The Dirty O - Pittsburgh, PA

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Baah Ben
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2009/02/20 17:14:38 (permalink)

The Dirty O - Pittsburgh, PA

I know BB might still be holed up in Wisconsin at 20 below and if so, he's missed a wonderful article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Sunday, February 15, 2009.  Written by Timothy McNulty (great job Tim!) I will give you the highlights and some personal comments in quotes; my sister sent me the article.
 
It's 49 years old - Founded by Sydney Simon.  He just passed away after fighting 3 different cancers over the span of his life.  He was 80.  Hios doctor said he was one tough guy...a real fighter!
 
His two kids run the place.  Terry Compasano and Bruce Simon.  (They once came into my old place to check out our hot dog.  I took it as a complement) They use a Silver Star hot dog that has a natural casing and is made locally.  (We used a Sabrette.  Were we competitors?  I only wish!)
 
They fry their peeled Idaho potatoes twice
 
(Personally, I think they make the best french fries.  They are the standard by which I know I judge all others I've had.  They win every time.  BB can comment when he gets back.  Perhaps he can put up a picture of the size of a "regular order" of fries from the Dirty O... Even bigger than that served by 5 Guys...)
 
The place has police monitoring it after dark.."It is not for the faint of heart" says the author.
 
The Simons modeled their place after a popular place called the Station Street Hot Dog Shop in East Liberty. 
 
They found the space that still stands today.  It is owned by the University of Pittsburgh.  Every few years there is a rumor that the University will throw them out and build something in their space.
 
(I do not believe they have a lease anymore.  At one time they considered moving, but their location was and may still be one of the highest foot traffic locations in the country. They could never duplicate that anyplace else in the city.)
 
They expanded the space and also opened an upstairs dining area.  (When you go in, they have the hot dogs in one section and the fries in another section.  Beer and drinks in a third section.  It is not a great looking place, but once you sit down with those fries..nothing else matters!)
 
(They use Heinz Catsup.  They use to use a bulk foil bag pack of catsup that hung on the wall.  It had a spout and you'd fill up little plastic cups.  Today, they may use the pump dispenser.  We used the bulk pak..People need a decent serving of catsup with these fries.  You cannot give them those stupid little packets.  We did the same thing) 
 
Today, with the U of Pitt playing off campus, there are fewer customers and business has been hurt.  There are also more dorm feeding opportunites that have cut into their volume.  Today, their big season is the summer.
 
(This is roadfood at it's best ..A piece of this town that will alway be remembered)
post edited by Baah Ben - 2009/02/20 17:17:23
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    MiamiDon
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    Re:The Dirty O - Pittsburgh, PA 2009/02/21 06:34:41 (permalink)
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    Baah Ben
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    Re:The Dirty O - Pittsburgh, PA 2009/02/21 11:31:30 (permalink)
    Thanks Don! 

    If you look at the building, which they do not own, the second floor is also dining.  The have video games, etc.  In the neighborhood, unlike in the late 80's, there are now a lot of competitors for the students' dining dollars; Lots of the pizza chain type places have opened in the immediate area to service the dorms.  Pizza is a better value i the minds of students...

    What was not mentioned in the most recent article is the price of a hot dog.  I know the O's is over $2.00.  It could be quite a bit higher and I'm guessing it's at least $2.50 plus tax at this time.  That's a problem for college kids who want a lot of food for their money. 

    Hot dogs are no longer cheap...Good ones at least.  And ironically, they are one of the least profitible item on the menu in most cases.  It is a middle man product..Made someplace else and trucked in..All you are doing is reheating it, adding a bun and condiments.  I'm guessing raw food cost on a decent (not top shelf natural casing dog) today costs around 65 cents.  Add the bun and condiments and maybe you are at say 80 cents? 

    You need to mark up at least 3 times..Really 3.5 is best.  So, that brings you to $2.50 at the least.  Stinky Dogs, which is not a good hot dog, here in Daytona Beach, charges $2.50.  I know I'm pretty close on my guess here.

