Cranston, RI — When you grow up in Rhode Island, you take certain things for granted. Drinking fountains are called “bubblers.” Milkshakes are called “cabinets.” Submarine sandwiches are “grinders.” (also, no one ever pronounces the “r”s at the ends of words — so “grinders” sounds more like “grinduhz;” “pictures” sounds like “pitchuhz,” etc. An interesting corollary to this is that Rhode Islanders tend to put “r”s in words where they normally don’t exist, thus “China” becomes “Chiner;” “India” becomes “Indier,” and so on.

One of the cultural rituals of living here involves going out for Hot Weiners (pronounced “weinuhz,” of course). Wieners are a delicacy you won’t find anyplace else. Basically a hot dog — albeit a special kind of hot dog — on a steamed bun, slathered in meat sauce, diced onions, and celery salt. Slightly smaller than regular dogs, they’re made with pork, beef and veal. “You can find hot dogs in the market [Rhode Island-ese for a grocery store, "market" is pronounced "mock-et"] with pork or beef, but you never find ‘em with veal,” George Sotirakos of Wein-O-Rama says. Except here, of course.

When weenie joints first opened in RI in the mid-twentieth century, operators referred to them as “New York System,” perhaps to make the recipe sound more exotic, even though there was no such thing in New York; the recipe was unique to the state.

Growing up in RI, it never seemed out of the ordinary that one of the most popular joints was called “Wein-O-Rama.” Started in 1962 by Greek immigrant Michael Sotirakos, the restaurant is now run by his sons George and Ernie. You can’t help noticing George when you enter; at 6’8″ tall, he claims to be the tallest short order cook in Rhode Island. It’s a family business: Uncle Nick helps out behind the grill – Nick has worked here, off and on, for 30 years, as has “Mean Jean,” who works the cash register. “She lives up to her reputation,” George says. “Let’s just leave it at that.”

A full menu, including breakfast, is available, but Hot Weiners are Wein-O-Rama’s raison d’être. “I figure in the years we’ve been here, we’ve probably sold about 10 million, probably,” according to George. On an average Saturday, their busiest day, they sell 600 to 700 of the tasty tubular treats.

In traditional Rhode Island wiener culture, the grill person prepares ‘em by lining the buns up along his arm, beginning at the wrist, and spooning on the mustard, meat sauce, and onions one after the other. “In the old days, right up the arm, at least 20,” according to George.  They still line ‘em up today, but just a few at a time, wearing the required food preparation gloves.

Everything about Wein-O-Rama shouts “old school,” from its classic lunch counter stools and vintage signto its menu , a vestige of an age when no one worried about fat, cholesterol, or calories.  ”You don’t come here if you’re health conscious,” George will tell you. “If you’re on a diet, you just don’t come here.”

If you’re looking for some of the best Hot Weiners in the state, however, you most definitely WILL come here.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Wein-O-Rama

1009 Oaklawn Ave.

Cranston, RI 02920

401-943-4990

Hours: Monday through Saturday 7:00 am – 4:00 pm, closed Sundays

Ernie (left) and George (right) Sotirakos

The best!

Uncle Nick mans the grill

You got yer mustard, yer onions...

Happy customers...

They make a mean omelette too!

About Glen Abbott
Glen Abbott is a Florida-based travel writer & photographer. He specializes in writing about motorcycle touring and travel, and his work appears regularly in Harley-Davidson's HOG magazine, American Iron, and other publications.

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33 Comments
  1. David

    February 24, 2014

    Of course, in the good ol’ days, the weenies were not individual, but came in a long coil and were cut to length right before grilling. My favorite weenie joint was in Riverside Square. It is still there 50 years later, now called the Riverside Grill, but the menu has not changed much, nor has Riverside.

    • Glen Abbott

      February 24, 2014

      I remember those “cut to length” weiners as well. I wonder if any of the places still do that?

  2. Dennis

    September 5, 2011

    I grew up on weenies from the weinerama, George was just a kid then. I live in Orlando now, but the first place I go when I go home, is to the weinerama.Gotta have my fix, and a large coffee milk, We don’t have that in Florida either. I have a case of syrup sent down every couple of months. I just went back for a reunion from Cranston West, I went up just before the hurricane. I had George freeze me 24 weenies to go, took them on the plane and it took 2 days to polish them off.

