The neon sign is lit and the window frames have received a fresh coat of mustard-yellow paint, but Original Kasper’s Hot Dogs, the iconic Temescal eatery, isn’t quite back in business — yet. The eye-catching, triangular building at the intersection of Telegraph and Shattuck avenues has temporarily reopened its doors, reincarnated as campaign headquarters for Oakland City Council District 1 candidate Len Raphael. Why is this good for foodies? Kasper’s owner, Harry Yaglijian, will be back behind the counter this Sunday, serving up his signature tomato-, cheddar cheese-, and onion-laden dogs for the second time in a decade.
For much of its 83-year history, Kasper’s occupied a special place in the hearts of Oakland residents. Yaglijian’s grandfather started the business in 1929, and his son-in-law, the elder Harry Yaglijian, continued to serve hungry Oakland residents for fifty years. Politicians, famous actors, and ordinary residents all flocked to the quirky maroon building on a small slab of concrete. The younger Yaglijian, the current owner, started helping his father out in the kitchen in the 1980s. Raphael, the city council candidate, remembers stopping by with his kids so they could all marvel at Harry’s father’s deft knife skills. The younger Harry cuts his tomatoes in the exact same way, Raphael said. “Like father, like son.”
Yaglijian eventually took over the business from his father, but closed the doors in 2002 to make some much-needed repairs. He has plans to restart the business, but can’t say exactly when. “I was anxious to get it open by the end of 2012,” Yaglijian said, “but I don’t think that’s going to happen unless I win the lotto.” In the meantime, he’s renting the space to Raphael. The candidate held a campaign kick-off event last month that included free Kasper’s hot dogs, prepared by the owner himself. Hundreds of people showed up, and what was supposed to be a three-hour event stretched into the evening. Many were old Kasper’s customers, who wanted to know when (and if) the old storefront would be reopening. Yaglijian, who often worked the counter by himself, put in a good eight hours, just like the old days. “The only difference was that it was like an eight-hour lunch crush,” he said.
Temescal residents will have a second chance to relive their Kasper’s memories at a Meet the Candidate event this Sunday, October 21, where Yaglijian will be dishing up his classic hot dogs, for free, from 11-3.