Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Steeltown Blog #4: Five Loaves and Two Beef Franks

On my way back from my trek to Mellon Arena (which I'll mention later), I was on my way to find a basement bookshop. The shop was on 5th street, and I, being on 6th, logically thought "one street over." I walked over to the next street, and turned down it.

Have I mentioned already how much I loved being in Downtown Pittsburgh? Because I did. Several reasons:

1) People walking everywhere. Full sidewalks. Not quite "NYC" full, but definitely fuller than the walks in Midtown Houston.

2) Visually interesting. The architecture is a mishmash of old and new. Skyscrapers nextdoor to two-story brownstones next to two-hundred year old stone cathedrals. The courthouse building was a castle. No, seriously. With towers and turrets and everything. I didn't see a drawbridge, but i wouldn't have been surprised.

3) Oddly enough, I loved the fact that Pittsburgh is practically a city of smokers. [Kids, I'm supposed to tell you that smoking is a nasty habit with many serious and life-threatening consequences. So there. You've been told.] I don't smoke (asthma, don't ya know), and smoking makes kissing yucky. (Okay, slightly yucky.) But I loved the fact that almost everyone in town seemed to give a big one-fingered-salute to the PC police who have succeeded in various smoking bans across the country. It reminded me of Denis Leary's awesome speech in the otherwise forgettable movie "Demolition Man."

Anyway. I'm walking along what I thought was 5th street. As I'm passing this building made of what appears to be black (or at least slate-grey) stones, I see a sign on the sidewalk, about the size of a road hazard sign. The two-foot-tall kind, with the two horizontal bars. Anyway. This sign said, "Hot Dogma!" and had an arrow pointing toward the scary dark stone building. Below the first words, it said, "For some Spiritual Refreshment, try our services." And listed the times for mass and communion and things like that.

Hmm. An Episcopal church. But what does "Hot Dogma" mean? I peek in the windows, about a foot above the sidewalk.

It's a hot dog shop. In the basement of a church.

Compelled, I entered.

Great place, playing good music. Not big. Not busy. In fact, I was the only one there, besides the guy behind the counter, who looked about mid-twenties and had a shaggy, hipster haircut. I walk up and ask him what the story was.

He tells me (and I'm doing this from memory, so I may get it wrong) that a friend of his was looking for ideas to help fund a church plant, and decided he wanted to open a restaurant. He asked this guy (whose name is Tim) for ideas, and Tim said that his love of hot dogs drove him to come up with this.

The shop sold all sorts of specialty dogs with all sorts of toppings. (I chose the New Yorker but without the sauerkraut. The all-beef frank came on a bun that was more like a three-inch-think slice of homemade bread with a slit in the middle. Mmmm. Sweet onion relish and mustard.)

They also serve kettle chips. He said that Pitt is a city that runs on French fries (so much that the fries are a point of pride), but that it would have cost too much to get a proper ventilation system in the basement of the cathedral for a deep fryer. Thus, kettle chips. But they were good. I kept the leftovers for later.

It's a cool place. Quirky decorating motif. Diner tables and chairs. Pictures and newspaper clippings on the walls. I dug it much. (Did I mention it has free WiFi?)

Also that he was playing Five Iron Frenzy on the CD player. Good choice.

We talked a bit about where I was from, and other stuff. I told him that if I was ever in Pitt again, I'd make a point of coming back. And that I'd spread the word online. (Ta-da.) He said thanks.

He also told me that they will be featured on the Food Network in early November.

So, here's the advert: If you're ever in downtown Pittsburgh (i'm looking at you, Steph), go to Hot Dogma on 325 Oliver St. and show them some love. They good guys doing good work and serving up some good dogs.

More "Hot Dogma" links (pun intended):

A Post-Gazette article
Legal Trouble Regarding their name?
An interesting analysis of the trademark issue above
AOL Citysearch Page
I include this because the pic is funny

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