Munch goes to The 0
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