Afterthought: Joie de Vivre

Today’s Machining World Archives February 2008 Volume 04 Issue 02

I still love my local Starbucks for the friendly people who serve me and the crowd those offices there, but with 10,000 stores, lousy pastries and generic coffee cups on the shelves, I can see why the stock has lost almost half its value in the last year. I’m always looking for the next Zingerman’s of Ann Arbor or Mario’s Italian Lemonade storefront near Chicago’s McCormick Place that serve great food with energy and a sense of humor to make it a destination stop, if only to feel the vibe. I’m always looking for magic, a spark, a joie de vivre in the people I do business with. Even if you are grinding parts, or chroming a shaft, if you can convey happiness and fun as you connect with clients, you will be ahead of the game.

Noah and I collect these vibes. We search for that special touch in places we encounter. Here are a few of our favorites. In Chicago, Noah considers a Saturday without a sausage at Hot Doug’s a weekend frittered away. Hot Doug’s is to hot dogs as Emeril is to Subway. Doug, the owner, takes every order and kibitzes with each customer. No Doug, no hot dog that day. During the summer Doug broke his leg. He closed his joint for several weeks while he recovered because he would never compromise his sausage and fries due to infirmity. Even during Chicago’s winters, patrons will often wait outside for over a half-hour because he’s closed on Sunday and serves only from 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

What make Doug’s sausages so wonderful are his innovative, unprecedented, gourmet recipes. A recent menu included a smoked rattlesnake sausage with sweet & spicy chipotle mustard and St. Pete’s bleu cheese drizzled with honey, and a smoked shrimp and pork sausage with Cajun remoulade and smoked Gouda cheese.

Each week he develops a “Game of the Week” recipe as well as a “Celebrity Special” having something to do with baseball or the Chicago Cubs, the team Doug lives and dies with.

With the recent Mitchell report on steroids in baseball, Doug came up with the “Jim Parque” sausage, named for the former White Sox pitcher mentioned in the tome as a user. The Parque was a bleu cheese pork sausage with green apple crème fraiche and smoked almonds. If you are in Chicago for IMTS, it may be worth leaving early for the succulent encased meats and French fries cooked in duck fat.

When Noah was a student at University of Wisconsin Madison, Gin’s (pronounced Jin’s) was a local institution on Fraternity Row. Working out of a rolling cart pulled by a pickup, the black family that owned the operation cooked up exquisite deep fried chicken and fish sandwiches. They started serving the sandwiches topped with lettuce, mayo and hot sauce around midnight. Patrons, mostly students frequently drunk or stoned, lined up in long queues, even in zero degree weather, for the humble delicacies. The fish and chicken were fried in small batches in the little coach. The line was slow but a great meeting place. The police allowed the nocturnal operation because Gin gave them priority status no matter how long the wait.

In Portland, Ore., Apizza Scholls sets the standard in the Rose City. They open at 4:00 p.m. and stay open ‘til the day’s dough runs out. The ingredients are what are fresh at the market that day. A friend went there recently and had a pizza with truffles. The three owners are the only ones allowed to touch the crust, which is prepared with only four, water, salt and a little yeast, and allowed to rise for 24 hours. It is said to be a local Mecca for the food and the atmosphere.

I am intrigued by these terrific, local, one-and-only places. They are about fun and creativity more than scale and tonnage. They are cool and they are successful. As we plod through our days, I think most of us, at least unconsciously, search for the unique burst of creativity of these places, yet we often paint our own businesses with the color of blah.

Customers always gravitate to energy and joy.

Lloyd Graff

Hot Doug's

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One thought on “Afterthought: Joie de Vivre

  1. Mike Mendola

    Lloyd, you son-of-a-gun-you, now I’m starving, and it’s 3 hours to supper. Thanks a lot LOL


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