," but had to admit this one seemed like something special, and I was considering ways to get it home. My cousin Beth tried taking it inside the place we were staying called the Courtland Hotel, but its meowing was pretty noisy, and she put it outside for the night. The next day, we were looking for it, but it was nowhere to be found. And then, after getting back to Chicago, I get an email from Frank at the Courtland via my cousin Jerry, who had traveled from Dewey, Oklahoma to see the show (around a 2 hour drive?).
Hey Frank and Cheryl,
Just a quick note to thank you for all your hospitality and share a little postscript to the holiday weekend with you. I stopped in town and got a drink for the road, stopped again in Pittsburgh to get gas, stopped in Parsons to check on a house we own, stopped once more in Caney Ks. I was tired coming down the home stretch and just wanted to come in, tell my wife how much I missed her, and take a nap. My dog came to the truck to greet me
home. As I was petting him, the motor of my truck STARTED TO MEOW!!!! I raised the hood and the little calico that was with us in front of the hotel that morning, looked up at me. He rode the whole way on my wheel well!!! I really can't have an outdoor cat 'cause the road we live by is a kitty killer and we are NOT doing the litter box thing ever again. As luck would have it, my neighbors down the road had been looking for a kitty, so she is
nicely settled into to her new home tonight.

But I got just one question to ask Frank.............Did you put that cat under my hood while I wasn't looking?

I hope 2007 is the best year yet for all of you. Thanx again for letting us terrorize your wonderful establishment!

Jerry Larkin