Our Town: Dog Day, After Noon

A taste of New York comes to the Big Pineapple.


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It's not quite 10 a.m., and hungry customers are already circling Tom Lydon and his Nathan's Famous hot dog cart. These urban sharks have smelled the mustard in the water, heard the thrashing of the bright umbrella unfurling in the breeze. Lydon, who moved to Hawai'i from Alaska after a career in the Army, has found a ready downtown audience for cheap, curbside meals.

Hot dog purveyor Tom Lydon “knew Nathan’s from being a kid on the East Coast,” he says. photo: Kathryn Drury Wagner

Nathan's Famous, which opened its first stand in Coney Island in 1916, is picky about who can use its name—and its dogs. Likewise, Lydon researched franchise opportunities and did blind taste-tests of other brands before settling on Nathan's. Lydon now has a hot dog broker who acts as a go-between.

At the cart—it moves around but when I interviewed Lydon, he was set up at the corner of Bishop and King Streets—you can splurge on a combo of hot dog, chips and drink for $4.75. Free toppings include the mundane—ketchup, relish—and other faves, such as kimchee, jalapeños and celery salt. The most popular condiments? Deli mustard and sauerkraut.

Lydon sells up to 100 of his all-beef hot dogs a day, "until it gets slow," sometimes as late as 7 p.m., but usually around 3:30 to 4 p.m. He plans to expand the franchise, with eight to 10 more carts on O'ahu in the next year.

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