RE: Jersey Hot Dog Tours and Mini Meets
Hope you get better soon. Any time you want to get out here to west central Jersey for a few dogs just let me know. I will be glad to host. Make sure you get yourself well first.
Instead of my impressions of the dogs we ate yesterday, I am reposting my thoughts on my first visit to Charlie's. This was originally posted earlier this year in the NJ Hot Dog Forum.
My First Visit to Charlie's Pool Room
I finally made my first trip to Charlie's Pool Room in Alpha, NJ today. What a place! Is this the quintessential roadfood palce or not?
Here are some of the Stern's guidelines for a good roadfood place that you will find at Charlie's:
1) Owners on site.
2) Serves a unique dish.
3) Concentrates on what they do best.
4) Limited and/or unique menu. (I could not find a menu - they only make hot dogs three different ways.)
5) Makes their special dish in a unique manner. (When was the last time you had a hot dog called a "mealie"?)
I think the only thing they were missing was the placement of a hot dog on the roof of the building.
Charlie's is a unique place. You walk in and wonder what is this dark and obviously old place. You look into what appears to be a dining room and and there is an old pool table covered with a cloth. Then you notice a few long benches along the walls, but the only place to eat is at a single large round table with about eight chairs around it.
You don't see any place to order or anything that resembles a kitchen. A voice calls out from the back "I'll be with you in a moment" because they have heard you squeaking the floorboards as you investigated this funny little place.
Shortly, John Fencz walks out from the bowels of the building to take your order. John is a friendly man, so he asks you your name, shakes your hand, and seems to want to get to know you personally. This a Saturday morning just before noon and there is no one else in the place.
After you order two hot dogs, John asks you how you want them. Since all you seem to remember is that they make a great relish (properly referred to as a sauce) you ask John what your choices are.
He explains that you can have your dog with their home made sauce, sauce and onions, or sauce, onions, and hot peppers. John explains that this last version is known as a "mealie". You order one with sauce and onions and the other as a mealie. You ask for pickle with both. The total cost is $3.65.
Joe Fencz, John's brother also comes out of the back of the building to get your order from John. Joe then heads back to wherever the kitchen is located to prepare your hot dogs.
As you wait for your hot dogs you talk Chicago style hot dogs with John. John seems to know hot dogs and is very enthusiastic about them. He begins to mention that some of their customers have come because they saw his place on hollyeats.com. You mention that you saw them there but that you also read about them in the NJ Hot Dog forum on roadfood.com.
John says that they do not have a computer, but that he knows John Fox and has heard of the NJ Hot Dog forum. You say that you have met John on the most recent NJ Hot Dog Tour.
Gradually you and John move into the dining area and settle at the round table to talk about hot dogs, roadfood, and eating while traveling. Joe finishes preparing your hot dogs and gives them to John, who serves them to you.
As you eat these amazing hot dogs, Joe comes out and listens to your continuing conversation with John. As you munch your dogs you notice that the "mealie" is the better dog. The unique sauce is great, but the addition of a few thin slivers of cherry peppers adds the slightest bit of heat that makes this a world class hot dog.
You also notice that you are taking your time and savoring your conversation with John and that Joe has joined the two of you. Joe listens intently as you speak. You gradually include Joe in the conversation. You also notice that your dogs are still warm.
Joe makes the dogs by slowly pan frying them in a little bit of oil until they are cooked through and have a slight chew. They are then placed in a steamed bun and covered in the warm sauce. This makes for a tasty dog that stays warm a lot longer than most.
When a few more customers come in, John gets up to take their order. John asks Joe to look for the guest book because he wants you to sign it. As Joe looks for the guest book he explains that John is the chef and makes the sauce. Joe says he is the cook and makes the dogs. It seems like a wonderful partnership to me.
You start to sign the guest book as you leave and John shakes your hand twice more. He is a very friendly man and you vow to yourself to return and have two more hot dogs as soon as you can. In the meantime Joe has headed off to the kitchen to make the hot dogs for the customers that just walked in.
As you drive south along the Delaware River on your way home you savor the entire experience. For about ten minutes you can continue to taste the tingle of the sauce and peppers on your tongue. And you congratulate yourself on having another great roadfood experience.
I urge every reader of this forum to go to Charlie's Pool Room to enjoy this wonderful hot dog experience. I hope you have as much fun as I did.