28 January 2011

Lost City: Providence Edition: Olneyville New York System Weiners

Unique ways of eating hot dogs is a New England tradition. I learned this during my 2009 jaunt to Troy.

Providence, Rhode Island, has it's own peculiar frankfurter traditions. First of all, their called weiners. Don't call them anything else. And they're served automatically with mustard, meat sauce (really, a kind of chili), raw onions and celery salt, unless you specify otherwise—and you would never do that.

Ground zero of these traditions is Olneyville New York System weiners, a mini-chain that has outposts in Providence and Cranston. It's run by Greg Stevens, whose family moved from Brooklyn (hence, "New York System") to Rhode Island in the 1940s. He admits that there was a weiner tradition in Providence before his clan got there, but it's sure about the details. People generally order three at a time, and down the weiners with coffee milk, another odd Rhody culinary habit. It's the kind of place that that annoying man Guy Fieri would feature on has show. And he has. In 2010.

The weiners are good (it's the celery salt that makes them), if a guaranteed heartburn special in the making. The Olneyville location where I ate them was even better. A counter and a bunch of booths and a strip of white squares above the counter advertising the other things besides weiners you could order. The layout, and vibe, actually reminded me very much of Famous Lunch in Troy.

The guys behind the counter, meanwhile, are real characters, shooting the shit, and answering almost every question in a gently wise-guy manner. When I asked to speak to the owner, a tall, lanky counter man immediately pulled out his cell to call the boss. "I'm very connected," he said. "Very inside."


Andrew Gardner said...

I used to pass through East Providence years ago, and had to stop at the Coney Island Weiner system to give them a try. They asked me what I wanted on mine, I told them sauerkraut and mustard, the looked at me like I was from outer space and told me "we don't have that". So I ordered one plain. Tasted great.

Next time I was up there I asked a friend from RI what you get on a weiner, and she replied "the sauce!!!!" Went into the same store and asked for a weiner with "the sauce" loved it! Until about an hour later when I had the worst heartburn I'd ever had. From what I understand the sauce is onions, ground beef, celery salt, and other things sauteed up for about 3 days until it becomes liquid.

One other thing I tried when I was there was the coffee roll, which could be gotten from streetside carts in Providence and other places (similar to our roach coaches that sell the donuts and coffee). For the most part, the coffee rolls were what we know as cinnamon rolls, only sliced in half and fried up in the egg and bacon grease. Result, delicious but more heartburn.

I liked the coffee milk too...and no heartburn!

Anne Phelan said...

When I lived in Providence in the '80s, I used to go to Teddy's on Washington Street, because it was across the street from my school. If the takeout line was long, invariably there was some old guy who asked for a "hot weenie all the way!" Which we out-of-towners thought was hilarious, and creepliy sexual.

Tinderbox said...

Ugh, too many onions. Good grief.