Hawaii, known for its amazing beaches, beautiful hikes, unique culture and laid-back attitude, has a culinary spin all its own. The birthplace of the hot dog it is not (although it could be crowned the King of Spam), but there are still some spots across the islands where you can find that great American classic.
Owners Mike and Robyn Mattos serve up super flavorful hot dogs with an interesting twist at their Hilo restaurant. If you love experimenting with condiments, this is the place to play—they have some unique offerings like Lilikoi mustard, wasabi furikake aioli and a house made sauerkraut. Even better? All hot dogs are less than $5.50, so you can have your hot dog and eat it too. Find them at 811 Laukapu Street on Monday-Friday from 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m. or on Sundays at the Maku’u Market!
Competing with Big Island Top Dogs as a relative newcomer to Hilo is Saucy Dogs, which serves up its own brand of unique hot dog offerings. One popular option is the Mac Attack—covered with creamy mac and cheese and sprinkled with crispy bacon bits, this hot dog is several meals in one! For a spicy kick try the Lava Dog with pepper jack cheese, jalapeños and sriracha mayo. If you’re feeling extra hungry, upgrade to the quarter pound hot dog for $1—all hot dogs are served with a side of crispy potato chips. The restaurant is quite small, with limited seating, but there are plenty of places to enjoy your meal outdoors nearby. Check them out at 14 Furneaux Lane near the waterfront!
Brats, Andouille sausage, chicken, chorizo, polish sausage, Hawaiian style, Chicago style, Hank’s style… this well-known establishment has been serving up all manner of hot dogs for years. Featured on numerous shows such as “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives,” “Man vs. Food” and “Unique Eats,” the Hank’s concept was originated by Henry Adaniya, whose parents ran a concession stand in Waikiki in the 1940s. Although you should expect to spend at least $10-$12 for a regular-sized hot dog, there are gourmet toppings and options such as the bacon wrapped lobster dog and rabbit sausage topped with Dijon truffle cheese sauce. Even better than the hot dogs might be the truffle cheese fries, so make sure to add an order, but ask for the cheese sauce on the side if you prefer your fries crispy.
Arnold’s also serves up some inexpensive but tasty hot dogs and chilidogs. The atmosphere has a local vibe and features reasonably-priced drinks! Grab a $6 Mai Tai to enjoy with your beer boiled hot dog at this surprisingly affordable tiki bar in Waikiki. If you’re in the mood for a dive bar with games and a casual vibe, this is the spot!
The KC waffle dog is a sweet and savory combination of waffle batter surrounding a beef frank that some people describe as a cross between breakfast food and baseball stadium snack. This is a hot dog truly unique to Hawaii and beloved by many. The summer bon dance season is a great time to sample this treat from various vendors, but you can also find the original recipe sold at Hawaii’s Favorite Kitchens and The Medley year-round.
The Puka Dog is a must-mention if you are talking about hot dogs unique to Hawaii. Puka means “hole” and is called such because the bun is skewered on a spike that creates a hole for the Polish sausage and toasts the bun both inside and out. The garlic lemon sauce (you choose your spice level) and choices of tropical relishes give these hot dogs a local flair.