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Hot Dogs in Hawaii

Posted by: Kim Steutermann Rogers
Destination: Kauai
Aug 02, 2010

I grew up in a suburb of Chicago. The Windy City is known for many things: A cursed baseball team, the greatest all-around basketball player of all time, deep dish pizza. And hot dogs.

Today, I want to talk about hot dogs.

Chicago-style hot dogs could be called the original veggie dog because they're loaded with goodies from the garden. Chopped, white onions. Sliced tomatoes. A dill pickle spear. Sweet pickle relish. Pickled sport peppers. A dash of celery salt. And, of course, yellow mustard. Some may include slices of cucumber.

Growing up, my dad's favorite hot dog vendor was Portillo's. It started the same year I was born in a trailer down the road from our house. Today, there are 48 brick-and-mortar restaurants with locations in Illinois, Indiana and California.

My mother and I preferred an out-of-the-way eatery in Geneva, Illinois, called Hansel & Gretel's. Instead of the traditional, neon green pickle relish, the inventors here scooped thinly-sliced cole slaw made with sweet vinegar on top of their all-beef dog.

Oh, I almost forgot. One other key ingredient to a Chicago-style hot dog is the bun. It must be sprinkled with poppy seeds.

Now, Hawaii is quite a distance from Chicago. And, when it comes to food, Hawaii is known for items that never passed my lips when I was growing up in the Midwest. Shoots, most I had never heard of before vacationing in Hawaii. Like saimin. Manapua. Poke. Lomilomi salmon. Poi.

But even Hawaii has its hot dogs.

Take I've written about this place before. These days, instead of the traditional Chicago-style hot dog, I lean toward the Lobster Sausage seared in butter and dressed with garlic aioli, relish and pickled radish. But Hank also serves up the traditional Chicago dog. And: Polish, Chili Dog, Portuguese, Bratwurst, Chorizo, Andouille, Chicken, Hawaiian, Fat Boy, Alligator, Rabbit & Veal Sausage, Buffalo Brat, Duck & Foie Gras Sausage, Kobe, and No Dog.

And, on Kauai, there is Puka Dog. Puka Dog lays claim to even more humble beginnings than Portillo's: A cart.

Now located at Poipu Shopping Village, Puka Dog puts its twist on hot dogs on what surrounds it: The bun. Freshly-made loaves of bread the length of a hot dog bun are slipped onto a heated, metal spike and toasted from the inside out. The hot dog and toppings are stuffed inside. (If you're watching your carbs, maybe you should skip this place altogether.)

There are three steps to ordering a Puka Dog:

1. Choose your dog. Unlike Hank's Haute Dogs, this step is easy, because you only have two choices: Polish sausage or veggie dog.

2. Choose your garlic lemon sauce: Mild, spicy jalapeno, hot chili pepper or hot, hot, habanero.

3. Choose a tropical relish: Kauai Special, Pineapple Field, Polihale Sunset, Coconut Beach, Waimea Canyon or Napali Cruise. Or skip the tropical relishes and go with standard fare: ketchup, mustard (yellow dijon or lilikoi--not even the choice of mustard can be easy here!) or sweet pickle relish.

Puka Dog is also known for their fresh-made lemonade, but the last time I visited the place, this part of the whole Puka Dog experience let me down. I stood conspicuously in the middle of the small restaurant with my Puka Dog of choice getting cold in my hand and waiting for my lemonade to be made. A line of people snaked around me, some waiting to order, others waiting for their own Puka Dogs. I watched as my lemonade was made--juice from a couple halves of lemons, a mound of sugar and water--and the magical taste went out of my lemonade. That's all? Lemon juice, sugar and water? My advice: Skip the lemonade, save the money and enjoy your hot dog.

Do you have a favorite hot dog vendor of choice?  In Hawaii or elsewhere?  How do you prefer your hot dogs? 




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