Imagine a juicy polish hot dog slathered with lilikoi mustard and mango relish. Now stick that dog inside a jumbo, cylindrical bun that keeps the condiments contained between the meat and bread — an important factor in reducing the likelihood of the sauces staining your shirt when you take your first bite.
As Puka Dog owner Rick Quinette describes it, “It’s like a festival in your mouth. ” And a neat one, at that.
Clearly, this is not your typical hot dog joint.
Puka Dog, which recently opened its newest location in Hanalei’s Ching Young Village, has reinvented America’s favorite summertime food with its signature Hawaiian sweet bread bun with a donut hole in the middle.
At the company’s bakery in Puhi, the bun is impaled with a rod and toasted to perfection. When the rod comes out, the hot dog and condiments go in, creating a unique and flavorful sandwich.
The wide range of condiment options are also key to crafting Puka Dog’s uniquely Hawaiian flavor. There’s the garlic lemon secret sauce in mild, spicy, hot or lava and your choice of fruit relish in mango, pineapple, papaya, coconut, banana or star fruit. For mustard lovers, there’s Aunty Lilikoi’s Hawaiian mustard — Quinette said customers have been known to eat it straight from the bottle.
There are also GMO-free veggie dogs available.
Puka Dog was born under a mango tree in Kekaha in 2000. Quinette fashioned together a hot dog and lemonade stand there that quickly became a favorite among the neighborhood kids.
It was those kids who eventually gave the business its name.
“One day this little kid came up to me and he said, ‘Uncle Rick, can you fix my bike it’s got one puka.’ I had never heard the word ‘puka’ before and he laughed at me. It became a thing, a running joke with all the kids in the neighborhood.”
The kids spied Quinette removing a hot dog bun from the rod it’s baked on, revealing a slender stick of bread with a puka in the middle. From then on they were Puka Dogs, whether Quinette liked it or not.
In 2002, the business relocated to Poipu Shopping Village, 2360 Kiahuna Plantation Dr., where a producer for the Travel Channel tried a Puka Dog and loved it, Quinette said. Two months later a film crew descended on the burgeoning hot dog business for a television show about the top 10 hot dog stands in America. Puka Dog, just 4-years old, ranked as the youngest.
“That show instantly put us on the stratosphere as far as hot dogs go,” Quinette said.
In May the brand opened its newest Hanalei storefront at 5-5190 Kuhio Highway. Both locations are open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
A third location in Kapaa is planned, Quinette said.
“We’re excited about it,” he said.
Info: Poipu 742-6044 or Hanalei 827-8000