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Jan 17, 2007 05:24 AM

Rhode Island specialities [moved from a discussion on the Boston board]

If you make it out of Boston, go to Rhode Island. You can try a clam bake there. Lobsters are available all over (they actually are pretty much anywhere in New England, not just in/from Maine). The chowda (the ah's ah dropped in MA, RI,and ME) is not thick and gloppy, in fact it isn't made with milk (just clam broth). You will probably recognize the Clam Cakes as fritters (just the taste will be different), and the Johnny Cake is from here too. If someone offers you a coffee cabinet, don't mistake it for the place in the kitchen where the food is stored (a cabinet is a milkshake with ice cream - called a frappe in MA, and coffee everything is a specialty of RI). The Italian food is better in Providence than it is in Boston (I'll get flamed over that one).

And when a Bay Stater asks you if you'd like a "co-hog", tell him you just had a stuffie made with quahaug (quaw-hawg).

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  1. I know stuffies, fried calamari with hot pepper rings, and coffee cabs, all fond memories from a youth spent partially in RI. My local dairy delivered "coffee milk" (try ordering that outside of southeastern New England) in quarts and half gallons.

    But I never heard the kwa-hog pronunciation, always co-hog. What part of the state do they say that in?

    Also, can you recommend anywhere that still does East-of-the-Bay (thin-style) johnnycakes (or jonnycakes) like the late lamented Commons Lunch in Little Comptom did? Most places up here do the middle-of-Narraganset-Bay (thick) type, which I don't like as much.

    14 Replies
    1. re: MC Slim JB

      Unfortunately the Commons has reopened for business.

      1. re: Mr.Og

        I take it you are not a fan of Commons Lunch: I'd love to hear more of your opinion.

        Can you recommend any other places that serve good jonnycakes?

        1. re: Mr.Og

          I guess it is a passable greasy spoon. It's just that my folks live in the LC (yeah, I'm trying to make it stick) and I lament it is taking up space better filled with a decent restaurant. The johnny cakes tasted like cracked feed corn the last time I ordered them. I haven't stumbled across any other decent ones around.

        2. re: MC Slim JB

          kwa-hog is what EVERYONE called them when I was growing up in the 60s and 70s. Don Bousquet made a big deal out of co-hog in the 80s, and kwa-hog seemed to disappear.

          1. re: JaneRI

            Absolutely JaneRI. No one that I knew (except transplants) ever called them co-hogs. In fact, if you look in Webster's it offers both pronounciations, but Kwaw-Hawg (they use other symbols) is the first listing. And the etymology shows it as a Pequot or Narragansett American Indian word. These tribes did not live in New Jersey, or Boston.

            1. re: RIChowderhead

              I suspect the way the Pequots or the Narragansetts said it differs from how you do, too. Folks I knew in Tiverton, the LC (there you go, Mr. Og), Warren, Bristol, and Aquidneck Island in the 60s and 70s said "co-hog", and they were natives. Maybe it's an East Bay thing.

              1. re: MC Slim JB

                Perhaps. But I think it was spelled that way for a reason.

                I also don't know anyone who says "the LC". We always just called it Little Compton. However, I don't know the locals. It's possible that way of saying it is used there.

                1. re: RIChowderhead

                  "The LC" is a jocular usage that I never saw until this post, hence the tip of the lid to Mr. Og. If I were from there, I would probably tout my being "straight outta Compton" in an effort to seem more badass.

                  Maybe "kwa-hog" is a useful Henry Higgins-like marker of your origin and length of time in the state. As most ESL students will tell you, English orthography is ridiculous, as often hinting how a word used to be pronounced as how it is now said. The language borrows from too many sources, and evolves fast. See "rough" vs. "through" vs. "bough" vs. "cough" vs. "though".

                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                    I grew up 10 miles away in South Dartmouth. When shortened, I've heard "Little C". Never heard "LC" before. Quahog was also always pronounced KO-hog. KWA-hog marked you as an out of towner. Scallop was also pronounced SK+ALL-up rather than SK+AL-up.

                    I love clear broth clam chowder and stuffed quahogs. Clam cakes rule but I try not to order them very often. I was born in New Bedford so linguica is my preferred pizza topping and Portuguese sweet bread is my preferred toast at a greasy spoon.

          2. re: MC Slim JB

            Mc Slim,

            Just my personal experience, but it seems to me 95% of the time I hear kwa-hog. However I spend most of my time in the West Bay and I've been told the ko-hog pronunciation is more of an East Bay thing, so that might be it. Ko-hog is the pronunciation used on the show Family Guy, so it might be growing in popularity for that reason, as well.

