BATAVIA — Beef on weck is the quintessential sandwich of Western New York, so it makes sense that it is also the signature dish of Batavia’s most recognizable restaurant, the Pok-A-Dot. It’s one icon serving up another.
Although the Pok-A-Dot, 229 Ellicott St., started as a hot dog stand, the beef on weck has been its claim to fame for six decades. And it all started in the kitchen of co-founder Phil Pastore and his wife, Leona.
“We tried it out at home first,” Leona said Thursday at the restaurant. “Little by little, it caught on. Then it was popular.”
It sure is. Manager Joanne Cox said the restaurant will “easily” serve 100 of the sandwiches on a busy day. That means she and the staff need to slow-roast two slabs of top round — each weighs 25-30 pounds — every day.
Phil Pastore believes the reason the Pok-A-Dot’s beef on weck is better than any other is the way it is cooked and the seasoning blend used on the meat. Both are secrets that the 90-year-old, his wife, and the restaurant employees aren’t going to divulge any time soon.
“We cook it differently than anybody else. I’m sure of that,” Phil said. “We use three or four different spices that give it a lot of flavor.”
“And we’re not going to tell you what that is,” Leona chimed in.
Cox claimed to not know the secret, but then wryly said “We make it with love.”
The sandwich is prepared exactly the same way it has been for the past 62 years and remains the eatery’s top seller.
Beef on weck is relatively simple dish. It’s just thin slices of slow-cooked roast beef piled on a kummelweck roll. At Pok-A-Dot, the roll is grilled on the flat top then dipped in au jus. And if you ask any of the regulars sitting around the counter, there is only one way to eat it ... with horseradish.
It’s definitely a messy meal, which is part of its appeal.
“It’s sloppy,” Cox said, pointing out the need for extra napkins. “The more it runs down your arm, the better it is.”
While the beef on weck at Pok-A-Dot comes alone on a plate — It’s not even accompanied by a pickle — it is best accompanied by another of the restaurant’s staples, french fries in gravy.
“Now, you’re eating the works,” Phil said.
The beef on weck sells for $4.65.