STAR-BULLETIN / 2007
Hank's hot dogs might be haute, but they're sold out of a modest structure on Coral Street in Kakaako.
Haute Dogs an adult treat
Americans have a love-hate relationship with the hot dog. We're worried about childhood-based fears of sausages made with pig snouts and tails, plus adult fears of nitrates, yet most of us are willing to shove those fears aside for the time it takes to devour the juicy, spiced wonders -- whatever they're made of.
According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, Americans consume about 20 billion hot dogs a year, which amounts to about 70 hot dogs per person, per year.
Are you eating your share? At least one person, Henry Adaniya, the "Hank" behind Hank's Haute Dogs, hopes so. The restaurateur who founded the acclaimed Chicago restaurant Trio left that life behind last year to fulfill a familial calling. Before he was born in Los Angeles, his parents, Wallace and Yo Adaniya, ran a Kapiolani Park hot dog stand from 1941 to 1953. He remembered being about 6 or 7, and was captivated not by the numbers of hot dogs they sold -- sometimes up to 2,000 a day -- but by the idea of Hawaii as a hot dog paradise.
Mostly, he was envious about his older brother's experiences and lamented his parents' move, asking, "Why would you want to leave a place like that?"
"What struck me was how accessible everything was to my older brother. He could have candy, hot dogs and sodas, bring all his friends; he was a kid in a candy shop," Adaniya said. "It was a real treat for me to end up at McDonald's and they had the Mother Lode!"
TODAY, Adaniya would consider himself an equal opportunity diner, who appreciates a wide range of simple and gourmet foods, and he brings the two ideas together at Hank's, where the basic Vienna all-beef ($4.75) hot dog ("no funny parts, no fillers," Adaniya said), shares space with more upscale offerings of Kobe beef ($8.50) and a duck-and-foie gras ($9.50) dog, plus exotics like alligator ($8.30) and rabbit ($7.50).
Although I wouldn't consider hot dogs to be particularly healthful daily fare, the menu at Hank's is set up so that adventurous souls would be tempted to return day after day. The exotic dogs are offered as one-a-day specials: gator on Tuesday, rabbit on Wednesday, buffalo on Thursday, lobster on Friday, duck and foie gras on Saturday and Kobe beef on Sunday. I didn't mention Monday because the Italian beef sandwich special -- better than a typical Philly cheese steak sandwich -- isn't the same as a hot dog.
So far, the only ones I haven't tried are the weekend dogs, and those who shy away from exotic fare need not worry. In their casings, and spiced and seasoned with ingredients like coriander, cumin, pepper, rye, mustard seed, garlic, salt and sugar, that gator and rabbit -- innocuous even in full-size entree portions -- might as well be chicken. You'd also have difficulty differentiating the buffalo bratwurst ($7.50) from the beef version ($6.25).
STAR-BULLETIN / 2007
Hank's basic Chicago dog.
Those worried about nitrates, or preservatives, might note that the bratwurst and house-made lobster dogs contain no nitrates, and there's also very little in the rabbit, buffalo and foie gras dogs.
The bratwursts also happen to pack the most flavor, along with the spicier dogs. I also like the crunch of the alligator, due more to the casing than the 'gator itself.
Sausages on the daily menu include Adaniya's longtime hometown Chicago dog ($4.75) topped with yellow mustard, onions, tomatoes, celery salt, dill pickle and peppers, plus the Windy City's scarily green relish.
Those who like a little heat might opt for the pork chorizo ($5.50), smoky Cajun andouille ($6) or, very popular here, the Portuguese sausage dog ($5.50), served with mustard and grilled onions.
RECENTLY, Adaniya launched dinner hours from 5 to 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, with the Italian beef sandwich and creamy truffled mac 'n' cheese. Newer entrees have been slow to materialize due to his perfectionist nature. "If I'm not happy with something, I won't put it out," he said, although he realizes the value of putting out new items as teasers to keep people coming back. Right now he's playing with dessert ideas as well as a sausage cassoulet, sausage pizza and the makings of an ultimate "haute hut."
On April 1 he plans to unveil one of the products he's been working on: a Spam dog. A lot of his kitchen endeavors, he says, are "selfishly motivated by what I want to eat."
Even so, Adaniya says he's lost 20 pounds in a little less than a year while eating a hot dog almost every day.
"You'd think I'd get sick of it, but people who know me know I'm a real junk-food junkie, though I love a full spectrum of food. I have respect for healthy food, but there's an emotional surge you get from eating comfort foods. It feels good to enjoy something simple and unpretentious."
Working in the food industry means that Adaniya has spent most of his career eating on the fly, standing, and taking bites between duties, but on Thursday he actually sat down in his own restaurant to enjoy a chili dog.
"It was a rare opportunity to sit there and indulge, and I really liked it. Hot dogs are so uncomplicated, so easy to enjoy."