It's an enormous distinction in the food world, akin to an Academy Award.
According to the James Beard Foundation, Olneyville New York System, despite its name, serves food that is distinctive to Rhode Island. Slathered with mustard, topped with meat sauce, sprinkled with celery salt and onions, and served in a steamed bun, the hot wiener is signature as are the salt and vinegar French fries. The preferred drink is coffee milk, made in Rhode Island by flavoring milk with a sweetened coffee concentrate called coffee syrup.
Olneyville has been a family affair since Anthony Stavrianakos, a Greek immigrant, opened the diner in 1946 with his son, Nicholas. (Nicholas later anglicized the family name to Stevens.) Nicholas’ son Peter took over from him. Peter’s son Greg started as a dishwasher at age thirteen. Now he and his sister Stephanie are fourth generation owners.
Olneyville was once the favored lunch spot of workers employed by local jewelry manufacturers. Now, nearly 70 years later, “the System” has become a multigenerational family spot, the late night haunt of college students, and the first stop from the airport for returning natives.
Today, Olneyville has three locations: 20 Plainfield St., Providence; 1012 Reservoir Ave., Cranston; and 1744 Mineral Spring Ave., North Providence.
Owner Greg Stevens told the Providence Journal that he and his sister were in shock when they found out they've won the award.
"Right away I said Dad would have loved this," he said.