    Fountain sodas and on premise made fries are much more profitable.  Sodas can yield 5 times your cost..Fries at least 4 times. 
    #3
    mr chips
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    Re:The Dirty O - Pittsburgh, PA 2009/02/21 11:50:26 (permalink)
    Sam, Trudy and  I visited the Dirty O a few years ago and loved it. I remember it because a patron told me how to find the remaining segment of the Forbes Field outfield wall and the location of home plate in the Pitt university library.
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    stanpnepa
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    Re:The Dirty O - Pittsburgh, PA 2009/02/21 12:21:01 (permalink)
    I've been to the O a couple of times.  Lastly, with my wife about six years ago.  I posted that the neighborhood was a bit seedy---we went at night---and someone here wrote that I was crazy.  At least the newspaper article puts up a little evidence to my side.  

    The fries were good, but I thought the hot dog was the star of the show.
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    Baah Ben
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    Re:The Dirty O - Pittsburgh, PA 2009/02/21 13:25:07 (permalink)
    STAN - TOO BAD YOU NEVER HAD OUR HOT DOG!  SILVER STAR IS NOT SABRETTE BY ANY STRETCH OF THE IMAGINATION.  BUT, GLAD YOU LIKED IT. 

    THE NEIGHBORHOOD AT NIGHT IS A BIT SEEDY, BUT EVERYTHING IS RELATIVE.  I WOULD NOT WORRY ABOUT GOING TO THE "O" AT NIGHT.  REALLY, FOR ME, THE ONLY PROBLEMS ARE SOME OF THE CUSTOMERS AT NIGHT CAN BOTHER YOU IF THEY ARE A LITTLE DRUNK.  ASKING FOR CHANGE, ETC.  THAT SORT OF THING.
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    stanpnepa
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    Re:The Dirty O - Pittsburgh, PA 2009/02/21 14:02:36 (permalink)
    Ben, I'll be back...sounds good! No worries about the "seedy characters".  It's not a problem for me.
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    jm199
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    Re:The Dirty O - Pittsburgh, PA 2009/02/21 14:37:02 (permalink)

    Here is the link to the Post Gazette article for those who wish to read the entire story about the Dirty O.

    http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09046/949271-109.stm

    Enjoy!
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    Baah Ben
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    Re:The Dirty O - Pittsburgh, PA 2009/02/22 17:52:19 (permalink)
    Thanks JM..It really is a good story!
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    MiamiDon
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    Kenny Joe
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    Re:The Dirty O - Pittsburgh, PA 2009/03/01 14:37:05 (permalink)
    The O's neighborhood - Oakland - is a great neighborhood. It does have a bad reputation in some circles, though. For instance, when word got around that my kids (then around 12) were allowed to go to Oakland by themselves on the bus, a few of their friends' parents took it upon themselves to warn me of the dangers lurking in Oakland. I think the real problem was that Oakland was too racially mixed for my suburban neighbors. It is true that there have been problems in and around the O, but I think those problems occur in any place which is still serving food after the bars close.     
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    Baah Ben
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    Re:The Dirty O - Pittsburgh, PA 2009/03/01 14:56:17 (permalink)
    MD comes through again..Incidently, there's a Pamela's about a block away from the Dirty O's..She has 3-4 stores now..Maybe even more.

    Kenny - I agree.  Everything is relative.  Compared to other cities, the crime situation in Oakland is a joke. 

    I think the decline in sales at the "O" has far, far more to do with the price of the hot dog and the very real fact that students look for a lot of bulk in their diets at the least possible price.  Charging $2.50 for a hot dog just rubs a lot of people the wrong way...Right or wrong.  College students order a pizza.....

    Now in Manhattan, perhaps it goes over fine. I see where that place Crif's down in St. Mark's charges $2.50.  Nobody seems to be complaining. 
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    ScreenBear
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    Re:The Dirty O - Pittsburgh, PA 2009/03/01 17:27:10 (permalink)
    Students visiting the Original O are more inclined, I dare opine, to order the huge quantities of great French fries than the dogs. You get a whole bunch for not a lot of money. 

       The Bear 
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    Baah Ben
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    Re:The Dirty O - Pittsburgh, PA 2009/03/01 17:29:49 (permalink)
    Screenbear..Absolutely!  That's waht they did when I was in town.  That doesn't change.
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