Rhode Island’s distinctive New York System hot dog, known also as a hot wiener, is a small, pink, natural-casing, pork-beef-veal frankfurter that gets grilled, then inserted in a steamed bun, topped with yellow mustard, chopped raw onions, and dark sauce of ground beef plus a sprinkling of celery salt. It’s the sauce that makes the hot dog unique – spicy but not hot, the meat as fine as sand, the flavor vaguely sweet, reminiscent of the kaleidoscopic flavors that give Greek-ancestored Cincinnati Five-Way chili its soul.
When we first wrote about New York System weenies decades ago in Roadfood’s early days, they were cuisine maudite, that’s for sure. But times have changed and regional specialties now receive attention they deserve. In 2014, Olneyville New York System received the James Beard Foundation’s American Classics award.
The restaurant was opened in the 1930s by the Stevens family, Greek immigrants who came to Rhode Island by way of Brooklyn, New York. It is still a Stevens-family operation, and countermen continue to use the old-time wiener-up-the-arm technique of preparing the hot dogs, lining up six to eight bunned ones from wrist to elbow and spreading sauce, onions and mustard on all of them in the blink of an eye. A sign posted outside announces the everyday special: “Buy ONE wiener for the price of TWO and receive the second FREE!”
One curious item on the short menu is beef stew, which is not beef stew at all. It is an order of salted French fries spritzed with vinegar and ribboned with ketchup. The beverage of choice is the Rhode Island favorite, coffee milk – like chocolate milk, but coffee-flavored.
Also at: 1012 Reservoir Ave, Cranston, RI (401-275-6031)