A former five-star restaurateur finds fulfillment in creating fancy fast food at Hank’s Haute Dogs.
Text by Brad Dell | Images by John Hook
Owning a five-star restaurant is a fantasy for many cooks. But for Henry “Hank” Adaniya, the reality did not live up to the hype, so he tossed the stars aside to pursue a very different venture. “I switched from a world-class restaurant to making hot dogs,” Hank says, grinning. “That was very fulfilling. It wasn’t to be financially successful. It was to chase my dream.”
This aspiration emerged from stories his parents had told him of owning a hot dog stand called The Beach Grill at Kapi‘olani Park from 1941 to 1953. Born in Los Angeles and raised in Chicago, Hank fantasized about chasing a similar life in Hawai‘i. But he put this ultimate dream on hold while he worked in Chicago, first as a frustrated engineer, then as a cook, taking an 80 percent pay cut in order to pursue something he was passionate about.
However, he found that he lacked the essentials to become a chef. “Chefs require a whole different level of intuition about food and composition. My engineering mind thought it was all about simply adding ingredients and hoping the food comes out better,” he says. “It’s a dance, and I wasn’t a great dancer.” So he pivoted to management and opened an avant-garde, fusion restaurant named Trio.
Between 1993 and 2006, this Chicago restaurant collected a plethora of accolades, including five stars from the Mobil Travel Guide in 2004 and one of the Distinguished Restaurants of North America in 2005, and became the training ground for some of the most high-profile chefs in the country, such as multiple James Beard Award-winning chef Grant Achatz. “I reached a point where I really couldn’t get any higher than I was. Trio was rated one of the top 13 restaurants in North America [by Mobil Travel Guide] and I was like, ‘Well, alright. What’s next?’” Hank says. “I like simple yet creative food. Food with memory. Chicago-style hot dogs fulfill that for me.”
So he turned Trio over to his partners in 2006 and moved to Hawai‘i to open his dream hot dog stand on the beach. But instead, he ended up a few blocks north of the ocean, debuting Hank’s Haute Dogs in Kaka‘ako. Taking the gourmet approach, he put a variety of sausages on the menu, including rabbit and lobster, as well as the classic Chicago beef hot dog. The restaurateur didn’t predict this fancy fare would be eagerly received on an island with a population that relishes the $1.50 hot dog and soda combo at Costco, but three hours after opening his doors for the first time, he was sold out.
Since then, Hank’s Haute Dogs has been featured on national television, and restaurant guide Gayot named it one of the top 10 hot dog spots in the country. In December 2014, Hank even achieved his dream of a beachfront location, debuting a stand in Lāhainā, Maui. The visionary entrepreneur runs the business side of both spots and is also the creative mind behind most of his menu items, like the Greek dog, made with lamb sausage and tzatziki sauce, and the rabbit sausage, topped off with a dijon truffle cheese sauce. “Although I’m not a chef, I can cook hot dogs okay,” he says.
What dream will he pursue next? “I’ve accomplished most of my food dreams,” he says. “Maybe a champagne bar.”
Hank’s Haute Dogs is located in Our Kaka‘ako at 324 Coral St. and at Sheraton Maui, 2605 Kaanapali Pkwy., on Maui. For more information, visit hankshautedogs.com.