Local-Kine ‘Haute’ Dogs at Big Island Top Dogs
There are hot dogs, and then there are hot dogs.
Three things made me fall instantly in love with this delicious, spiffy, clean-as-a-whistle restaurant right away.
First, the staff. Owners Mike and Robyn Mattos are delightful, friendly people. They employ other family members as staff and there is a great family feeling there. They are all just as nice as can be, and exemplify aloha spirit.
You may have seen them out at the Maku‘u Market with their hot dog cart (where they still can be found on Sundays), but they have recently taken the restaurant plunge and opened on Lakapu Street (at Lanikaula).
Let’s talk about the food. Not only is it delicious, but it is incredibly affordable.
Hawai‘i Community College and University of Hawai‘i students, take heed—it is very close to HCC; not far from UH Hilo.
I enjoyed the heck out of a Smoked Mozzarella Artichoke-Garlic Dog with Artichoke Aioli (MSG- and gluten-free). It was served on a freshly-baked, locally made Punalu‘u sesame bun. I had planned to just taste it, but once I did, well, down the hatch.
All condiments are free—and we’re not just talking mustard and relish. Aside from the Artichoke Aioli, there were some pretty glamorous choices, like Lilikoi Mustard, Wasabi Furikake Aioli, Hickory Bacon Mustard, Sriracha and avocado. You can get exotic toppings and condiments, but if your kid is a picky eater (“like I was, as a kid,” said Mike Mattos), you can get your hot dog or burger plain.
All hot dogs are under $5.50.
That brings us to the hamburgers, which are also all under $5.50. Those mourning the closing of Kawate’s Seed Shop will be happy to find Gravy Burgers. According to Robyn Mattos, one of their most popular items is the Angus Burger, which looked great. I can’t wait to try a Salmon Burger, too.
Vegetarians rejoice, because yes, there is a Veggie Burger.
I asked Robyn about their bestsellers.
“It varies day to day, but it’s a close call between the Polish Sausage, the Beef Dog and the Portuguese sausage,” said Robyn. “People love the Lilikoi Mustard Sauce, as well as our homemade sauerkraut.”
Mike spent considerable time perfecting his homemade sauerkraut, and is now justifiably proud of it.
Again, all condiments mentioned above are free. You can also add toppings (.50 each) to either the burgers or hot dogs. There was an impressive array: kimchee, homemade sauerkraut, bacon, mushrooms and broccoli.
They also offer baked potatoes ($4, add toppings at .50 each) or Chili and Cheese Nachos ($4 or $6, with your choice of toppings).
There are daily specials and sides available.
Robyn is looking forward to adding new menu items, so check in to see what the specials are.
Back to my third reason that I love this spot: It’s clean, fresh and cheerful inside. I’m really fussy about that, and Top Dogs is immaculate, both in the kitchen and seating areas. If you don’t want to sit at a table, there is a long bar with stools, perfect for reading, or checking your phone (they have WiFi).
There is parking in front of the restaurant, as well as on a side street and around back.
Big Island Top Dogs is located at 811 Laukapu St., Hilo. Open Monday through Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sundays at Maku‘u Market.