We’ve fallen into the habit of spending the night in Batavia on our drives East. It mostly just happens to fall at a good spot for us to break for the night, but we also kind of like it.
We have a big soft spot for a popular Greek diner-type 24-hour restaurant called Sport of Kings (named for the nearby seedy-looking racetrack) where you can get a really good chicken Souvlaki plenty big enough for two to share for $10.99. Tip: get it with the sweet potatoes. Sport of Kings is a great place to settle into for some comfort food (fantastic rice pudding, too) after driving for 9 1/2 hours (no beer, though, unfortunately).
This visit, though, we discovered what is now my favorite establishment in Batavia, the Pok-a-Dot diner, which just celebrated its 60th anniversary.
Amazing place, no? [What is a Beef on Weck, you ask? Well, I still have never eaten one, but it is a central element of the distinctive Western New York state regional cuisine, a kind of sliced roast beef sandwich on a kosher-salt-topped roll, dipped in “au jus.” Here’s a fuller explanation.]
Here’s the inside.
As someone commented in a posting, it feels a bit like a slightly amplified food truck. One pregnant woman complained/ commented that she had trouble fitting into the bathroom, and it’s true that it’s quite a squeeze– feels like you’re on a boat, with a wooden sliding door!
The Pok-a-Dot was apparently a favorite of Batavia’s most famous native son author, John Gardner– best known for his Beowulf retelling Grendel, and nowhere near as prominent now, I don’t think, as he was in his heyday in the 60s and 70s… but perhaps ripe for a revival, I don’t know. The John Gardner society holds their annual readings at the Pok-a-Dot because it’s mentioned in his 1972 novel set in a fantastical Batavia, the Sunlight Dialogues, which (wiki) “follows Batavia police chief Fred Clumly in his pursuit of a magician known as the Sunlight Man, a champion of existential freedom and pre-biblical Babylonian philosophy. As Clumly believes in absolute law, order, justice and a Judeo-Christian world view, the two butt their ideological heads in a number of dialogues, all recorded on audiocassette by Clumly.”
Here’s a little plaque the John Gardner society had erected outside the Pok-a-Dot:
Breakfast was pretty great. We ordered as much as we thought we could possibly eat, for four, with coffees, etc, and the total was something like $19.60. Sarah and I each had the eggs-with-peppers– you can choose Hot or Sweet or Mixed, and I got the latter. Delicious, filled with tomatoes too, and accompanied by a buttery hard roll toasted on the grill. I was kind of hoping I’d get a “weck” (see above) but it did not have the salt so was I guess simply a hard roll.
Before concluding my guide to Batavia, I will mention the place we’ve stayed for our last couple visits, the Sunset Motel. I kind of like this place though can’t really give it an all-out recommendation. It is a bit shabby and really could use some fixing up. It is clean, however, and the place has some charms. It has a large field in back which is great for taking the dog and kids on a little run, and features some spooky cow and deer figurines:
And, remarkably, the interior back wall of the motel features a worn/fading mural featuring an accurate rendering of the motel’s proprietor holding a glass of wine (very debonair!) and accompanied by a Shih-Tzu (he currently has two of these) and two Dobermans.
As I said, this place could definitely use a renovation– for example, it was rather difficult to get our motel room door shut — you had to put a shoulder to it. But I give it a lot of credit for the wacky mural and the uncanny deer.