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Long live "The Dirty O"!

| Thursday, Dec. 15, 2005

Everything terrible -- but tasty -- you ever consumed in college, served up by people who wouldn't bat an eye if your stomach exploded like a pinata right in front of them. That's "The O" all over.

It's almost impossible to believe, but "The O" is for sale -- which could spell the end of an Oakland institution that's served up dogs since, oh, about the time Bill Mazeroski clobbered his World Series-winning shot at nearby Forbes Field (that's 1960, kids).

All kinds of people have passed through these doors, and continue to do so. But the increasingly obnoxious -- and dangerous -- late-night crowd, combined with maybe a bit of being taken for granted, has left "The O" in a tight spot. Here's hoping this slice of classic Pittsburgh Americana doesn't become yet another faceless chain burrito joint.

Walk inside, and you're assaulted by the sounds and smells of urban Pittsburgh. The ambience is one-of-a-kind -- sort of like Coney Island stuffed into a closet, crossed with the boisterous line for the bathrooms at a Steelers game. Old sit next to young, black next to white, suits next to mohawks at the old "O."

One quirk to remember -- you order dogs at one counter, drinks and fries at another. Screw that up, and you risk creating a bottleneck in traffic.

An Original Hot Dog ($2.99) is hard to beat -- the zing of spicy mustard and onions, the lightly-toasted bun, the satisfying snap of the all-natural casing. The dogs are all locally made by Silver Star Meats, if that matters to you.

The Super Dog ($4.18) begins with a dog, crunchy bacon and melted cheese, plus whatever else your twisted little mind sees fit to add. The bacon is really good -- thick, crunchy and three-dimensional, yet neither it nor the cheesy yellow glop really distract you from the dogs themselves.

The fries are legendary -- I remember many a "dinner" in college consisting of a basket of O fries split three or four ways. Small French Fry ($2.90) plus Cheese Dip ($1.50) equals full. They're bright yellow-gold -- some twisty, some tiny, some crunchy -- and always seem to be cooked perfectly, twice in peanut oil.

"The O" does brisk business in beverages, especially at night. The 40 oz. bottles of bottom-drawer malt liquor are especially renowned for their, um, plenitude and potency.

Additional Information:

The Original Hot Dog Shop

Hours: 10 a.m. to 3:30 a.m. Sundays through Wednesdays; 10 a.m. to 5 a.m. Thursdays through Saturdays.

Address: 3901 Forbes Ave., Oakland

Phone: 412-687-8327

I didn't get to try ...

Pizza is worth its weight in gold to college kids, and The O's Pizza is only $5.95 for a 16' pie. The Vegetarian hits all the bases but meat with mushrooms, provolone, lettuce, tomatoes, sauteed green peppers and onions.The Sloppy O Sub pretty much says it all -- a 'sloppy joe' sub. Right now, I don't drink enough in the middle of the day to want this. But maybe that day is coming.

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