It's been a long time coming, but we've finally paid a visit to Charlie's Pool Room (see the Roadfood.com review) at the western edge of the Garden State in Alpha ("we" being Chris and Amy -- ayersian -- and Bruce; none of us had been here before). It's been well-documented, here on Roadfood and elsewhere, but let us reiterate: Charlie's Pool Room is one of the most unique, idiosyncratic eateries in America, and it's all due to Joe and John Fencz. Sure, the hot dogs, when served in the Mealie configuration of Grandma Fencz's Hungarian sauce, chopped raw onions, and carefully placed red and green hot pepper strips (you CAN get them dressed in other ways) are excellent, elegant even in the mellifluous way the flavors blend. But John and Joe are the reasons so many folks return again and again to this one-of-a-kind eatery.
We were greeted by Joe as we entered; he asked for our names, writing them down as we responded. Throughout the rest of our visit he carefully addressed each of us by our first names. He showed us photos of the Mealie and then took our order, explaining that there'd be a 15 minute or so wait. No problem; we perused the hundreds of signs and pamphlets posted all over the premises.
Why is it called a pool room?
Here you see Chris and Amy inspecting the pool table, carefully laid out with about a 50/50 mix of newspaper and magazine stories about the restaurant and religious tracts. That ratio pretty much holds up on the walls.
John was the cook, and he brought our prepared Mealies to the single round table. The brothers were as sweet as can be, friendly, relaxed, and guileless. Joe immediately recalled buffetbuster, Cousin Johnny, and Mariton when we dropped Cliff's screen name. He seemed as much a fan of buffetbuster as he is of them!
If you're looking for a speedy, anonymous hot dog meal, this is not the place for you. If you have the time, and feel that Roadfood is as much about the people you meet as it is about the food you eat, then we recommend you go out of your way to pay the Fencz brothers a visit.