Pittsburgh: Essie’s Original Hot Dog Shop

Pittsburgh is known for many things. Pittsburgh is a sports town, an old steel town, a Wiz Khalifa stomping ground, and a black and yellow breeding ground. It’s a bridge town, an incline town, where Gene Kelly used to clown, and a fatty food mecca world renowned… Poetry and rhyming aside, some friendly local folks wanted to take me out for a dog, and of course I was down. I was lucky enough to go to “The Dirty O”, or more officially, The Original Hot Dog Shop, on a cold day after Thanksgiving when, like the Grinch, my stomach grew three sizes that day. I certainly couldn’t frown.

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Yep, this place is old school. The name does not lie. The first thing I noticed is that the actual restaurant is pretty run-down and old. Nothing has changed since the 80’s, but it’s a good thing. They sell weird old beers that nobody has seen in a few fortnights, and the guy selling you those beers hasn’t been able to see in a few decades. It’s like when you put on that really old, stained, torn up sweatshirt you love. You love that it’s nasty. It’s comfortable and it feels amazing. The dogs, though, are not old, stained, and torn up. They are flat out stellar.

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These weenies are such good sports. I made fun of them for hours, and they just played along. It’s amazing how thick their skin is. OHHH, Pun City! Honestly though, this is some thick skin. If you know NY Weenies, you know what skin brings: the snap. The Dirty O’s dogs possess a fat snap unlike any that New York has never seen. My favorite kind of snap resembles the moment when you pop a loosely filled water balloon. It’s a quick release followed by an avalanche of flavor. The kind of snap I experienced on this day in Pittsburgh was like puncturing a football with a butter knife. It took a lot of effort, but it was still a lot of fun, and the flavor exploded out of there like cuckoo from a cuckoo clock. The taste of the weenie was incredible, rich and smoky, and the buns lightly toasted nicely. The best part about the Original, though, is the selection of toppings they have. I didn’t see anything you couldn’t order. So, I ordered dog 1: chili, mustard, and slaw. This is the quintessential Virginia classic. I was raised on this combo. Dog 2: yellow mustard, obviously. The other dog pictured was not for me (a loyal NY Weenian would know this, as it has been said that you can’t put ketchup on a dog unless you’re under 12 years old), but the pictures looks better with 3 dogs. Maybe I should eat 3 every review?

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I loved this place and I highly recommend it to anyone travelling to Pittsburgh. Essie must have been a great woman if the owner, Syd, decided to name this wonderful place after her. Here’s to you, Essie.

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P.S. If you’re reading this and you are Syd and Essie’s child, please let me know. I’d like to meet you. You must be an incredible human being if you have any of the same DNA that those two had. The chosen one. Neo. Anakin. The baby from “Look Who’s Talkin'”. Whatever. Need you in my life.

Cheers

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3 Sheets Saloon

3 Sheets Saloon is part of a family of bars that is known for attracting 21-24 year-olds for incredibly cheap drinks, beer games, and a college vibe. You’ll notice in the picture above the word “she” is taken out of the name. That’s no coincidence. This bar is always filled with dudes. Dude fest. Sausage fest. What a great place to serve a hot dog! This is an example of an incredible marketing plan and I’m buying into it. Pour me a 3 dollar Bobby Lewis and serve me up a weenie to eat among a bunch of other weenies. This is livin’.

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Above rests the 3 Sheets Dog with a side of tater tots. The mustard was self applied, but the bacon… oh, the bacon, was not. Here we have a bacon wrapped, deep fried, cheese-filled dog. Hopefully you all remember the wonderful Harlem Shake bacon wrapped Sonoran Dog. That was a huge winner, so I was hoping for the same here. Unfortunately this one lacked something just looking at it. It lacked freshness. I’m actually not sure how to describe it, but I can tell you that it just didn’t possess the quality or the craftsmanship that I’d hope. I then remembered where I was and forgot about these silly expectations I had. I was at the college watering hole. “Baby Got Back” still plays over the speakers here hourly. People don’t go here for quality, they go here for quantity. Oh my, was this quantity.

The first taste is the bacon. Cheap, awesome bacon that is somehow stuck to the weenie inside. The next taste is the mustard I chose to apply. (Note the waitress teased me when I asked if they had yellow mustard, she said yes, brought out a yellow container, and inside lay the spicy brown pond scum. Or, “dirty brown water trash.” – Workaholics) Soon after followed the sausage, which had a very smoky flavor to it that I very much enjoyed. Then, a gargantuan influx of melted white cheese. This is the kind of cheese that is so fake you can only call it American; even more fake than my favorite Kraft Singles. This cheese tastes like it could sit on a shelf for 3 years. Now that’s some cheese.

Nothing was incredibly memorable, but it did taste pretty damn good. How could anything be bad if you add fake cheese and bacon to it, though? I mean, it can’t be hard to succeed in the restaurant industry once you know this secret. Anything could be good with this type of treatment. Leo would win an Oscar if he were deep fried, bacon wrapped, and cheese-filled. I guarantee it.

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(I certainly didn’t mind the crisp dill slices to the left either…)

I really enjoyed this hot dog, even though I knew it wasn’t very good. I’d compare this weenie devouring experience to going to a WWE event. You know it’s stupid, you know it’s excessive, but you’re still somehow incredibly amused. You’re surrounded by dudes enjoying a ridiculous experience. In this case, the ridiculous experience was a deep fried, bacon wrapped, cheese filled, 3 Sheets Saloon Dog.

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If that didn’t convince you, nothing will.

Cheers

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