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Pok-A-Dot

March 25, 2009 - 3:47pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Pok-A-Dot, Present Tense Bookstore.

Blogger Stephan Lewandowski tells of his recent visit to Elba and Batavia, with the requisite visit to the Pok-A-Dot and search for a bookstore that sells Gardner and Kauffman.

On my way north on 63 near downtown I see the Pok-A-Dot is open for lunch business. The Pok-A-Dot is a 40s lunch counter, a tent of a building erected for temporary shelter but surviving into a new century. It must be nice in the summer because you can order your food, then sit under shelter off to the side of traffic to eat it up. In the winter, it seems to be made mostly of glass, and everybody crouches over the heat sources at the stove top, grill, and deep fryer. Almost all the patrons are men, and most have their coats and hats still on. All the cooks and servers are women.

In the Pok-A-Dot, there are six or eight tables and a counter seating twelve or fifteen that bends around the grill. I sit at the counter, nearer the heat. The waitress never offers me a menu. She just comes up and says, “What will you have?”

March 4, 2009 - 7:41am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Pok-A-Dot, food, new york.

To a California boy like me, you would never think of New York being a hot spot for regional food.  That seems like a Southern thing, not a Yankee thing.

Now that I've lived her a while, I see that I suffered from a profound misconception. The rest of the nation may not know about New York's various delicacies, there there are plenty of specialty items throughout New York.

A TimesUnion.com food blogger started a conversation about NYS regional food, and our own Pok-A-Dot popped up in the conversation. Karen Seward leaves the comment:

Roast Beef on Weck from the Pok-A-Dot in Batavia
White Hot from Pok-A-Dot in Batavia
Pontillo’s Pizza in Batavia (they are now closed :-(

We should note, of course, that Pontillo's in LeRoy remains open and does deliver to Batavia.

Other regional foods mentioned:

  • Buffalo: Anchor Bar Buffalo Wings
  • Rochester Garbage Plate (Nick Tahoe’s was the 1st and is still the best)
  • Utica: Greens Romano (Escarole sautéed in Olive Oil & Garlic, seasoned with Prosciutto, Bread Crumbs, Romano & Hot Peppers).
  • Grape pie in Naples, NY.
  • Cider donuts - I’ve lived all over the east coast and never saw one till I went to Goolds.
  • Plattsburgh and North Country: Michigans (you’ll see these as Coney’s elsewhere, but they are very different from your standard chili dog)

What would you add?

November 11, 2008 - 6:43am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Pok-A-Dot, bill kauffman, John Gardner.

John GardnerBill Kauffman's latest column for The American Conservative magazine is about the annual reading of John Gardner's works at the Pok-A-Dot, or as he spells it, the Pokadot (The Batavian may need to change its stylebook).

The piece is titled Gardening at Night (registration required for PDF version).

Our literary-culinary venue is the Pokadot, Gardner’s favorite diner, the unselfconsciously funky eatery at the epicenter of the Italian-Polish southside. (Gardner, a Welsh Presbyterian, frequently teased his people for their anti-Italian-Catholic prejudices while sharing them: a neat way to have your tortaand eat it too.)

...

Pokadot readers have included Gardner’s family and friends and people mentioned in his books, but most of us—teachers, a dairy salesman, our independent bookseller, and my wife, daughter, and I—know him only through the stories he wrote and the stories that are told about him still. (My dad, a few years behind him in school, said that Gardner was “weird.”)

A few regulars sit at the counter and sip coffee, bemused by the proceedings —maybe even edified, I like to kid myself.

Darrick Coleman covered this year's reading for The Batavian. His post and video are here.

While on the topic of Bill Kauffman, we recently found a video of a lecture he gave two years ago on Restoring American Regionalism. On the same site is a more recent lecture on Wendell Berry on War and Peace.

October 21, 2008 - 8:33pm
posted by Darrick Coleman in Pok-A-Dot, books, bill kauffman, John Gardner.

On Saturday October 18, 2008, Genesee County residents gathered to remember John Gardner, a well-known novelist and university professor who was born in Batavia, NY. He wrote more than twenty works of fiction, children's stories, poetry, and literary criticism. Among his most popular novels are Grendel (1971), The Sunlight Dialogues (1972),  Nickel Mountain (1973), and October Light (1976). Gardner died in a motorcycle crash near Susquehanna, PA, in 1982. He is buried in Batavia's Grandview Cemetery.

Ten people volunteered to read excerpts of Gardner's works for the evening's program including author Bill Kauffman and his daughter Gretel, a student at Elba High School; Tracy Ford, Associate Professor of English at Genesee Community College; Batavia Muckdogs President Brian Paris; and Erica Caldwell, owner of Present Tense bookstore. This was the 12th annual "Batavia Reads John Gardner" event at the Pok-a-Dot.

 

August 22, 2008 - 4:05pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in thebatavian, Pok-A-Dot.

