Friday, May 4, 2012

Station Street Hot Dogs

At lunchtime today, I went over to the Pittsburgh Glass Center to pick up the garden floats we made last week.  As I was driving through East Liberty on the way back to work, I thought, "Hey, I'm close to Kevin Sousa's Station Street Hot Dogs, I'll check this out."

I knew it was roughly behind the new Target in East Liberty, so I sort of quasi-guessed where it was by turning onto Broad Street and scouring the area.  Station Street Hot Dogs has been around since 1915 and is a fairly plain looking building and space inside.  Kevin Sousa and his partners bought it last year and basically kept the shell and changed the menu.

Now Station Street features gourmet hot dogs in the vision of Kevin Sousa.  When I walked in the door around 12:30 p.m., there was a nice crowd of people both inside and outside.  There was a cashier and 2 people prepping in the back and just one guy working the line....Kevin Sousa himself.  Wearing a Union Pig and Chicken t-shirt, the guy who owns the best restaurant in the city (Salt of the Earth) and another popular restaurant (Union Pig and Chicken) was working the line fashioning gourmet hot dogs at lunchtime.  I was stunned and pleased at the same time.

I watched him robotically create little works of art, using a common medium beloved by Americans, in the same dispassionate working style I witnessed at Salt the last time we were there.  Clearly, he loves food and loves his work, but he is just so wired in while he is at work.  No movement is wasted, no extraneous mess is made.

There are 8 different hot dogs on the menu, each sounding better than the next, but I went with the Banh Mi Dog.  It was a hot dog topped with pork liver, jalapenos, a sweet chili, pickled..uh..pickles, and fresh cilantro.  There was a lot going on here.  Immediately, I bit into a jalapeno slice and my mouth was on fire.  The pickled pickles were fantastic and my favorite part of the dog; my least favorite were the stems kept on the cilantro.

I also got an order of fries, the regular ones and not the duck fat fries, which were great hand cut fries and big enough for 2 people to share.  The dog was $7 (the 2nd most expensive), the fries were $3, and the Coke was $2, so it was a $12 lunch.  This isn't the place you go to every day, but it is definitely worth it to check out the great flavors contained within a bun.

By the time I was done with my lunch, the crowd had gone and Sousa was on the line, quietly prepping food.  I walked up to the counter and said "hi".  Kevin Sousa is very approachable and was happy to talk.  I mentioned our Cleveland experience to him, which he found pretty interesting.  He said he had been to Lola also and liked it quite a bit and had met Michael Symon a few times.  He described Symon as one of the nicest guys in the business and "you would think he was from Pittsburgh that's how down to earth he is."

As I type this post, there is a chance that Sousa is just finishing up dinner service on a Friday night at a packed Salt of the Earth.  This is a man that truly loves food and loves to share it.  He may be a android, but if so I hope he dreams of electric sheep.

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