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The Original (DirtyO) is closing


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The Original (DirtyO) is closing

Kelli2006 | May 29, 2007 01:44 PM

I went to U-Pitt and I was shocked when I heard that "The Original hot dog shop" on Forbes ave. is closing. Luckily there are other locations that will remain, but this is a large part of my college experience that will die. I might have to make a last road trip to get a all-beef dog with kraut and mustard and a small fry next weekend.

Anyone from N-E Ohio want to join me in a Chowhound pilgrimage to the hot dog mecca?

I know the someone will complain about the bathrooms, but all the regulars knew they were dirty and should have been declared a EPA superfund site, but that doesn't take away from the great taste of the dogs, pizza, subs and fries.

Jim Nathan said he became "good buddies" with a guy in college (whose name he can no longer remember) strictly for his apartment.
It was directly above the O.

"I am not ashamed to admit that I was friends with this guy because of where he lived," Nathan, 51, of Shadyside, said on a recent visit to the Oakland eatery. "His apartment always had that beautiful smell, that made you hungry."

For those who aren't aware, the O, also called the Dirty O, is Essie's Original Hot Dog shop, and has been serving its twice-fried French fries and all-beef hot dogs to college students and other visitors to Oakland for 45 years.

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The store opened across from the old Forbes Field in 1960, just before Bill Mazeroski and the Pirates won the World Series.
But with sales sagging, owner Sid Simon said he's decided to hang it up.

"Business is off. It's not like it used to be," he said recently.

The asking price for the restaurant at Forbes Avenue and Bouquet Street is $885,000. The business is for sale, but not the Original Hot Dog name. The family owns two other locations, one on Carnegie Mellon University's campus and the other in Plum Borough.

But the O became a symbol of Oakland itself, and its closing will leave a hole in the community. Its sale also has raised questions about the direction the neighborhood -- which abuts the University of Pittsburgh campus -- is headed.

Simon said crime near the Oakland Original, which is open until 3:30 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday and until 5 a.m. Thursday through Saturday, helped him decide to sell.

His remarks came a few weeks after a 24-year-old man was shot and killed by a man who had just eaten at the Original Hot Dog shop, police said. Dyar Dunn, of Hazelwood, was charged with criminal homicide after police say he argued with, and then fatally shot Phenice Buckley just before 3 a.m. Oct. 21.

But Andy Hardie, co-owner of Dave and Andy's Ice Cream on Atwood Street, said the perception that Oakland is unsafe is false.

"It's no more dangerous than any other neighborhood in the city," he said. "I wouldn't take my kids to the O at 2 in the morning, but any time during the day there are a lot of people around and it's safe."

While he said he'd like to see more Pittsburgh police officers in the neighborhood, Hardie, who's been in Oakland for 24 years, said campus police are always visible in the area.

Hardie is head of the Oakland Business Improvement District, which has worked on neighborhood beautification, Oakland Planning and Development Corporation. He said he and other Oakland business owners are hopeful that the community's well-being will be moved to the front burner when mayor-elect Bob O'Connor takes office.

"Oakland's been like the forgotten child," Hardie said. "The city expected Pitt and UPMC to take care of everything. But I think O'Connor is going to put forth a big effort for Oakland."

The O has been a namebrand business for the neighborhood and its reputation a draw.

Kim and Randy Baldwin, of Columbus, Ohio, said they first visited the O eight years ago when their daughter was scouting colleges, and the couple has been hooked ever since.

Their daughter chose a school in another state, Kim said. "I know this isn't very nice to say, but part of me wished she had chosen Pitt, because then we'd have an excuse to visit the O more often."'

The pair enjoyed a few dogs with everything and shared a small fry order on a cold afternoon recently. "It's not exactly health food, but it is just delicious," Baldwin said.

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