We have a new commercial on WBTA.

Once again, the spot was recorded by Nici Johnson, local resident and waitress at the Pok-A-Dot.

We're quite proud of it: MP3 File

July 25, 2008 - 8:56am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Muckdogs, Pok-A-Dot, bill kauffman, vince maney.

The rain out of yesterday's Muckdog's game also washed away an opportunity to take in nine innings with Bill Kauffman

Instead, we sat in the stands above the soggy field surrounded by 500 restless summer camp kids and chatted until the din of some undefinable noises from the sound system drove us away.  Once we discovered a mutual affection for the Pok-A-Dot and concluded the game would not be played, we dashed over to the diner for lunch.

Having exhausted Google in requests for links to articles by Bill Kauffman, I asked him to send me some pointers to published pieces.

This morning's e-mail brings another essay about Batavia, Play Ball, in First Principles.

Kauffman delights in the quirky fates of life in America, where either by chance or odd ball persistence, people leave marks both indelible  and obscure. In "Play Ball," Kauffman passes along the tale of Vince Maney, perhaps the first and perhaps the only Batavian to ever play major league baseball.

The chance of a lifetime was the result of Ty Cobb fighting with a fan, which led to a suspension, which led to Cobb's teammates refusing to take the field, which led to a team of amateurs and semi-pros filling out the roster of the Detroit Tigers for one day nearly a century ago.

The game of May 18, 1912, was a rout. Emergency Tigers pitcher Aloysius Travers, who later became a Jesuit priest, was touched for twenty-four runs on twenty-six hits in eight innings. Who needs a bullpen? Vince Maney described the game in a letter to his brother: “I played shortstop and had more fun than you can imagine. Of course it was a big defeat for us, but they paid us $15 for a couple of hours work and I was satisfied to be able to say that I had played against the world champions. I had three putouts, three assists, one error, and no hits.”

If only Bill James had been sabermetricking in 1912. For Vince also walked once and was hit by a pitch, giving him an on-base percentage of .500. Calling Billy Beane!

Maney played under an assumed name that day. He was a strikebreaker, after all—a scab of sorts, although Ty Cobb wasn’t exactly Samuel Gompers. For nigh unto one hundred years the baseball record books listed Maney as Pat Meaney, forty-one, of Philadelphia. The fictive Meany’s made-up age gave him the specious distinction of being the oldest rookie ever to debut in the majors, till forty-two-year-old Satchel Paige joined Cleveland in 1948.

I just wish I had been in the stands last August when Kauffman read a Charles Bukowski poem to the fans between innings. Perhaps he can be persuaded to reprise the performance this summer.

July 9, 2008 - 12:07pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in thebatavian, Pok-A-Dot.

We've been advertising The Batavian on WBTA since the site launched in May.  We're very happy with the results, but agree with Dan Fisher that our ad should be switched up once in a while to keep the message fresh.

A week or so ago, I sent Dan over a new script and he suggested hiring a female announcer this time to change the tone of the ad.

The new ad started running yesterday.  It features Nici Johnson, a young, ambitious Batavian who is working to break into broadcasting.

I know her mostly as a waitress/short order cook at the Pok-A-Dot, one of my favorite fine dining establishments in town (previous post), but Nici is also working for WBTA, a couple of radio stations in Buffalo (in promotions) and teaches modeling on Sundays.

Young people who work that hard to get ahead always do, so we can expect great things from Nici.

Here is an MP3 of the spot.

It's very cool, we think, that Dan picked Nici to do this spot.

May 6, 2008 - 10:22am
posted by Howard B. Owens in restaurants, Pok-A-Dot.

pok-a-dotThis morning, breakfast at the Pok-A-Dot.

True greasy spoons are treasured finds these days. The Pok-A-Dot is a classic.

From the moment I walked in, I could see the crowded counter was full of local residents who probably had been coming there for years.

As I saddled up on an empty stool, I quickly observed -- no printed menus. Speedy decision, go for the safe, sure-to-serve choice to save fumbling over options and giving myself away as a first-timer (as if that wasn't obvious from the get-go), so I went for coffee, eggs, sausage, hash browns and toast.

A word about the coffee: It will wake you up in the early morning. 

The young ladies cooking and serving the food were friendly and knew everybody in the joint but me. The conversation was personal and never touched on anything more weighty than whether to pick the chocolate or glazed donut. It made for a relaxing meal.

As I've written before, Batavia benefits from an abundance of dining establishments.  My goal: To try them all.  Any suggestions for lunch today?

Meanwhile, Philip and I will be spending the better part of today hanging out at Main Street Coffee (our permanent office is near ready).  If you stop by, please be sure to say hello, and the coffee will be on us.

UPDATE: Using Google Image search to see if there were any pictures of the Pok-A-Dot floating around on the Web, I found "The Cyber Pok-A-Dot," a large collection of photos of Pok-A-Dot customers.  Very cool.

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