New York System

About Dish

Rhode Island hot dogs are known as New York System weenies, although there is nothing remotely like them in New York. (In New York City, that is. The Michigan of Plattsburgh, New York, is vaguely similar.) One logical explanation is that nearly all of the Ocean State’s wiener depots were opened by cooks who had worked at America’s frankfurter mothership, Nathan’s of Coney Island. Even if that’s true, however, the fundamental mystery remains: where, when, and why did the hot dog, once a New York sausage with a German accent, get topped with distinctively Greek-seasoned sauce and proliferate all across the country (except New York) as a Coney Island weenie? Whatever their genesis, Rhode Island’s small pink links – always known as weenies, never hot dogs or frankfurters – are smothered with fine-grind beef sauce that is moderately spicy and maybe a little sweet. Yellow mustard, chopped raw onions and a shot of celery salt complete the picture. The “system” element of the name means they are made in a systematic way by lining up multiple dogs in buns and dressing them assembly-line style. Old-time counter men can array a few dozen Little Rhodies from wrist to shoulder, adding sauce and condiments with lightning speed. Hence the common local description of New York system dining: wieners up the arm.

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