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Munch goes to The 0

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Thursday, October 13, 2005

In every city there are always at least a couple of places that are quintessentially of that region.

For Pittsburgh, Primanti Brothers, Jo Jo’s and DeLuca’s come to mind, but noth­ing comes close to Essie’s Original Hot Dog Shop.

It opened down the street from Forbes Field just before the 1960 World Series that Bill Mazeroski won with that famous home run.

You know the place is successful when bus drivers announce the stop at the corner of Forbes Avenue and Bouquet Street as “The Dirty 0,” a moniker used by both students and cops. Mostly, though, it is just called “The 0.”

It’s the type of place that has the distinc­tion of needing what it calls a 10 percent “security surcharge” on all its products af­ter midnight Sundays through Thursdays and after 10 on Friday and Saturday nights. Many a police call has originated from The O and the four corners of the intersection at which it sits.

When of the University of Pittsburgh or Carnegie Mellon graduates who have long since moved away find out that Munch is a resident of Pittsburgh, they ask, “Is the O still there?” It’s as if they can’t imagine a place such as Essie’s Original Hot Dog Shop could survive their graduation.

There are reasons for that. The 0 is truly an original.

Entering The 0, you are met by video games on the left and a counter from which hot dogs are served on the right: head straight back for hoagies; back and to the right for burgers. Fries are available at every counter.

Munch and Dear One of Munch (DOOM) met last Saturday at The 0. It was sort of a sad day in Oakland; in addition to the drizzle, Pitt was playing football that afternoon and now that the games have moved to Heinz Field, the excitement that used to accompany a Pitt game in Oakland was gone.

There were no crowds, lots of parking, and we got a table for ourselves and the Munchkins right downstairs without any problem.

The Munchkins, 2 and 4 years old, had never been to The 0. (Imagine living in Pittsburgh for coming on five years without hitting The 0.) Munch figures they are among the very few first-time visitors to hit the place sober.

Munch ordered three dogs: plain f the 2-year-old; one with ketchup and mustard for the 4-year-old; and a third with ketchup, mus­tard and onions for Munch ($2.99 each). DOOM, who is not much for red meat, or even the other white meat, ordered half a turkey hoagie, with everything, on a toasted roll ($6). It was great, but hoagies take a supporting role to the star of The 0, the hot dog.

Oh my. That hot dog was wonderful. The 0’s Web site says the dogs are made by Silver Star Meats and from a secret recipe. They were grilled to a perfection that in­cluded some blackened spots on the casing, which has a terrific snap when it’s bitten.

DOOM also picked up a medium order of fries ($3.99), which is billed as enough to feed two to three people. Munch is either afraid to meet those two or three people who eat that much or wants to get a cut of their future cardiologist’s bills. The four of us barely made a dent, even though the fries, which are deep-fried twice in peanut oil, were crispy and just really good.

So sure, it may not be the cleanest place in the world (the bathroom was appar­ently last cleaned during the 1960 World Series). But unlike Mazeroski, those dogs at The 0 con­tinue to hit home runs every day of the week.

Essie’s Origi­nal. Hot Dog Shop
3901 Forbes Ave., Oakland, PA

Wiener 100 gets little legs letting go

By Linda Wilson Fuoco
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Thursday, August 18, 2005

They were off and running, their short legs pumping furiously as they raced to the finish line. Well, most of them raced toward the finish line. Two of the contestants turned around midrace and ran back to the starting line. One never budged from the starting line. One didn't want to leave its owner to line up for the race.

One little guy showed early signs of being a contender. He ran really, really fast, but he ran in circles. Unfortunately for him, this race, start to finish, was run in a straight line.

It was the first-ever Wiener 100 at the Kennywood Park. The race featured wiener dogs, properly called dachshunds, racing 100 feet.

"It was hysterical," Kennywood spokeswoman Mary Lou Rosemeyer said. "We're definitely going to do it again."

The Wiener 100 was held in conjunction with the third annual Silver Star Meats/Kennywood Entertainment Hot Dog Eating Competition on Aug. 5. The eating contest was held at all three Kennywood parks -- Kennywood, Sandcastle and Idlewild & Soak Zone. The dachshunds were only at Kennywood in West Mifflin.

The winning wiener was a 5-year-old red smooth-coated dog named Pork Chop Baron of Frankfurter. Owners Jerry and Judi Erno, of Sewickley, call him Porky. Weighing in at 16 pounds, Porky was the biggest dachshund in the field. The others were miniatures, weighing six to 10 pounds.

The Ernos say Porky is a "tweenie," weighing in between the minis and the standards.

Miniature dachshunds weigh less than 12 pounds and standard dachshunds weigh 16 to 32 pounds, according to the breed standards set by the American Kennel Club.

When Porky was led away from Erno in the prerace parade, he wasn't too happy about it. But when the race started, Erno said the magic word, cheese, and Porky came running for his reward. His second-favorite food, she said, is grape tomatoes.

The eight contestants ran on a special track designed by John Rodger, Kennywood entertainment promotion director. Rosemary Overly, an artist at Idlewild, made little jackets with racing numbers.

"The jackets were just adorable," Rosemeyer said, but were too big, and would have dragged on the ground beneath the bellies of the very low-slung mini dachshunds. They would have probably fit standard dachshunds.

The Wiener 100 contestants actually know each other because they have monthly play dates with their owners, who have formed a group called the Pittsburgh Dachshund Meet Up Group. They met on the Internet site There are 49 members, and most months, about 20 dachshunds and people show up for the play dates, which have generally been held in Frick Park in Pittsburgh. Future play dates might be held in other parks.

Porky has huge birthday bashes that are served by a professional caterer, who happens to be Judi Erno.

Porky's fifth birthday party June 25 was attended by "a couple hundred people," Erno said, and at least 50 dogs. Porky and some of his best four-legged friends arrived at War Memorial Park in Sewickley in a stretch limousine.

The Ernos asked guests not to bring presents for Porky. Instead, they suggested that donations be made to Animal Friends. Porky's birthday guests donated $2,400 earmarked for construction of the new Animal Friends shelter and resource center in Ohio Township.

A low-cost rabies vaccination clinic will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday at the Forest Hills Fire Department, Ardmore Boulevard. The cost is $8 for each dog and cat older than 3 months. All dogs must be on leashes and all cats in carriers.

For further information, go to or call the shelter at 412-566-2103.

(Linda Wilson Fuoco can be reached at or 412-263-3064.)

More arrows in the quiver

Read about Silver Star Meats in this article which appeared in Food Engineering magazine in October, 2004.

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