    • Travelin' Gringo

      September 5, 2011

      Hey Dennis, I feel your pain. I lived in Florida too, until very recently, and could only enjoy weiners when I went back to visit!

  3. Jay Green

    July 3, 2011

    I’m originally from New England and grew up south of Boston. I’m cracking up about the adding of R’s at the end of words where they don’t belong. My favorite is “idear”. I love the TV commercial for American Choppers where Senior says “this was a great idear”. My wife’s mother was from Cranston, RI. We’ll have to visit the Wein-O-Rama on our next trip to Rhode Island. I recommend Flo’s Clam Shack in Newport.

    • Travelin' Gringo

      July 4, 2011

      Yes! “Idear” is classic, I should have included it!
      Also, I’ve heard of Flo’s Clam Shack, never tried it, but now it’s on my list for next time.

  4. senafp

    June 8, 2011

    Great info on RI hot dogs and RI. I have friends from RI and I was told about the grinders. Have you ever been to Rutt’s Hut and had their specialty of Rippers? Planning to visit there around end of June. Great photos!

    • Travelin' Gringo

      June 8, 2011

      No, I haven’t heard of Rutt’s Hut or Rippers. Sounds worth checking out though!

      • senafp

        June 8, 2011

        Rutt’s Hut is in Clifton, NJ. who are famous for their Rippers. The hot dog is actually split open and they are delicious. I definitely will be going there again. It’s been too long!

  5. This place sounds fun. Glad to hear there’s no ketchup on the hot dogs, as us Chicago hot dog lovers know that’s not allowed.
    Scott – Quirky Travel Guy recently posted..9 Things You Didn’t Know About Yellowstone National Park

    • Travelin' Gringo

      June 7, 2011

      I agree, ketchup should not be allowed on hot dogs, nor should mayo!

  6. jade

    June 1, 2011

    I love a good hotdog! These look delicious!

  7. Stephania Andrade

    May 12, 2011

    That looks like a heart-attack waiting to happen! Oh but what a delicious moment that would be!
    Thanks for the cultural information.

  8. Yum yum yum! I am so hungry right now and this is making me drool. A great hot dog can be hard to find, so I wish I wasn’t on the other side of the country right now….
    Christy @ Technosyncratic recently posted..Saying Farewell to Mayhem

    • Travelin' Gringo

      May 10, 2011

      I agree, if I wasn’t back home in Florida right now, I’d be returning to Wein-O-Rama for more!

  9. The Travel Chica

    May 10, 2011

    I like that you call weiners a “delicacy.”
    The Travel Chica recently posted..Discovering Kentucky in Buenos Aires

  10. The Dropout

    May 10, 2011

    I can’t believe this — meat sauce on meat?? That’s such “man” food.

    Love this story, although I don’t think I’d want to try the food.
    The Dropout recently posted..Attack of the Asian Baby Snatchers

  11. Jozef @ Where Now

    May 10, 2011

    They look so great! We’ve recently been eating the south American version they call completos which are stuffed with guacamole amongst a load of other things!
    Jozef @ Where Now recently posted..SUCRE SUCRE SUCRE!!

  12. ooooh! think the chinook and i are going to have to drive on up to wein o rama this summer! loved the cultural lesson too- i get it. until i left massachusetts i thought my name was pronounced lorner…or more like lawwwner ;)
    Lorna – the roamantics recently posted..Life and Travel Lessons from Mom

    • Travelin' Gringo

      May 10, 2011

      That’s hilarious Lorna — I know exactly what you’re talking about (“Lawner”). There’s even a video someone posted on YouTube where they keep referring to Wein-O-Rama as “Wein-O-Rammer”

  13. Very entertaining article, Glen! I love how you gave us the “proper” pronunciations of everything too :)
    Michael Figueiredo recently posted..Some Like It Hot!

    • Travelin' Gringo

      May 10, 2011

      Thanks Michael — I figured non-Rhode Islanders would need some help.

  14. adventureswithben

    May 9, 2011

    I lived right next to Cranston. How’d I miss this one?

  15. Jeremy B

    May 9, 2011

    Love this little hole in the wall place. Great name and LOVE the sign about God and cash. Awesome!
    Jeremy B recently posted..Why my first Sacramento Scottish Highlands Games &amp Festival won’t be my last

  16. Mary B.

    May 9, 2011

    Nice job Glen…I will visit when in town. I love hotdogs!!

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