Jiro's grandson, Dayton Asato, remembers his time working the restaurant's busiest hours in the 1970s, when the restaurant was located in Waikiki and open 23 hours a day; the eatery would catch both the post-surf and post-disco crowd. "Some customers would ask me if ‘KC’ stood for ‘kissing corner,’ because couples would make out in the back," Asato laughs.
Dane Okabe also worked at KC Drive Inn while he was in high school in the late 1970s, at the Waikiki location. He didn’t work the graveyard shift, but has fond memories of serving up the waffle dog.
"The first day on the job, they teach you how to make the waffle hot dog batter," says Okabe. He recalls pouring the ingredients into a large, round machine, which kneaded the batter. "When you dump everything in -- the eggs, flour, and sugar -- you get a mess. Especially when you’re first doing it, you don’t know what you’re doing, so you get even more of a mess. You can tell everybody the first day they work because they look all white, like Casper. It was like an initiation."
"We used to sell probably 200 or 300 hot dogs a day," says Asato, who began working at the family business when he was 13 years old. "We would never be able to keep up, so we had to pre-cook back then."
Okabe often manned the French fry and waffle hot dog station during his shifts. "It was a hand-burning station," Okabe laughs. The machine made six waffle dogs at a time, and Okabe recalls that on one particular day, he managed to make something like 80 hot dogs in just 45 minutes -- for a Little League baseball team who had dropped by without warning. "We only had 12 in the warmer -- actually maybe 18, because I usually made extra. We just cooked them like crazy. A lot of people would come from all over, just for that -- for the waffle hot dog."
Okabe remembers a couple who would stop by every weekend, driving more than 30 miles from Ewa Beach into town for their ritual meal. "She would have a waffle dog, and he’d have a hamburger deluxe -- every Saturday morning," Okabe says. "I don’t know for how long… maybe 20 or 30 years."
Over time, the eatery grew to multiple locations, moving the Waikiki location to Kapahulu. A second restaurant opened and closed in Manoa. As the decades wore on, the waffle dog remained, woven into the local fabric, continuing to serve as a popular treat for families for generations. But sadly, the eatery finally closed its doors in 2005, much to the dismay of regulars and die-hard waffle dog fans.
Luckily, the mourning period was short; Asato resurrected the waffle dog only a year later. This process happened almost by accident: he started out just by offering waffle dogs at fundraisers for schools and churches. Asato hadn't exactly been expecting it, but the waffle dog’s popularity unexpectedly took off for a second time. The beginning of the waffle dog renaissance was the Ohana Festival at the Japanese Cultural Center, when word got out that the beloved local treat was back, and suddenly everyone wanted a taste of their childhood again.
"We had lines of people waiting," he says. "It was probably an hour to get a waffle dog. I think we sold over 1,000 in one day."