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Do Rhode Islanders really call hot wieners ‘Greek lobsters’? It’s complicated.

A recent New York Times article about different styles of hot dogs around the country used the term — and it got some people questioning its legitimacy.

Hot wieners from Olneyville New York System, paired with fries and coffee milk.Greg Stevens

When Greg Stevens overhears a customer order a hot dog at Olneyville New York System in Providence, he immediately corrects them.

“They have hot dogs over at 7-11,” said Stevens, a fourth generation owner of the restaurant. “We have hot wieners.”

There’s a difference, Stevens said, and it’s one that’s historically unique to the state. While hot dogs are typically processed or made with just beef, hot wieners are a mixture of beef, pork, and veal.

“In Rhode Island — and it seems only in Rhode Island — it’s served as you see: The steamed bun, the original wiener, a mild bran mustard, our own recipe of meat sauce, fresh chopped onion, finished with celery salts,” he said.


For longtime residents like Stevens, the rules are pretty frank: You can call them “gaggers” or “bellybusters,” but skip the “dogs” when ordering these delicacies.

But how about “Greek lobsters”?

That’s a term that garnered some attention online after it was used in a New York Times article about the many styles of hot dogs served up across the country. Some readers questioned whether the word is actually ever used by Rhode Islanders, while others said they’d never heard the phrase.

“Totally couldn’t find any references to ‘Greek lobsters’ [as] hot dogs in a database of historical R.I. newspapers,” one person wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“The NYTimes claims Rhode Islanders call hot dogs ‘Greek lobsters.’ But the only source I can find is a 2018 Providence Journal column by an amateur historian,” another person wrote.

Someone else shared a news clip from 1905 that appeared in the New York Daily-Tribune, and highlighted “Greek Americans in the Rhode Island lobster business.”

“I wonder if there is a connection (or misconnection, perhaps),” they said.


Mary O’Brien, who owns Saugy Inc., which offers another unique-to-Rhode Island frank, also wasn’t familiar with the “Greek lobster” terminology.

“Never here in Rhode Island, not that I’ve ever heard,” she said.

Saugy Inc. has been feeding residents frankfurters since 1869. Unlike hot dogs and hot wieners, these franks are known as Saugys, and feature “a natural casing pork and beef frank,” O’Brien said.

“Rhode Islanders have grown up on Saugys, and once they taste them, they don’t go back,” she said.

Stevens, however, attested to the nickname “Greek lobster,” and said the reference holds some merit.

“In Rhode Island, somewhere in the very beginning, our forefathers were Greek immigrants who began to call them hot wieners,” Stevens said.. “It became a joke throughout the years. Greek lobsters are one of the many nicknames for hot wieners.”

But whether it’s a Saugy frank, a hot wiener, or a “Greek lobster,” he said every Rhode Islander knows to pair it with another local favorite: Coffee milk.

“The true origin of that [combination]? I’m not sure,” said Stevens. “But it’s become what generations of Rhode Islanders have grown to know.”

Brittany Bowker can be reached at Follow her @brittbowker and also on Instagram @brittbowker.