Great Ideas: Charlie’s onions are back in the spotlight


Editor’s note: This story was published in June 2016. |

Famed NFL quarterback and broadcast personality Boomer Esiason wasn’t the only fan of Charlie’s Hot Dogs growing up.

But the East Islip native did help put the Brentwood stand on the national map with a special that aired on the Food Network about Boomer’s favorite places to eat. (Watch above.)

The true number of Charlie’s fans would be immeasurable, as the little stand at the foot of the Summa family’s driveway on Spur Drive North served generations of locals for over 50 years.

Charlie Summa, a disabled WWII veteran who died in 1998, opened the stand on the residential property in 1963 under a special permitting program for veterans. It remained open until 2009, when his daughters who were running the stand were forced to shut down because of permit stipulations.

But now a taste of Charlie’s Hot Dogs is back.

One of Charlie’s daughter’s, Jeanne Summa-Becvar of East Islip, revived her dad’s legacy when she began making and bottling his revered onion sauce recipe last year.

“This has always been my passion,” she said. “Everywhere I would go, parties, barbecues, people would ask if I made my dad’s onions. ‘We miss Charlie’s onions,’ they would say.”

Not too long after being laid off, Summa-Becvar took to Facebook and asked if anyone thought it would be a good idea for her to start selling Charlie’s onions.

“And it just blew up,” she said of the response. “And so I started out of my house, making onions and jarring them. And after making about 200 pounds a week I decided to find a co-packer.”

She has since hooked up with a co-packer in Connecticut, who was able to match the flavors perfectly and give the onions two years’ shelf life through a steam-sealed bottling process.

(She points out there are no preservatives added to the recipe.)

Now Charlie’s Legendary Onions can be found at the Islip Farmers Market on Saturdays outside Town Hall, at Pat’s Marketplace in East Islip and elsewhere in the county — even on Fire Island.

The onions recently appeared in Newsday and were featured on the Elvis Duran and the Morning Show on Z100.

Summa-Becvar really knew she was onto something about an hour into last year’s Islip Main Street Festival, where she quickly ran out of 250 jars and had to take orders for more.

“People were freaking out that it was Charlie’s,” she said.

That can be chalked up to the taste of Charlie’s signature (and secret) recipe, of course.

But having worked  at the hot dog stand, on and off, much of her adult life, Summa-Becvar, says nostalgia plays a huge role in people wanting to recapture a taste they miss — a hot dog smothered in those onions.

“People want to feel like they’re kids again,” she said.

Click here to order Charlie’s, which ships nationwide. Or, follow on Facebook.