The 'Hot Dog King of Chicago' Takes on Hawaii

Ira Helfer hands out thousands of free hot dogs yearly at the Sony Open
Hot Dog
Wikimedia Commons/Evan Swigart

Hot Dog

For those participating in the Sony Open, the golfing event that comes to Waialae Country Club in Honolulu every year, a visit to Ira Helfer is one of the highlights of the experience.

No, he’s not doing deep-tissue massage, roasting kalua pigs, or anything else that is commonly associated with Hawaii — he’s handing out hot dogs, just as he has for years.

The Chicago native, who moved out to Hawaii with his family in 1985 and has been handing out hot dogs during the event ever since, was recently profiled by The Golf Channel. His backyard abuts the first tee of the country club,  and year after year folks drop by for a free hot dog (Vienna beef, wrapped in aluminum foil and served with mustard, pickles, and other condiments except ketchup), hang out, listen to him tell stories, and generally enjoy each other’s company. He went through more than 1,000 last week, but doesn’t plan to start charging any time soon.

And while thousands of people have eaten his hot dogs over the years, including professional golfers and governors, the one story he never gets tired of telling is the time he served none other than former President Bill Clinton ("He had two," Helfer reminisces).

And while it might seem strange to waltz right in to someone’s backyard and grab a hot dog, Helfer welcomes them, friends and strangers alike.


Just don’t ask for ketchup.