1122 East Boulevard
Tuesday thru Saturday
10:30 AM - 10:30 PM
Sad News: Joe Fencz, one of the world's greatest hosts, passed away in October, 2014.
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Only two things have changed at Charlie's Pool Room since Joe and John Fencz's grandmother decided that the men playing pool needed something to eat and started serving hot dogs. First the Fencz's switched from a kerosene to a gas stove. Then, in the 70's, they upgraded from a 8" diameter skillet to a 12" skillet. Other than that it is the same hot dog Grandmother Fencz served in 1925.
The dogs are slow cooked to order in oil over a low heat until hot all the way through. The buns are steamed to order on a stove top steamer. Then each dog goes on a steamed bun. On top, Mrs. Fencz's special, sweet sour Hungarian onion sauce. The recipe is secret, but Joe is convinced that no one could make it even if they knew all the ingredients. The onions have to be cooked just right. Each ingredient has to be added at the ideal moment.
The basic hot dog has just the sauce. Most order it with fresh chopped onions. Those in the know order Mealies. The Mealie is topped with sauce, chopped onions and precisely cut and placed strips of hot peppers. The blue plate special is an order of five hot dogs or Mealies. It is served on a blue plate.
But enough about the dogs. That is only half the story. The second half is Charlie's Pool Room, the last of Alpha's two pool rooms and the longest running business in Alpha. You enter into an old time candy store. Penny candy now goes for two cents and the sales are rung up on a 1920 NCR register that the Joe and John's grandparents bought second hand and paid off at $10 a month over a couple of years. Off the candy store is what used to be their father's barber shop. He lost an arm in the second world war and taught himself to cut hair with his one functional arm.
In back the lone pool table, a new-fangled arcade game and a big round community table for hot dog eating.
The third half of the story are Joe and John Fencz, themselves. John cooks the dogs. Joe makes the sauce and hosts. Pretty good host too. I walked through the door for the first time. Joe greeted me with a smile, a handshake and a "You're Holly Moore." That has never happened before. But back in 2002 a customer had sent me an email about Charlie's Pool Room. I wrote telling the customer that I'd get there sooner or later. He showed my email to Joe. Then Joe saw me on TV a couple of years ago. He's been watching the door ever since. June 2005
Update August, 2009: Penny candy is up from two to three cents. Other than that, nothing has changed. That is good