RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Ashley Brooks, top, garnishes a Hank's Frank, a Chicago-style hot dog on a poppy-seed bun, dressed with mustard, "very green relish," onions, tomato, pickle, sport hot pepper and celery salt. CLICK FOR LARGE
An award-winning restaurateur had to satisfy a burning hot-dog itch
UP ON a high shelf, next to two plastic dancing hot dogs and a lamp made of a Spam can, is a medal engraved with five stars and the word "Mobil."
Some restaurants display a ceramic Lucky Cat for good luck; Henry Adaniya has a Mobil Travel Guide Five-Star Award. It is his by rights as founder of an acclaimed Chicago restaurant, Trio, and he's brought it with him as he's traded haute cuisine for haute dogs.
Those unfamiliar with the national fine-dining scene won't appreciate what it means to have Adaniya in our midst selling dogs. So here's the quick take: The chefs he brought into Trio's kitchen -- Rick Tramonto, Gale Gand, Shawn McClain and Grant Achatz -- are culinary rock stars. They've collected James Beard Awards; his restaurant collected Mobil stars.
But last year he turned Trio over to his partners, ready to make a reality of an idea that had been buzzing around his brain for years: a hot dog stand.
Hank's Haute Dogs opened Monday in a non-descript Kakaako location, on Coral Street just off Ala Moana Boulevard. His neighbors are Eurosport and Walk-In Liquors, with a Volvo dealership across the street.
It's a neat little place -- but hot, cash only and no parking. "It's like I put out a cardboard box and a sign that says 'Hot Dogs,' " Adaniya says.
He's not afraid of a challenging location. "I want to be good enough that you go beyond the obstacles to get here."
On the first day, Adaniya sold 220 dogs in two hours -- they were out of buns by 1 p.m., proving he just may have a point. "We were prepared to do 200 in six hours."
So, why hot dogs, and why here?
Adaniya's parents, Wallace and Yo, ran a hot dog stand in Kapiolani Park from 1941 until 1953, when the city took the land for the Waikiki Aquarium. That was before Adaniya was born, but he's long felt a bond. "I've always wanted to do hot dogs, because as a kid I heard all these stories."
His father moved the family first to Los Angeles, where Adaniya was born, then to Chicago, where the hot dog is king, further cementing the connection.
Selling sausages in the Windy City, he'd be one among many, so Adaniya looked for fresh ground, selecting Hawaii, where his family is rooted but he'd never lived.
Walking through his 800-square-foot establishment (the kitchen alone at Trio was twice this size), Adaniya talks often about feeling like a kid again.
"This is meant to be fun. For me this is like retirement."
Hank's offers a basic Chicago-style all-beef dog for $4.50, plus nine other slightly pricier specialty sausages, among them chorizo, bratwurst steamed in beer and a kim chee-flavored Portuguese sausage.
He's well aware that a perfectly respectable hot dog can be had at Costco for $1.50, but is confident that he can compete with a variety of quality sausages cooked fresh, and all his condiments (to mention but a sampling: grilled onions, sauerkraut, sport hot peppers, celery salt, pickles, several types of mustard and a Chicago specialty, "very green relish.")
In a nod to fine dining, his menu will include hot dogs of another universe: a rabbit/veal combination, boar, buffalo, Kobe beef, venison, "reindeer during Christmas ..." They'll rotate through the menu seasonally. His current upscale offering is duck and foie gras, for $9.50 per dog.
He's got his staff, which includes son Michael and Michael's girlfriend Ashley, working on sausages made of lobster and tofu. They've brainstormed lots of other ideas: "One is a Spam or a laulau dog. One is a corn dog, but I want to make it vegetarian -- a dog made out of corn. That would be cool."
And, of course, a poi dog, perhaps made of kalua pork, with a poi sauce.
"People who know me understand, I always play both ends," Adaniya says. "I like foie gras. And I like hot dogs."
Hank's Haute Dogs is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Saturday at 324 Coral St. Call 532-4265 or visit www.hankshautedogs.com.|