Putting On The Dog
Wednesday - September 26, 2007
Most people who start small in the restaurant business have high aspirations. Say, for example you own a hot dog stand. It’s not unlikely that your dreams might include one day owning an award-winning fine-dining restaurant. Not Hank Adaniya. As the owner of Chicago’s famed Trio restaurant, he’s been on the cutting edge of food and restaurant service for decades. But he closed Trio last year to come to Hawaii and sell hot dogs.
“It does seem a little backwards, when you put it that way,” says the instantly likeable Adaniya with a grin. “But you have to understand that it makes total sense for me.”
Certainly you’d have to go a long way to find a happier guy in the restaurant business. Blame it on his parents, Wally and Yo, who ran a concession stand in Kapiolani Park in the 1940s and early ‘50s.
“I was about 8 years old,” says Adaniya, “and I remember thinking ‘Wow, you guys sold hot dogs and Coke in Hawaii?’”
And truly, if you ask anyone who knows him well, like Grant Achatz, the culinary genius whose restaurant Alinea was voted the best restaurant in America in 2006 by Gourmet magazine, or Rick Tramonto, who worked at Trio before going on to national acclaim, they’ll say “Oh, Hank - that guy just always wanted to sell hot dogs in Hawaii.”
Bravo Top Chef finalist Dale Levitsky was in town last week to celebrate his friend and former employer’s change of career - and he stayed to create a whole new hot dog.
“Dale designed the wagyu beef dog,” says Adaniya of the gourmet Kobe beef dog topped with hoisin, ginger, mustard glaze, Napa cabbage, sesame, pickled daikon and furikake.
“It rocks,” he adds.
Truth is, Hank’s dogs do rock. And they snap. With a crack that’s as crisp as the pop of a pickle, they’re going to come as something of a revelation to a lot of Hawaii foodies. Not your soggy, squishy dollar dogs, these puppies are perfect.
“They all have natural casings,” Adaniya explains, “so they’re really more of a sausage.”
In a tribute to the Chicago dog, there’s a Vienna all-beef dog, as well as a Polish dog and a Portuguese dog, along with chicken, andouille and chorizo dogs. There’s even a hot dog with no meat. And then there are the specialty dogs. Rabbit, buffalo, boar, duck and foie gras join the Kobe dog on a specialty menu where prices start at $5.50. I had the Brat (it just arrived on Tuesday) and it was the best hot dog I’ve ever tasted, no contest.
But just because Adaniya has swapped his penny loafers for some rubber slippers, don’t expect the style that made the man famous to have disappeared. The store on Coral Street is a delightful nod to minimalism, and the hot dogs all come tenderly wrapped in wax paper and packed in individual boxes. Presentation, new concepts and even the handholding of customers through a different dining experience are all top on the list of things Adaniya finds intriguing about the restaurant industry.
“Yes, it all seems crazy,” he says with his infectious smile and warm laugh, “but this is more than a career move - it’s the transition of a life. Moving from incredible accolades and great chefs and awards - I now have my feet firmly on the ground in Hawaii,” he says. “Hot dogs touch a piece of my soul.”
Hank’s Haute Dogs 324 Coral St. 532-4265 Happy eating!
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