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9 Old-Fashioned Food Terms You'll Only Hear In New England

All the common words people back east use to describe sandwiches, ice cream, and the liquor store.

If you've been to New England, as a visitor or transplant, you're going to be surprised by some of the old-fashioned terms or colloquialisms referring to food and drink. To say that born-and-bred New Englanders have some unique phrases is an understatement, and they wouldn't have it any other way.

If you're a born and bred Yankee, or looking at New England from the middle of the country and wondering what they're talking about, read on for a breakdown of the terms people back east use to describe sandwiches, ice cream, and the liquor store.

Plus, don't miss these 15 Old-Fashioned Food Terms You'll Only Hear In The Midwest.


steamers new england slang

At some coffee shops, a steamer is warmed milk, perhaps with some syrup, but in Rhode Island, steamers refer to steamed clams. While there is a specific type of clam called a steamer, when in RI you might hear all steamed clams called this. So if you're in the New England state and someone wants to share these at a restaurant, always say yes. And don't skip a ramekin of clarified butter to dip the little morsels in, because a dish of steamed clams is absolutely delicious. Also, be sure to get some crusty bread to sop up the clam "liquor"—which is the salty juice left after the steaming process is over—because, honestly, that's the best part.


soft serve swirl

You've heard of soft-serve ice cream, right? In Vermont, soft-serve is interchangeable with the term "creemee." Vermonters are especially fond of maple creemees, and rightly so, they're delicious! Vermont is known for its maple syrup and dairy, and when the two meet, it's perfect.

 4 Ice Cream Chains That Use the Best Quality Ingredients



If you don't know the difference between a milkshake and a frappe (pronounced without the e), a New Englander will let you know. A milkshake is just milk blended with flavored syrup. A frappe is a milkshake with ice cream. Sometimes, in Rhode Island, a frappe is also called a "cabinet" Now you know.

 The Best Milkshake in Every State


grinder sandwich

Most of the U.S. loves a big sandwich, and every region seems to have a different name for it, like hoagie, sub, hero, you get the idea. In most of New England, a long sandwich stuffed with meats, cheese, oil, vinegar, lettuce, tomato, and sometimes mayo is called a "grinder." Except in Boston, but we'll get to that later. 

Hoodsie Cup

hoodsie cup

A staple of a lot of New England childhoods, a Hoodsie is a tiny paper cup filled with delicious ice cream. You'd find chocolate on one side and vanilla on the other, and it was eaten with a tiny wooden spoon that came on the bottom of the cup. They've been popular since the Massachusetts-based Hood dairy started making them back in 1947.


ice cream with sprinkles

Want to start trouble at a New England ice cream stand? Ask for your cone topped with sprinkles! In much of New England, the colorful candies sprinkled on top of ice cream are referred to as "jimmies." Ask for rainbow jimmies or chocolate jimmies and you won't have any trouble. 

 The Best Ice Cream Shop in Every State


Fried cod fillet with asparagus on wooden table

If you've traveled the New England coast, you may have been given a menu that had "scrod" listed as a fish entree. The term is used as a placeholder for the firm, white fish like cod, halibut, pollock, or haddock, and basically describes the "catch of the day."

 61+ Best Healthy Fish Recipes for Weight Loss


soppressata sausage

This one is a little niche, as it's primarily a Rhode Island term. "Soupy" is short for soppressata, an Italian sausage that's become a signature dish for Italian-Americans in the state. Made from pork butts and spices that are secret to every family and purveyor making their own version, it's a spicy source of pride for the smallest state. 

RELATED17 Old-Fashioned Food Terms You'll Only Hear in the South


italian sandwich

This one is a super old-school term that not everyone in New England will remember, but old Bostonians know a "spuckie" is a North End (the Little Italy of Boston) term for an Italian submarine sandwich. You haven't been to Boston until you've had one from an old-fashioned Italian bakery.

A previous version of this article was originally published in August 2022. It has been updated with new information.

Tanya Edwards
Tanya Edwards is a seasoned food and health journalist, who has held roles at Yahoo Health as Managing Editor and at Food Network as Programming Director. Read more about Tanya