Time Machine: Charlie’s Pool Room

a hot dog legend in Alpha is now a fond memory...
Joe Fencz (left) makes the secret sauce for Mealies and 'greets' while John works his magic in the skillet

Joe Fencz (left) makes the secret sauce for Mealies and 'greets' while John works his magic in the skillet
Joe Fencz (left) makes the secret sauce for Mealies and ‘greets’ while John works his magic in the skillet

By Ellen Shaughnessy

http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/phillipsburg/index.ssf/2014/10/charlies_pool_room_proprietor.html * So sorry to hear this news  :o(

…original May 25, 2012 article:
Got a hankerin’ for a truly delicious hot dog? And a healthy side of character? Step into Charlie’s Pool Room in Alpha where you can still enjoy Grandma Fencz’s  secret sauce on a good crispy hot dog cooked in the same tried+true skillet-method she mastered over 100 years ago here… Grandsons Joe & John Fencz carry the tradition on, to this day.
At the risk of being called prissy – I must confess that I am just not a ’hot dog person’. Looks like I am however, a CPR hot dog person – must admit that the ‘Mealie’ has ruined me for life.

We had set out to enjoy the spring day with a hike of some sort. Instead, we soon found ourselves in Alpha asking random guys with an excellent green vintage chevy pickup truck where ‘that famous hot dog’ place was. Matt said ‘that’s easy’ and went on to describe about 18 turns… ½ hour later we rolled up to the front, to find the green chevy and recognized the two laughing guys eating martin’s chips – we knew we were close!

I go for the wrong door and hear a “ma’m, the door to go in would be to your left” and as our Alpha-guides laugh again, we are quickly thrown back into the 1920s.

Joe escorted us to the big round community table to ‘eat in’. He asked our names and as luck would have it, with our Alpha hot dog guides we now had three Eds at the round table – which incidentally may have been a new world record of the number of Eds eating in at the CPR. “Three Eds are better than one!“ proclaimed my husband. Six of us enjoyed some Mealies and fun conversation with Joe, at the round table on a very Good Friday.

The famous ‘Mealie’ dog was given its name when a regular decided that with all the goodies on top it was good for an entire meal. And yes, they are mealie, mealie good.

walk in to find the vintage candy-stand stocked with all your favorite retro goodies

There is definitely a Christian element to the place – some neat quotes like ‘Nations are not Christian, people are‘. I consequently felt a twinge of growing-up-fairly-Catholic guilt, to be relishing my Mealie amidst all the pious quotes on a Good Friday… but it was admittedly rather tasty.

Joe let us know that Grandma Fencz created her secret sauce in 1920. Word spread, and the family shoe repair business / pool hall soon started serving her scrumptious hot dogs here at Charlie’s Pool Room in 1928. The shoe repair business gave way to a very tasty hot dog. Even the pool table sits idle – it’s now a shrine to the many articles that help put CPR on its well-deserved pedestal.

the original facade… too bad it’s gone but at least there’s a photo.

There are many sayings on the walls; some praise the Lord — some praise the hot dog. ‘CPR gave me new life!’ and ‘A mealie a day keep the other dogs away!’ shout the markered hand-written index cards on the wall.

Joe is happy to share some of his recent guest book quotes with dinders… one favorite comes from his neighbor across the street who grew up on CPR and has a 180 IQ. Now that he’s an astrophysicist, he swears that a steady diet of CPR hot dogs can help create a brilliant scientist. A cardiologist visitor from a state away hails them ‘cardiologist-approved!’ hot dogs.

Vegetarians welcome! Yes they are… to the special sauce & accoutrements on-a-bun;  the skillet however is off limits. There will be no ‘vegetarian hot dog’ in the skillet.

Technological Innovation? Yes: one in the 1970s. Mirrored disco ball? Polyester? Donna Summers ‘Cake in the Rain‘ on a jukebox perhaps? No, this was a question of efficiency — demand now called for more than an 8” iron skillet… CPR switched to a 12” skillet!

Pete Genoves’s ‘Food Lovers Guide to NJ’ calls CPR ‘the BEST Oddist eatery in NJ’. HollyEats gives it a FIVE out of Five grease-stains for outstanding hot dogs …how lucky that it’s just a bridge away.

Charlies Pool Room: 1122 East Blvd. Alpha NJ  908.454.1364. More info on www.hollyeats.com

4 thoughts on “Time Machine: Charlie’s Pool Room”

  1. Hello there,

    Charlie’s Pool Room has been shut down due to health codes/needed renovations. We are hosting a benefit on 8/25 to help raise money for the Fencz Brothers. Please spread the world and help us save Charlie’s!! More info about the event can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/JamminForJersey

    ­There will be live music from local bands, vendors, a beer truck, food available, etc. Flyer attached. Please spread the word.

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