America’s Classics: Olneyville N.Y. System Hot Wieners – RI

I had never even heard of a New York System wiener just a few weeks ago. I learned about them from the James Beard Awards when Olneyville New York System Hot Wieners was named on of America’s Classics. There are a number of places around Rhode Island with New York System in the name. One of the oldest is in the Smith Hill neighborhood and has been around since the 1920′s.
IMG_1410The original Olneyville location dates back to 1953, but the family was serving food long before that. Two other new branches opened in North Providence and Cranston, but they don’t have the spirit of the flagship. Two things to know before you go, first, it isn’t called a hot dog. For whatever reason, they call it a wiener and take that seriously. Second, they don’t believe in ketchup. That’s actually not that unusual. When I lived in Chicago, they would always say only people under twelve can put ketchup on their dog.
IMG_1409I hit the Olneyville location about a week after I learned it existed. I stopped in midday and took a seat at the counter. I actually ordered a special that was supposed to be two hot wieners, fries, and a coke. The fries never came but that’s ok. I was really there to try the wiener. Each one comes on a steamed bun topped with mustard, chopped raw onion, meat sauce, and a lot of celery salt.
IMG_1407The stand itself is a dive, but the people are ridiculously friendly. They joke with you like you are old pals. If you can’t handle a little ribbing you might not like it, but they tease each other behind the counter as much as they do the customers. Despite the signs I’m sure they will let you put ketchup on a dog, but I bet you wouldn’t get away unscathed.  The place is worn, but because of it, the charm remains. The wieners are good. If I order one again, I’ll ask them to go heavy on the mustard though. I’m partial to Chicago dogs, so I liked the celery salt in particular. I thought the meat sauce was going to be more like chili, but really it is just seasoned ground beef.  I’ve got no complaints about that, it just wasn’t what I expected.
IMG_1418After eating two at the original, I swung by the North Providence location to compare. It is new and nice. It looks very clean and has a nice flat screen TV. It’s run by high school or maybe college kids. The food is just about the same, the meat sauce was slightly greasier, but there was no meaningful difference. If you just wanted the taste of a New York System Hot Wiener you can go there, but I wouldn’t. The food is the same, but it’s not the type of place you go just for the food. The experience is half the fun, which makes the new locations only half as fun.
IMG_1413It’s been my experience that America’s Classics are the type of places that are absolutely worth going to once, but not usually the type of place I go back to. There is something magnificent about eating in local, historical places like these, but the food often falls short of expectations.  Olneyville New York System wieners stand on their own.  I wouldn’t go out of my way to get back there, but if I were in the area I wouldn’t mind another visit.IMG_1406
James Beard Foundation: America’s Classic 2014
Olneyville N.Y. System
18 Plainfield Street
Providence, RI 02909
401.621.9500

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3 responses to “America’s Classics: Olneyville N.Y. System Hot Wieners – RI

  1. That’s funny to hear about the ketchup – I could never stand having ketchup on my hot dog, even as a kid. I like well enough at different times but with a hot dog it’s just mustard, onions, relish, kraut etc. If I didn’t live a thousand miles from Rhode Island I’d try this place out.

  2. There are places that have so much history and hype that they fall victim to their own popularity. More often than not, the food does not meet the expectations. But the hotdogs look great and would have been better if the meat sauce was chili.

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