I’m fascinated with Hot Dogs
They’re a guilty pleasure. Yes, but I love them because each little meaty, mustard, maniac-in-a-bun has it’s very own tale, deep rooted our American history.
Much like many of our grandparents, they immigrated to this country and had to reinvent themselves. The Frankfurter shortened it’s name to Frank, met the infamous bun and triumphed in the new world. Each is as unique as the cities you find them in, and their toppings are as diverse as the people who create them.
You may be thinking that hot dogs are simply an inexpensive meal, but I’m convinced that it’s their character so worth noting. As it turns out, I’m not alone. According to UrbanSpoon.com, they ranked as the most popular food searches on their site, with #2 being the “humble Hot Dogs”, which accounted for over 85% of food searches.”
The People & Their Toppings
I’ll start here in Rhode Island, with the NY System Hot Wiener. It’s a staple for locals in Providence. It’s a part of the culture here. There’s a way to order and there’s a way they’re prepared.
Don’t call it a Hot Dog, and don’t try to order it without the meat sauce, without onions, or any other combination other than the one they offer you. Don’t. Because you’ll destroy all they’ve worked for and all they’ve achieved. Frankly, you’ll miss out. If you can’t go “all the way,” just stay home.
The N.Y. System is best ordered in threes. Gain your respect by saying “Three, all the way.” They’ll come fast, piled high with a that special meat sauce, mustard, diced onion and celery salt.
It’s ingenious indigestion, don’t screw with it. Which brings up another Rhode Island question, what’s a gaggar? Well, that indigestion, which is an awesome souvenir by the way, WILL make an encore. It comes back up, and that’s where the name gagger, pronounced gaggah, come from.
It’s ingenious indigestion, don’t screw with it.
To begin with, the quintessential meat sauce is rumored as a secret… But the unique blend of spices may contain the history I’m looking for. Having had earned my way through some serious, middle eastern meals, I couldn’t help but notice a certain familiarity to this sauce.
This amazing flavor was not typical of western-style meat chili. It buzzed of cumin… and cinnamon. Yes, cinnamon. Damn, this got me thinking.
Islands in the Stream
The origins of this uniquely topped, meaty treat, is found not in the name sake of New York, but in Greece. Greek immigrants from New York such as Nicolas and Anthony Stevens of Olneyville, N.Y. System Hot Wieners, and Michael Sotirakos of Wein-O-Rama may have used the New York name for credibility but maintained their unique Mediterranean flavor-ability.
They brought their entrepreneurship to Rhode Island, where the N.Y. System tradition was born. Making these dogs, international island hoppers from the Greek islands to Coney Island to Rhode Island.
My Bun is Only Skin Deep
Just like my mother always said, it’s what’s on the inside of the bun that counts, not just the toppings on the outside. Or something like that?
For example, Olnyville N.Y. System Wieners uses Little Rhody Brand Wieners. Wieners made in Rhode Island, consisting of pork ingredients. This might be the reason they insist on calling them wieners. As far back as European tradition goes, when the dog isn’t 100% beef, but consisting of Pork, then it’s an Wiener.
On the flip side of things, the 100% beef, German-style, dog is called a Frankfurter. (shortened it to Frank.) That’s where the Rhode Island Saugy dog comes in. A dog that also claims it’s fame to the Biggest Little State in the Union.
Over 135 years of hot doging, Saugy Inc. has consisted of several passionate Rhode Islanders. One fascinating character was the young Leo McCaughe, a German-immigrant who delivered Saugy dogs from a horse-drawn carriage in Providence. He started out trotting down Union Street and one day became president of Saugy’s.
The Saugy Dog’s signature note is the “Snap.” You’ll know it when you bite into it. Their ends cut and not twisted. They are even proud of their shorter than average build.
Saugy dogs are not found in the N.Y. System restaurants, but in grocery stores or on street carts around Rhode Island.
Get your Gaggah on
- Original New York System
- Olneyville N.Y. System Hot Weiners
- OR-Make it at home. I’ve illustrated the recipe for you to try at home and enjoy a little slice of Rhode Island right in your own kitchen.