St. Louis Makes the Superior BBQ Chip

Old Vienna's Cheesy Red Hot Riplets pack a ton of flavor into one bag.

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Old Vienna Cheesy Red Hot Riplets potato chips
Photo: Danny Palumbo

On a cross-country road trip back to Los Angeles, I stopped off at Gioia’s Deli in St. Louis for a hot salami sandwich. Thick, tender chunks of hot salami might sound unusual to you, but it really shouldn’t come as any surprise—this is St. Louis we’re talking about here. The Gateway to the West is a polarizing food town full of atypical inventions, and the city constantly gets guff for its regional delicacies. Let’s face it: Provel cheese doesn’t exactly resonate nationwide. When it comes to local potato chips, however, you should check those preconceived notions about St. Louis at the door.

At the original Gioia’s Deli in The Hill, I indulged in a hot salami sandwich and a bag of Old Vienna Cheesy Red Hot Riplets. The brand’s stark white packaging and the bag’s enticing description—“Cheesy Hot BBQ Flavored”—called to me. Cheesy, spicy, and barbecue is a triad that sets this product apart, and with that combo, Old Vienna has redefined what a barbecue chip can be.


I love that Old Vienna focuses on a single spicy “Red Hot” foundation, then layers on additional flavor variations. Per the company’s website,

Focusing on quality and our line of “Red Hot Seasoned” products our company has doubled its growth since 1996. Unquestionably, due to our unique and highly seasoned snacks. Especially “Red Hot Riplets” which have become a fiery St. Louis tradition. We are thankful for the continuous support of our St. Louis consumers, who have grown up loving our Old Vienna snacks, and we look forward to spreading our undying love of hot snacks to new cities in the future.


In addition to the classic Red Hot Riplets, Old Vienna makes the Cheesy kind, as well as a Honey BBQ Red Hot and a Ranch Honey BBQ Hot variation. I picked up a bag of Cheesy with my hot salami sandwich to see if this chip was as iconic as St. Louis natives claim. I wasn’t disappointed.

Handful of Old Vienna Cheesy Red Hot Riplets chips
Photo: Danny Palumbo

What do Old Vienna Cheesy Red Hot Riplets taste like?

Old Vienna Cheesy Red Hot Riplets are a ridged potato chip with multiple flavors all working together in perfect unison. Each chip is simultaneously spicy, cheesy, sweet, smoky, and salty, a striking combination that will have you asking, “Why aren’t more chips combining flavors like this?”


Compared to Old Vienna, most barbecue chips seem too plain—they’re smoky and sweet and that’s about it. These, however, knock you in the mouth with some lingering heat. That heat doesn’t get in the way of the cheesy flavor, either. The flavor alchemy is off the charts.

I’ve written before about chips with complex flavors like Maverik’s “Chaos” flavored kettle cooked chips, which have three distinct flavors of chip mixed together in a single bag. Chips don’t have to stick with standard flavors, and spicy chips in particular don’t have to be one-note. These Red Hot Riplets stand the test of time, and Old Vienna holds up more than just about anything else made in 1936.