by Bill Batson
Brian “Bongo” Davis has become a brand. In just six months, the reggae musician and tour manager launched a popular product that has a logo that bears his resemblance. Where ever he parks his orange food cart, his Bongo Fries sell out before the close of business.
Meet the man behind the hat, glasses and beard, who has won over the foodie faithful with his fierce, fresh, hand-cut fries.
When did you launch Bongo Fries?
March 29,2018. It was an awesome pop-up in front of Boxer Donuts for 5 hours, non-stop. There was a line around the block.
The people of Nyack really came out and supported me…one of the best days of my life. This community is really a beautiful thing.
I heard you had a brush with the spud earlier in your life?
I have always loved French Fries, so when I started doing commercials in 1979 it came as a wonderful surprise that I landed an Ore Ida French Fry commercial.
It was 1981. I was 14. I looked 11.
Where did you find your distinctive bongo cart?
Well, I searched for about a year looking for something different. I was looking all over the US for a small camper or wagon. I didn’t want a truck. Finally, I found my food cart in China.
It took two months to deliver and finally a huge crate was in my driveway. That’s when I knew this was real
What makes Bongo Fries better?
Honestly, I’m not doing anything people haven’t been doing for years. But Im doing it right and not cutting corners. I use fresh Idaho Russet #1 potatoes, cut them fresh, soak them over night and double fry them to perfection. I make them to order. No heat lamps. I also make my own signature spice and homemade sauces.
The real difference is that I have fun doing what I do and try to connect with each person, big or small, who wants my fries.
So far, so good?
It’s been great. I love it. Of course there’s been ups and downs, challenges and disappointments, but that’s life and you have to roll with it. Sometimes I’m good at rolling with it…sometimes I suck.
What’s you other line of work?
I have been a stagehand for the last 22 years working as a video utility, audio utility. I’m also the Tour Manager of The Grahams, a band out of Nashville,Tennessee.
How did you get the name Bongo?
It was the first week of college, back in the day, and I was carrying my Conga around and some guys were like hey it’s a Bongoman. Thirty-two years later…well, you can figure it out lol
What was the name of your first band?
The Razor Boys, in 1983-1985. The Razor Boys Are Coming was a Steely Dan song…we were a Punkish Mod band. We played CBGBS and a couple other bars back in the early 80’s
What’s the name of your current band?
JLP & The Very Bad Ideas, a local Reggae band
Where did your love for reggae music come from?
A friend of mine turned me onto Bob Marley (of course) back in 1979 or 1980. I then went and bought his newest album Uprising which would unfortunately be his last.
I would listen to it almost every day. Then I started buying more and more reggae, on vinyl of course. There was this great little record store on 1st ave and 90th street called Zig Zag Records. I had a little job delivering bagels on the weekends and spent all my $$ at Zig Zag.
Then it was off to Jamaica every year from 1985-88, but that’s another story.
I was a Reggae Disc Jockey on my college Radio Station.
And now, finally 25 years later, in my first reggae band, and I love it.
I hear you have a signature dance move?
I guess. I just do a bit of skanking when I feel it, just for fun.
Any gigs coming up?
Yes Casa Del Sol on Oct. 18th at 9:30pm
What are some of the joys of owning Bongo Fries
Talking to all the people and hanging with the Nyack community.
There are so many great people.
What are some of the hurdles?
Dealing with red tape, cleaning and taxes
Same questions but with managing bands?
I love the band I work with.
When people don’t communicate or take their time getting back to me.
Who are some of the people in your early years that sent you on this path?
My parents for one. They taught me to always work hard and have fun.
I have always been able to connect with people, from all walks. I learned that from my dad and I learned respect and empathy from mom.
Of course there’s been people like Ernie Ferrigno who gave me my first job at the bagel place and my best friends growing up.
What brought you to Nyack?
The same as most people who move from NYC. I think all people want a better life for their children and family.
Slower life, better schools, and now I can GRILL!!
What’s coming next from your basement recording studio?
The band is working on recording about 3 tunes. It will happen…when, I have no idea.. but soon.
What’s next from Bongo’s kitchen?
I am going to be adding some new sauces and taking a few away. I’m also working on a breakfast fry thing and a nice late night item. You’ll just have to wait and follow me on Instagram to find out…
For those who have read this far and are now hungry for Bongo Fries. Where can we find you?
You can go to bongosfries.com for all my upcoming locations…
I’ll be hitting some local fall festivals, breweries, and always The Nyack Farmers Market on the first and third Thursdays until December!
Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketches in Nyack, NY. “Nyack Sketch Log: Bongo Fries ” © 2019 Bill Batson.