The Rhode Island Weiner
John William Tuohy
Historians disagree on the hot dog’s origin story, but a man named Charles Feltman is credited with turning the product into a fast food item in 1867 when he started serving hot dachshund sausages in milk rolls from a Coney Island pie-wagon. He opened a hot dog stand on Coney Island in 1871 and sold 3,684 sausages that year. By 1900 he was operating Feltman’s German Gardens, an enormous complex of restaurants and beer gardens on Surf Avenue that employed 1,200 waiters where, although seafood was the specialty, he had seven grills dedicated to hot dogs which sold for ten cents each.
The Hot Dogs New England cousin is the hot weiners, or just plain weiners, which were probably brought to the Ocean States shores by Greek immigrants. Rhode Islanders call them “New York System” because they’re made in a systemic way, by lining up all the dogs in buns and dressing them assembly-line-style. (Otherwise we called them “wienie joints” although, sadly, there aren’t many of them left.)
So what’s a wiener?
It’s a small pork hot dog in a natural casing topped with mustard, meat sauce made with a blend of spices, chopped sweet onions and celery salt, and served in a steamed bun. They usually cost well under two dollars, so most people order two or three at a time. If you are an exclusively health eater, the entire wiener zietgise is lost on you and you should probably eat something else.
One theory is that Greek immigrants landing at Ellis Island had one of Feltman’s Coney Island Red-Hots and decided they could improve upon it by giving an old world flavor. Theodore G. Kanelos, a Greek immigrant arrive in Rhode Island and is thought to have introduced the Coney Island System from his restaurant at 462Westminster Street in Providence in about 1931.
My favorite spot for weiners is Cosmic Pizza at 1141 Post Road, Warwick. The place has had various names over the decades that I’ve eaten there but the weiners and stuffies are good and reasonably priced.
Here’s some other locations to try.
The Original New York System, 424 Smith Street in Providence
Wein-O-Rama in Cranston
Rod’s Grille in Warren
New York Lunch in Woonsocket
Sam’s New York System 1031 Mineral Spring Ave North Providence
Snoopy’s Diner in North Kingstown
Buford's, 474 Pawtucket Ave. (Job Lot Plaza), Pawtucket
Olneyville N.Y. System 20 Plainfield St. Providence
Haven Brothers Diner found at the intersection of Dorance and Fulton Streets for over two hundred years.
Modern Diner in Pawtucket
Karen's Kitchen 347 Waterman Ave in Smithfield
Stykee’s New York System, 1617 Elmwood Avenue, Cranston.
Where can I buy an authentic wiener to cook?
Try these two places; Little Rhody Brand Frankfurts and Weiners, LittleRhodyHotdogs.com They make skinless and rope weiners
All American All-American-Foods.com) who carry Marcello’s skinless, pre-formed weiners.
Most Rhode Island places that serve wieners buy the wiener buns at Homestead Baking Company of East Providence (145 North Broadway, Rumford. 434-0551, HomesteadBaking.com)
Meat Sauce recipe for New York System Weiners
1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onions, finely chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon allspice
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
Brown beef with onion, add everything but water. Bring to a simmer, add water, and then simmer 10 to 15 minutes. Serve over weiners in a bun.
Here’s an alternate recipe
The Virgin's Destructions, loosely based on Guy Fieri recipe
1. To start, mince 2 tbsp. of onions and place in a pan with 1 tablespoon of butter. Heat over medium until onions are clear-ish. Frankly, mine were still a little opaque, but the original recipe warns not to brown them and I was a little worried.
2. Add 1/2 tbsp. each paprika and chili powder, plus a pinch of dry mustard, cinnamon, allspice and curry and stir. What apparently results from using such a small amount of ingredients is a congealed blackish brown lump studded with onions. Yum.
3. Stir in 1/4 lb. ground beef and brown over medium heat for five minutes
4. Add 1/4 cup water, stir everything around, and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes until it becomes a better looking chili-esque meat mixture. Breathe a sigh of relief.
5. In the meantime, brown 5 strips of bacon until cooked but still slightly soft, in a small sauté pan.
6. Add 6 hot dogs to a pot of salted boiling water and boil 7 minutes until cooked through. Guy says to steam the buns over the water, so I grabbed a handy rack from my toaster oven and set premade hot dog rolls on top.
7. Wrap the dog in bacon, top with chili, mustard, onions and celery salt and tasty cheddar cheese (which goes so much better with bacon).