In Rhode Island, hot wieners are a way of life. Many greasy spoons have them on the menu, but only a few can count them as iconic. Rod’s Grille is one.
“The Coney Island sauce is my great grandmother’s recipe,” Meghan Rodrigues shares. Meghan, who runs the diner with her father, is now the fourth generation Rodrigueses to feed the East Bay, which she considers “an honor.”
Located on Washington Street just off of Main in Warren, its kitschy signs, black and white tile flooring, and red diner stools are an homage to an era when the diner ignited the American imagination.
“Warren is such a small town, everyone knows everyone,” she says. “It’s fun seeing so many generations come through our doors. Even if they move away, when they come to visit family, Rod’s is their first stop.”
Meghan began working at Rod’s on weekends and holidays when she was 15 years old. “I started washing dishes, just like everyone else,” she says with a laugh.
She studied culinary arts in college, graduating from Southern New Hampshire University. After a pastry internship in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho, Meghan returned to Rhode Island where she worked at Castle Hill Inn in Newport and with Russell Morin Catering. When her aunt retired in 2012, she officially joined the family business.
Along with Rod’s famous hot wieners, the diner is known for its chouriço-based hash that’s a nod to the family’s Portuguese heritage.
Citing the recent avocado craze, Meghan says she doesn’t feel any pressure to force the diner into the 21st Century. “We don’t chase trends. We focus on quality and consistency – the Coney Island sauce recipe on our hot wieners hasn’t changed since 1955,” she explains. “We offer simple comfort food. That’s what our customers want.”
After working at high end establishments, returning to Rod’s was a welcome homecoming. “I love working with my family. Most of our staff has been here so long they are like family. Customers remember me from when I was a toddler. I love knowing that people are happy that there’s another generation that’s going to take care of this place.”
“We definitely have that Cheers vibe,” she continues. “If we don’t know your name, we absolutely know your order.”