            1. re: Bad Sneakers

              I grew up in Pawtucket and everyone there said kwa-hog.

              I do recall reading that those "wacky" guys at Dartmouth College, when it first admitted women, referred to those intrepid coeds as "cohogs."

              1. re: Bob W

                I can reliably report that that regrettable locution had died out at Dartmouth by the late 70s.

              2. re: Bad Sneakers

                That's when I knew that the family guy was from LA.

                1. re: RIChowderhead

                  I have no idea if The Family Guy guy is a real local or not, but I know he went to RISD in the 90's. So he at least set foot in Rhody.

            2. You forgot to add that a coney island dog (gaaagga) really has no resemblence to hot dogs served at coney island, NY.

              Clamcake is a bit misleading - when a RI friend was taking me out for some, I thought it would be like a crab cake, but made with clams, and I was excited to try it. What a let down - its just fried dough with bits (if you're lucky to see some) of clam in them. It would be better if they put one whole clam inside each dough ball.

              8 Replies
              1. re: LStaff

                I must have eaten several hundred Tex Barry's Coney Island hot dogs as a youth, too: beef dog, squishy split-top roll, yellow mustard, diced raw onion, and a cinnamony meatless chilli sauce on top, sometimes with a squeeze of melted Cheez Whiz kind of sauce.

                Their provenance is controversial, but most agree that they have nothing to do with Brooklyn, and probably originated in Michigan.

                1. re: LStaff

                  Just to clarify, people looking for "coney island dogs" in RI might be better served to look for "NY System Weiners."

                  And don't let anyone try to tell you where the name NY System came from. The Providence Journal put one of its top investigative reporters on the case, and even he couldn't get to the bottom of it.

                  My long time favorite weiner joint is the NY System on Smith St. near the State House, but if you're over in Cranston check out the classic Wein-O-Rama, which has been featured in Zippy the Pinhead (along with the Modern Diner and other RI landmarks).

                  Order more than a couple and you'll probably get to see them prepared "up the arm."

                  Also, the term "gaggers" (pronounced gaggiz in any case) seems to have two meanings. Some people use it to refer to weiners, others to the hot dogs served at places like Haven Bros.

                  1. re: Bob W

                    They're Wieners, not Weiners (in German ie is pronounced as a long e, and ei is pronounced as a long i). And you're right, NY System is the RI place for wieners. I don't know where this Coney Island thread came in. The only Coney Island hot dog place that I know is in Worcester. And I've never been in the place.

                    1. re: RIChowderhead

                      i think you need to spend some more time doing field research in weiner joints! virtually all of them use the incorrect spelling of "weiner." It's just another quirky aspect of RI cuisine.

                      for a huge list of weiner joints, see

                      for the Zippy the Pinhead strip set at the Wein-O-Rama in Cranston, see

                      1. re: Bob W

                        I get too much heart burn from them now (excuse me, hot burrne). I don't know if it's a quirk, or just too much bad spelling. Knowing the place, I'd guess the latter.

                      2. re: RIChowderhead

                        There is a Coney Island System on Taunton avenue in East Providence. In my opinion the best dogs in the state...

                      3. re: Bob W

                        How about Kip's on Newport Ave, and that place in Onleyville?

                        I still say kwa-hog

                      4. re: LStaff

                        I've been told that if you find a clam in your clamcake, it means the string broke. Typically they have one poor clam on a string and drag it through the batter... for flavoring.

                      5. I am so with you on the clamcake let down. Basically tasted like a hushpuppie with a couple erasers in it.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Jenkins

                          Yes, bad clam cakes can be found all over. George's in Galilee was known for great clam cakes, but we stopped going there in the sixties. The clam cakes just weren't up to snuff.

                        2. I never met a cold RI-style pizza strip I didn't like (well, except for those sad, dried up ones you sometimes see in convenience stores).

                          While I'm at it, qwah-hog. ;)

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: a l i c e

                            alice: this great web site also has a list of pizza strip bakeries:

                            1. re: a l i c e

                              Vienna Bakery has the best cold pizza !!!

                              Rod's has the best hot weiners !!!

                              I miss RI !!!

                            2. sells the packaged wiener sauce mix for those of you who are adventurous enough to try to make them at home. I think there is even some of the wiener's themselves you can buy as well. When we'd visit relatives in florida, we had to get the weiners, sauce and buns packed all separately to travel on the plane. kind of cool... the whole plane ended up smelling like wieners! lol