By Yadira Betances
---- — LAWRENCE — The name Lawton’s is no longer associated with the iconic red-and-white building overlooking the Falls Bridge, but the famous hot dogs have returned, along with a new owner.
Anna Stavrou of Salem, N.H., bought the former Lawton’s hot dog stand to preserve the business and the food it has provided to customers for decades, she said.
“I did not want to see it disappear because it’s such a landmark and it’s important for me to continue that,” Stavrou said of the business, which she reopened as the Lawrence Dog Haus & Grille. “I think it can be successful because the building and its menu is well known.’’
After offering a coupon for free fries in The Eagle-Tribune recently, the restaurant filled 190 orders. The staff has been working up to 14 hours a day, getting in at 10 a.m. to prepare for the 11:30 a.m. opening and staying hours after the 8 p.m. closing to get ready for the next day.
Ken Choiniere, formerly of Lawrence, said he was “elated’’ to see the business reopen.
“After having a hot dog, I felt like I died and went to heaven,” Choiniere said.
“It was nostalgic,” he said recalling how he would stop at the hot dog stand as a teenager. “Biting into an Essem was so delicious, I had to have another.”
Before buying the stand, Stavrou did research on the restaurant’s menu and popularity and said she found Lawton’s was a “very busy place” not just for lunch, but also at dinner time.
The hot dog stand is steeped in history. Lawton’s Famous Frankfurters was founded in 1929 as a pushcart business. For years, it used foot-long Essem hot dogs deep fried with a secret recipe that took three days to prepare. Essem made the long franks specially for Lawton’s at the Essem plant in Lawrence.
In 1985, Lawton’s was named among Yankee Magazine’s 10 best hot dog stands in New England, after readers were asked to nominate their favorite places. Famous people, including talk show host Jay Leno and members of the Kennedy family, have enjoyed the deep-fried franks.
In addition to the Essem hot dogs Lawton’s was known for, Stavrou has added new items to the menu, including a gyro, or Greek sandwich. Other items include fish and chips and handcut shoestring fries and onion rings.
“I know everyone knows Lawton for its hot dogs, which we proudly serve, but Lawrence is the city of immigrants and we want to integrate the food of other cultures into the restaurant,” Stavrou said.
Stavrou was born in Boston and moved to Greece to attend high school. She previously managed a local restaurant for 15 years.
“This is a dream come true for me,” Stavrou said of running the landmark hot dog stand.