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This fall, for the the first time in 28 years, students at George Washington University weren’t able to soak up the effects of their beginning-of-the-semester partying with a hot dog from Manouchehr Mokhtarinava.
The famed vendor, known as “Manouch,” sold hot dogs until 4 a.m. from a silver cart near the corner of 20th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. But last spring, he disappeared from campus because of an allegation of sexual abuse and the subsequent publicity. According to the GW Hatchet, a 19-year-old girl reported to MPD that he forcibly kissed and hugged her on the night of April 20.
Though no charges have been filed against him, Mokhtarinava says he is giving up the hot dog business altogether. The Arlington resident isn’t sure what he’ll do next.
It’s a surprising end for a man who had long been considered a GW institution. Students came to Mokhtarinava’s cart for late-night grilled pretzels and hot dogs served with “GW sauce” and stuck around for his idiosyncratic philosophizing and droll humor.
“I am terribly sad for the GW underclassmen who will never be able to encounter the mysterious philosophy, humorous life stories, and not to mention the best post-party food EVER KNOWN TO MAN/WOMAN … that Manouch once brought to our campus,” reads one mournful Yelp review, posted last Thursday by Tina M.
Mokhtarinava seemed to revel in his near-mythic status. Though he avoids pictures and is cagey in interviews, his cart was covered in his musings. A large sign advertised the stand as a place where you could “satisfy your Id, Ego, and Superego at once,” while a notice on a clipboard read, “Behold: I have reduced myself to a hotdog to highlight that Man should not reduce himself to a weenie.”
“He was kind of a cult figure,” says Sam Salkin, who graduated in 2008. “It’s hard in an urban school to have a lot of school spirit—it’s not like you have a school bar or anything. But [Makhtarinava’s cart] was a constant that was accessible to every GW student.…He provided a quirky sense of pride for a school that doesn’t have a lot of that.”
But now, when asked about his popularity on campus, Mokhtarinava is dismissive.
“These students, you cannot count on them,” he says. “They might say that [I was beloved], but look where I am now.”
Photo by Jessica Sidman