Ben’s Chili Dogs and Newport Jazz Fest
To my recollection, I have never been to Rhode Island. I don’t think I’ve even driven through it before. But that all changed recently as Ali and I met our friends to hang out in Newport and check out a day at the Jazz Fest. I actually drove up by myself since Ali went with them the day before. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to check out the N.Y. System wieners, but as luck would have it, I-95 would be blanketed in traffic for stagnating 20 mile stretches (way to go Connecticut!). I wasn’t surprised by the amount of traffic, but this would prevent me from getting to the System and then to Newport for dinner. So I did a little research and The Gourmet Chili Dog directory pointed me towards a no-frills hot dog diner/stand right in the middle of Newport. I had my sights set, but first, a day a music.
We caught a wide range of music, from Randy Weston, Eddie Palmieri, and Wynton Marsalis, to Michel Camilo, Steve Coleman, and Esperanza Spalding, but Joey Defrancesco clearly blew the roof off for me. No dogs would be eaten that day however, just a lot of fresh seafood. The clouds rolled in the following day and brought an inconvenient downpour. We didn’t let that deter us, though, and made our way over to the 40-year old stand, Ben’s Chili Dogs.
Not only was this my first Rhode Island wiener/hot dog experience, it’s my first time at a hot dog diner (if that’s what you would call this), and also my first time having coney sauce. We stepped in and were the only people in there, but it was Sunday at 5:15 pm, raining, and they were closing in about 30 minutes. This place has everything that would send an interior designer running for his swatch book: wood pannelling, linoleum floors, and bright flourescent lighting. The menu board looked like it was the original and probably hasn’t been changed since then. And maybe the prices are the same too, since they ran between $1.75 and $3 each.
As per the directions above, the lady behind the counter asked us how many I wanted. She didn’t even ask if I was getting a hot dog, just how many I wanted. I didn’t mess around with pleasantries or use my charming blogger voice. I just said ‘Two please.’ The choices of topping were easy: chili, sauerkraut, cheese, onions, mustard, ketchup, chorico and peppers. I ordered both with chili, onions, mustard, and one of them with the chorico & peppers.
To tell you the truth, I initially had no idea one of these had the chorico and peppers, but it turns out the one of the left had them. I understood the chorico, but couldn’t detect any peppers. Then again, I didn’t look too hard because I stuffed my face. These are easy 2-3 bite dogs, and I eventually went back for a third. I can see why people come here year after year: the prices are cheap, the dogs are tasty and no fuss. I love artisanal dogs, but it’s nice to go to a good ole’ dog joint where there’s only 3 or 4 choices on the menu.
One of the fun features of Ben’s is the wall of notes where people write all kind of things about Ben’s, hot dogs, and life. I added my own, graciously thanking them for the good dogs, and shamelessly plugging the blog.
My first R.I. dog was a success. And there’s nothing like friends to join you, encouraging you to get that third dog.
158 Broadway, Newport RI